Sooo Google announced their living room product strategy — Google TV.
Seems to me like a sound strategy with the right pieces in place:
- Android platform that 3rd parties can develop against, adapted for the TV -check!
- Google less-than-free business model (ie they’ll pay cable or satellite providers a nice cut of their ad revenues in Google search, maps, etc) -check! (See bgurley post on the “less than free” business model concept)
- deals with hardware makers (Sony, Intel, Logitech) -check!
- deal with a TV provider (Dish Networks) to provide initial go to market beachhead -check!
So I think all the pieces are there for Google to try and get the TV-as-a-platform party started. Apple lead the smartphone party with the iPhone, but they might end up being the follower on this one (though maybe not if this strategic leak from Apple about the next generation Apple TV is to be believed).
And as I see it, all of this is good news for the “DIY HTPC” enthusiasts, the people that were the lifeblood of our Beyond TV product at SnapStream when we were focused on the consumer market. These are the same enthusiasts that turned to companies/products like SageTV, Meedio, MediaPortal, Windows Media Center Edition (longest name in the bunch… has to be Microsoft’s product!) and GB-PVR to turbo-charge their home entertainment systems.
Why’s this good news for HTPC enthusiasts?
Well, to all those 3rd party developers that built Beyond Media plug-ins, that built plugins/extensions for SageTV… you always wondered whether it was worthwhile to build on our piddly “platform”… it wasn’t, at least not beyond impressing your friends.
At SnapStream, we always had our hands full building our own applications, and never had time (or, truth be told, the expertise or experience) to make a real attempt to build a platform with a complete ecosystem of hardware, content, services and 3rd party developer tools. If you look at the other products mentioned above, you’ll find that the same is true.
Now, with Google TV, and likely with a future competing platform from Apple, 3rd party developers (both enthusiasts and professional developers) will have an incentive to build applications for the living room– there’s a platform that will have real users, real market traction and growth, and real methods for monetizing users.
I, for one, can’t wait to see how some of the creativity that we saw amongst SnapStream developer enthusiasts will flourish on these new upcoming TV platforms. Some of the TV apps that people developed at one time for SnapStream:
- DVD Library — jukebox for all your ripped DVDs — like Kaleidescape or Real’s RealDVD product (both of which were sued)
- Caller ID — see who’s calling on the big screen while you’re watching TV
- Internet Radio (on your big-screen TV)
- Stocks (on your big-screen TV)
And this is only the tip of the iceberg of innovation that we’ll see come to the big-screen in the living room. It’ll be a “gold rush” for developers building apps for the television!
Oh and one other thing. What about Roku? They make the popular $99 box for your TV. IMO they’re the closest thing to a Google TV competitor. They have a solid hardware product, a growing number of content providers delivering content to it, and even something of a platform for 3rd party developers. It would seem that they’re a direct competitor to Google TV! But Roku won’t be able to compete with Google’s “less than free” advertising subsidized business model. So if I were Roku, I wouldn’t want to end up as the Symbian or Palm WebOS of the TV space. I’d drop my own platform and throw everything I have into becoming _the_ hardware platform for Google TV. I’d want to be to Google TV what HTC is to Android. Yes Google’s announced Sony as their hardware partner, but Roku’s scrappier and seems less likely to screw up a Google TV hardware device.