Could Google TV Be The Picturephone Of The Future?
AT&T is estimated to have spent up to $500 million developing the Picturephone. It seemed like a good idea: Why wouldn't you want to see the person to whom you were speaking? If facial expressions weren't important, why did those thoughtful Internet pioneers invent all of those emoticons to express what words alone couldn't? One of the reasons AT&T failed was the $21 a minute charge for using the bandwidth hungry Picturephone in a pre-fiber, barely satellite communications age. Today we can do it for free via iChat or Skype -- but even free hasn't made consumers want to be seen as well as heard.
Last week Google announced a new service that joins two communications technologies we use every day. Google TV will marry TV with search to improve the consumer experience and, in Google's words, "change the future of television." Anyone who has ever tried to use a remote control to text-search a TV interactive program guide can see the possibilities of searching "all of your channels, recorded shows, YouTube and other Websites" in one place.
Long before the industry anointed "convergence" as the holy grail of media synergy, AT&T learned that consumers can be a fickle bunch. Google, a dominant communications company of the 21st century, might want to take a history lesson from AT&T, which was the largest communications company of the 20th century.
Google and its technology partners hope to sell new TVs (from Sony) and new HDMI-connectible set-top boxes (from Logitech) to merge your desktop and set-top worlds. According to Google TV Product Lead Rishi Chandra, users will even be able to "speak 'n search" what's on TV using the voice search feature on their Android phones.
Google's business model is to make money by bringing search to TV and extending the reach of advertising through Adwords. Google CEO Eric Schmidt says that because Google TV seamlessly combines TV and computers, "we know a lot more about what people are doing and can make more relevant television advertising -- which should be worth a lot of money."
Will Google succeed where AT&T once failed and Apple TV and Microsoft's Media Center have stalled? There's only one way to end an article that talks about almost 50 years of TV and technology: Stay tuned.