Internet Video

Google TV’s Second Act

5/21/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Google still believes it can wrap its
massive Internet arms around TV — even after
consumers spurned its freshman effort as clunky
and not very useful.

Two years after the company launched an ambitious
strategy to meld Web search, online video
and apps with traditional television, Google TV
has failed to take off. Indeed, one of Google’s initial
marquee hardware partners, Logitech, abandoned
its Google TV set-top last year because of
dismal sales, telling Wall Street it burned $100 million
on the effort.

But now Google and its hardware partners are
ready to bring out HDTVs and set-tops running
version 2.0 of the software. And this time, the Internet
TV platform has made huge strides in usability
and features, said vice president of product management
Mario Queiroz, who’s heading up the Google TV project.

“I’m still convinced we are a ways from the perfect user
experience, but simplifying the user interface is a big step
forward,” Queiroz said. “It looked like a computer interface
in version 1, and we brought more of a smartphone
paradigm to Google TV.”

While Google expects to generate ad revenue from Internet
searches and YouTube ads viewed on Google TV, it’s
still fully relying on users to keep paying for TV.

“We are not building a cord-cutting product,” Queiroz
said. “Our product depends on the content from pay television.”

Cable operators that Google has approached range from
wary and skeptical to eager to adopt the Internet TV platform,
Queiroz said. “One of the things which is really beneficial for MSOs is that consumers want more and more
content, not just their linear TV,” he said. “Google TV could
run on any of the set-tops the MSOs are deploying.”

Google still has a relationship with Dish Network, although
the satellite-TV operator previously had been selling
the now-discontinued Logitech set-top to subscribers.

Google is betting that 2.0 products will fare much better.

This week, LG Electronics is expected to start selling two
models of Google TV televisions, with the current version’s
overhauled interface, access to the Google Play store —
which now has more than 150 apps optimized for television
— and a more “TV-like” YouTube experience.

And LG’s G2-series TVs also address the ease-of-use
problem: The Internet-connected TVs will include a “Magic
Remote,” which includes not only a QWERTY keyboard
but also will respond to gesture-based commands, similar
to Nintendo’s Wii remote, and includes voice recognition
for searching. The CE maker’s 47-inch Google TV will carry a
list price of $1,700, while the 55-inch model is $2,300.

LG’s introduction of Google TVs will be followed by
Vizio’s launch of a Google TV-based set-top box as well as
Sony’s launch of a set-top and Blu-ray Disc player powered
by the software. Samsung Electronics has committed to
building a Google TV product, as well.

“It’s become a lot easier for the OEMs [original equipment
manufacturers] to build products for Google TV,”
Queiroz said.

Overall, “we learned a ton” from the first generation of
Google TV, Queiroz said. For example, he said, users expect
more of a browsing and recommendation experience
rather than having to think about something to search for.

“We’ve found that bringing the Web and new forms of
entertainment into the living room is much more of a marathon
than a sprint,” he said.

Queiroz joined Google in 2005. Prior to heading the
Google TV project, he led Android product management
as well as international product development across 20
R&D centers.

September