Google TV didn’t start very well last year. There are several reasons for that, and probably 2 of the biggest ones are the pricing and lack of content. The Logitech Revue set top box was priced at $299, which was %50 higher than the popular Boxee Box, and 300% higher than Roku. The fact that the networks started blocking their content on Google TV didn’t help matters, either. But that’s all in the past now, and Google TV is about to re-launch soon, with an improved interface based on Honeycomb. However, it will need more than to become a success this time. So let’s see 5 ways for Google to turn Google TV into a huge market success.
The HP TouchPad hasn’t the only device being given away in a firesale for $99 in the past few days. Logitech also started giving their Revue boxes for the same price, and although there was still no access to Android Market, and content was still blocked from networks, people were a lot more willing to get one.
If Google gets manufacturers to sell their set top boxes for $99, I believe they will easily outsell Apple TV’s, which also cost $99, but come with a lot less functionality. They can achieve that pricing point much easier if they just use ARM chips, which by now are powerful enough to play Flash smoothly, and chips like Tegra 3 should have plenty of power for that and much more.
The networks may or may not give Google access to their shows. But they are bidding as we speak on Hulu. They should make sure they win it, and if they suceed with that, maybe they can also soften the networks’ decision to block Google TV. Either way, if Google buys Hulu and the set top box is sold for $99, it might be all it needs to become successful. The integration of Hulu with Google+, circles and Hangout will also be a killer feature.
I realize that Google cares more about the “TV” part in Google TV, than about the Android games and apps part, because they want to make money from TV advertising, but if they focus on making the app ecosystem great for Google TV, they might indirectly achieve their main goal with Google TV, as well.
Imagine buying a $99 Google TV set top box, with a quad core 1.5 Ghz Tegra 3 chip inside, and using it as a console to play 3D games on it. Tegra 3 is already approaching graphics quality of consoles like PS3 and Xbox 360, and it probably already surpasses the Wii. So why not push Google TV as a “console platform” to get a lot of young people interested in it? Google TV 2.0 will already have gamepad support, so I’m sure they’ve thought about this, too. But the question is, how hard will they push this with developers and potential customers?
Imagine being away from your family, and them having a TV with an HD webcam. They would sit a few meters away from the TV on the touch, and you could watch them all gathered around in the room to talk to you. On the other side, you would also see them on your large TV display as well.
Compare this to doing video-calling on a PC where you usually see only the head, and you only see them in a pretty fixed position. Video-calling through the TV seems a much more realistic option, and it brings virtual communication closer to reality – it’s almost as if they they were there when you see them on a big screen and in HD resolution, and when you see their whole bodies inside the screen.
For this to work, Google and their partners would also have to promote HD webcams along with the set top boxes or the TV’s, but they should also try to keep the pricing for them as low as possible.
Better interaction model
One thing I’ve found pretty embarrassing about Google TV is that it needs a full QWERTY keyboard to operate! That seems a little over the top to me, and it may be the reason why web-based TV’s have never caught on before. The TV is not just another PC. You need to interact with it in another way for the web to make sense on TV. The TV is all about consumption, and not about production. So make it as quick and easy as possible to utilize the interface of Google TV.
Virtual remote apps will probably be a start for this, but I’m not convinced about them. It would probably be easier to just show the whole TV interface on your phone or tablet, and instead of touching a button to switch between the UI tabs on the TV, why not just touch the tabs directly from the phone or tablet?
Other ways to interact with it would be something like Kinect, where you would interact with the interface with your hands. If it’s quick and painless, it could work, otherwise it might feel tiresome. Voice commands could work, too, and Google has pretty good technology there, so why not utilize it?
Google probably understands at least a few of the above, but I also think they don’t understand others, so while I’m optimistic about the launch of Google 2.0, I wonder if we will see Google TV’s full potential a year from now, when it will also be based on Android 4.0 and they might also get Motorola to integrate it with their cable boxes.