With the coming of Google TV 2.0, giddiness over access to the Android App Market has left another key app-related feature unnoticed: Google TV users will be able to install non-market apps as well. This feature builds a space for creation and proliferation within separate app markets, as well as space in which other Android-powered copycat streaming devices that could compete with Google TV products.
In the GIGAOM article from which this is article is sourced, a comparison is drawn between the tablet market and the Google TV market, as tablets provide an easy to see example of a wide diversification of spin-off products which offer access to third-party app markets, but even without a tablet comparison its easy to see how similar Google TV copy-cats are already abundant in the streaming TV space: Boxee, Roku, Netgear, WD, Seagate and others all have options available to consumers. While it is likely that these impersonators don’t have access to the Android Market, it also seems likely that with time and interest, more and more apps will be optimized for these devices, or they may simply elect to go Android themselves.
Could this seemingly unchecked creative space for both product proliferation and app optimization eventually lead to competition for Google TV products? And more importantly, does Google TV have anything to fear?
Well, the good news is that Google has strict requirements for Google TV hardware makers: devices must support ARM chips, include plenty of RAM, and work with a cable box and a full QWERTY keyboard. Hence, it seems hard to believe that others will sneak to the forefront of innovation or customer need. However, if other contenders in the connected TV space go Android, grab enough apps and offer access to a separate app market, they could potentially steal some thunder.
The key will be to avoid too much fragmentation: multiple Android-based platforms could cause consumer confusion and apps that work on one platform and not another could lead to developer frustration. On the other hand, any device that gets consumers using Android over iOS could only help Google TV succeed. Besides, impersonation is the most sincere form of flattery, and competition breeds innovation.
Yesterday we told you about the problems Google is currently having with some of the major networks. For those of you who need to catch up, ABC, CBS, and NBC are all blocking Google TV devices from accessing the video content on their websites, and Fox is considering doing the same thing.
Boxee CEO Avner Ronen thinks this is bupkis, which is not all that surprising considering these same networks might just consider giving Boxee the same treatment when their Boxee Box is released next month. Ronen had the following to say on the subject:
“We think that it makes much more sense for the business model to be based on the content and not on the device or the screen size. If someone paid for a video (or is watching the video with ads) it should not matter which device (or) browser he is using.”
It will certainly be interesting to see how this whole Google vs network TV fiasco plays out, and if Boxee is met with the same fate.
D-Link and Boxee are now taking pre-orders for their latest iteration of the Boxee Box. Shipments are slated for November 2010 with an expected “street price” of $199.
The release delays we mentioned back in July were at least partially due to a switch in processors. The originally intended NVIDIA Tegra 2 has been replaced by Intel’s CE4100, the same chip used in Google TV. According to Avner Ronen, founder of Boxee, this decision was credited to internal testing that proved faster decoding rates between formats.
Source: Media Beat
Yesterday, Roku announced they have lowered prices across their entire line of streaming set-top-boxes, in anticipation of competition from other Internet TV devices like Google TV. Their SD (standard definition) box is now $59.99, their HD offering is now $69.99, and their high end HD-XR is now $99.99. The SD box is down $20 from $79.99, and both the HD and HD-XR are down $30 dollars.
Roku currently offers a variety of streaming options, including channels for Netflix, Pandora, Amazon, as well as content from the NBA, MLB, and UFC sports associations. The pricing is clearly an attempt to give them an edge over companies like Google, Apple, and Boxee, which are all expected to be releasing products this fall. In terms of functionality, however, we will have to wait and see how the Roku box will stand up against the other offerings.
We’ve said it before, and we’re saying it again. Boxee has yet again announced a change of plans for the release of its first set top box. Some of you may remember last month when Boxee delayed the device, once slated for June, until this coming November. Unsurprisingly, there isn’t a concrete release date at this time, but Boxee CEO Avner Ronen is assuring an announcement will be made very soon. This persistant flip-flopping is surely a reaction to the Fall release of Google TV, and the increasing rumors of an updated Apple TV. Boxee would love their device to be first in the race for the market, but it is yet to be seen if they can actually pull it off.
It has been nearly a month since Google TV was first announced at I/O this past May. Since then, the reactions from the media, as well as the general public, have been a mixture of wonder, anticipation, skepticism, and disregard. Given the fact that very little is known about how the platform will actually perform, opinions are being formed based on a mixture of the information that was received from Google at I/O, and what has been trickling out of the tech blogs and media outlets. What is obvious from following all of the data streams is that people are generally torn over what to think/feel/expect from Google’s latest offering.
On one hand, you have those that are genuinely excited and eager to sample the search giants foray into home entertainment. Many of these folks are looking through the lens of business and profitability more so than the entertainment aspect.
James McQuivey, writing for Forrester, points out that TV brings in about $70 billion a year in advertising revenue, about the same in cable and satellite subscription fees, and another $25 billion in electronics sales. If you take into account the additional money makers, such as paid on-demand movies and prime time sporting events, TV is an almost $200 billion dollar-a-year industry.
Some feel that Google should have stopped with TV ads, which to date has pulled in an estimated $200 to $500 million since 2007, but by being in control of how users find and view their content, Google is better poised to target ads based on viewing habits and personalized search. Current estimates place the average US viewer in front of their TV for nearly 5 hours a day, which makes Google’s venture into TV almost a no-brainer.
From a user standpoint, those eager to get their hands on Google TV are looking forward to the ability to watch all their favorite online content directly on their TVs. There are certainly a number of alternatives (some better than others), but unless you are a DIY enthusiest or do not mind using multiple pieces of hardware and/or software, there really has not been a user friendly be-all, end-all solution for pulling content from Youtube, Netflix, and other major online video sources.
Google also has Android on it’s side. With the mobile OS user base, as well as the Android Marketplace, growing every day, Google is gaining a legion of supporters who are likely to have an interest in what Google TV has to offer. The Android Marketplace instantly gives Google a tried and tested platform for delivering apps, and provides developers an accessible market to host apps and content tailored for TV use. Also, with Logitech offering an interactive and useful means of controlling Google TV, the basis of the Android argument gains even more credibility.
On the other hand, you have the skeptics. These individuals, some for business reasons, others more personal, are of the opinion that integrating TV and the Web has been tried before, often unsuccessfully. Some point to Apple’s largely failed attempt with Apple TV, or the much delayed Boxee hardware box, which many wonder if it will ever see the light of day.
Speaking of Apple, Steve Jobs, unsurprisingly, has been one of Google’s most vocal critics. Speaking recently at the Wall Street Journal’s D8 conference, Jobs had this to say about Google TV, and TV in general:
“The television industry fundamentally has a subsidized business model that gives everyone a set-top box, and that pretty much undermines innovation in the sector. Ask TiVo, ask Roku, ask Google in a few months. The only way this is going to change is if you start from scratch, tear up the box, redesign and get it to the consumer in a way that they want to buy it. But right now, there’s no way to do that….The TV is going to lose until there’s a viable go-to-market strategy”
Jobs is not the only industry figure to voice their opinions about Google TV. TiVo recently weighed in on the argument in a post on the company’s official blog, where VP of marketing Tony Lee sought to remind everyone of his company’s impact on television, namely revolutionizing DVR.
Others have argued that Google will face opposition from cable and satellite providers (Dish Network excluded), and that TiVo and Hulu pose serious threats to their success. There are several flaws to these arguments, however. With practically all cable and satellite providers offering set-top boxes with DVR functionality built right in, often times at no extra cost, there is little reason to seek an expensive, third party option. Of course, TiVo does offer many features not found in these other devices, including the ability to stream Netflix, but with a Google TV hardware box likely to cost roughly the same, consumers might be inclined to go the Google TV route.
Also, if Google can partner up with a couple more service providers in addition to Dish Network and bring Google TV powered hardware to millions of homes via standard set-top boxes, Google could gain a serious edge over the competition.
Still, the path for Google to achieve dominance in TV is not clearcut, as serious competition potential still exists. The major elephant in the room for Google is Apple, and although the heavily rumored Apple TV 2.0 was not announced at WWDC 2010 as expected, you can bet Apple has something in the works. There are others too, like Boxee, which could be a thorn in Google’s side, especially if bought out by a giant like Microsoft.
Until Google TV is actually released, however, many will continue to remain on the sidelines. Google certainly has some hurdles to overcome, but if they play their cards right, and continue to establish partnerships with major companies, Google TV has the potential to go as far as they chose to take it. Until then, we will continue to wait with anticipation, and keep our eyes on the debate which is sure to carry on in the months to come.
Every Sunday, we recap the most important news of the week for those of you who need to play catch up. This week was less chaotic than expected given the lack of an Apple TV 2.0 announcement at WWDC, but there was still plenty to cover. See below for a link to our articles for this week:
Boxee box delayed until November
Project Leap: another Web-TV player emerges
Samsung to add Google Maps to TV’s
TiVo’s Tony Lee: We revolutionized TV first
Images of what appears to be a Sony Google TV box surface
Samsung, LG among newest possible Google TV partners
Google beefing up video index to prepare for Google TV
Chinese electronics company TCL announces Android-based TV
No new Apple TV announcement at Apple’s WWDC 2010
With no specific release date for Google TV as of yet, many people might be wondering what they can do in the mean time to watch Web content on their TVs. It’s not as difficult as one might think, and can be done with technology you most likely already have in your home, or with various hardware devices available for purchase. Let’s look at a few (but not all) of these options.
1. Apple TV
What ended up being a rather niche device still holds value in the Web to TV market, especially for those who hold a large library of media from the iTunes store. While this device does the job of bringing your iTunes library to your TV, it unfortunately is not useful for much else. Those who are a bit more tech savvy can attempt to install the Boxee software (which we will discuss next), but this process is not intended for beginners and can bring mixed results. Priced at $220, this is an ideal choice for iTunes users who want a simple and effective way to bring content to their TVs.
Boxee is quickly becoming a popular solution to bring Web content to TV. It offers a free, cross-platform software solution, an upcoming hardware solution (seen above), and access to various online content including Netflix, Hulu (sometimes), Youtube, and more. If you currently own a laptop or spare PC with any form of video out (VGA, DVI, S-VIDEO or HDMI) and audio out (minijack or otherwise), you can connect your computer and TV using inexpensive component cables and load up your favorite video. The software, as previously mentioned, runs on all platforms, but Linux users beware: there is still no streaming support for Netflix. Despite the occasional hiccups with Hulu, and the potential volitile relationship between Boxee and Google TV, it is a very user friendly solution which offers both a software and hardware solution.
If you find yourself streaming a lot of content through Netflix, Roku might be an ideal solution to enjoy this content on your TV. Available in three formats, a standard definition, HD, and HD with Wireless-N, this device connects to your television using either standard RCA, S-Video, or HDMI and allows you access to all streaming content on Netflix, Amazon Video and, if you subscribe, MLB.tv and NBA Game Time. While it currently does not allow the option to view other content such as Youtube videos or Hulu, if you find yourself streaming a lot of content on Netflix, this is a very affordable and easy to use option.
4. Game Consoles, Blu-ray players, TiVo
Depending on what form of content you are seeking, next gen consoles, Blu-ray players, and certain DVRs like TiVo allow access to certain Web media. Netflix streaming, for example, can be accomplished on Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii. Playstation 3 can also be used to view content on Hulu, although it is a several step process. Many Blu-ray players also allow for Netflix streaming, as well as other content such as Blockbuster and Youtube. And if you own a newer TiVo DVR, you are ready to stream Netflix.
There are a variety of other options as well, although they can be more costly and involve much more time and energy to set up. Several brands of HDTV’s come internet ready for streaming various kinds of online content. Additionally, if you are a DIY enthusiast, home brew DVR solutions like Myth TV allow for the streaming of various online content, and Windows Media Center is quite popular as well. Out of all the options presented here, Boxee is currently the nearest all around solution to bringing your favorite Web content to your TV. The forthcoming of Google TV is surely striking fear into the hearts of those at camp Boxee, and it will be interesting to witness how the relationship between these two companies evolves.
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