Google accused of “coercive sales tactics” in Smart TV business

July 2, 2013
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Google is allegedly asking Smart TV manufacturers for preferential treatment for its YouTube app, in a move that some call “coercive sales tactics.”

samsung smart tv

It might not be a household name for the average TV buyer, but Google has a fledgling Smart TV platform that it’s trying hard to get off the ground. Based on Android, Google TV runs on dedicated set-top boxes, such as those from Sony or Vizio, but also directly on Smart TVs, most notably from LG.

While equipping Smart TVs with Google’s platform seems a great deal, not every TV maker wants to depend on the Mountain View company for their TV software. Samsung, for instance, prefers to use its own platform, and access web applications such as YouTube via HTML5-based apps.

According to a report from ETNews, some TV makers accuse Google of demanding preferential treatment for its YouTube app and requiring every device that ships with the YouTube app to pass a “browser conformity test”. The problem is this test requires up to three months to complete, causing, say TV makers, delays in product development. The report says that Samsung is one of the TV companies that ran into this problem. An “industry insider” cited by ETNews claims that the requirement from Google to give a central place to the YouTube app is a “coercive sales tactic”.

So, what’s going on here? I find it a bit hard to believe that Google would use the YouTube app as a stick to beat TV makers into adopting Google TV. Rather, the YouTube app is the carrot that Google dangles in front of TV makers to coax them into accepting some of its terms.

However, I am not sure how legal it is for Google to demand preferential placement for its app. Until we learn more details, take this report with a grain of salt. It could be just a way for TV makers to put some pressure on Google.

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