Google's hardware plans - Why they just might work

Google's hardware plans - Why they just might work
When Google announced their buyout of Motorola Mobility last year, it appeared to be primarily motivated by access to a handful of mobile phone patents. Even as the two biggest regulatory hurdles are cleared, there is growing evidence which suggests video technology was their primary goal all along.

It's no secret that Google wants to be in your living room. Since 2010 they have made a number of moves in that direction, some more obvious than others. In January of 2010 YouTube started experimenting with movie rentals. By late April the program had been expanded twice. It was still small and focused on independent movies, but clearly past the experimental stage.

At the same time Google was working out a deal to buy On2, whose VP6 video compression was used in Adobe's Flash Video format. Google's primary goal was developing On2's VP8 standard into an open source, and more importantly royalty free, alternative to H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC).

At the time it seemed like a questionable move. H.264 had already been established as the new defacto standard for web video. Google, however, continued promoting VP8 through development of the WebM (Matroska-based) container format to combine it with royalty free Vorbis audio.

Their biggest move that year was a full frontal assault on broadcast, cable, and satellite television with the introduction of Google TV. Ultimately Google TV went from big deal to bid disappointment. By year's end, all the major US broadcast networks were blocking Google TV users' access to free video streams. More than a year later, consumer interest is still almost non-existent.

In retrospect, it seems like that failure led to a new strategy of cooperation, rather than confrontation, with the entertainment industry. It began with an attempt to repair their strained relationship with the major record labels and establish partnerships for Google Music, which opened to the public in November.

In May they took another step with a massive deal to expand YouTube rentals with 3,000 major studio titles. While getting into VOD without a subscription offering was hardly innovative or lucrative, it sent a clear message they wanted to work with content providers, instead of against them.

For a company with Google's reputation of competing on their own terms, it was fairly remarkable. That change in attitude may also be the key to finally conquering the living room. While Internet-based TV seems inevitable, technology is only part of the equation. What's missing is a product which combines the control demanded by legacy content gatekeepers with a non-threatening cloud service like Google Music. It's virtually the same path Apple took to create the iTunes Store.

The purchase of Motorola Mobility effectively gives Google a base to build that platform from. Even better, it's already in millions of US homes. Along with Cisco, Motorola Mobility makes the set-top boxes used by nearly every US cable television subscriber. They could create an entirely new Google branded platform which incorporates Motorola's set-top box technology

In fact, that might be the home entertainment applicance they are testing. Of course they wouldn't necessarily need to sell a Google branded set-top box to an existing cable TV provider. They could be designing them for use on the fiber optic network they are building in Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City Kansas. A Wall Street Journal report last year already indicated they were looking to offer their own a pay TV service.

In 2010 Google's new products and acquisitions seemed confused and inept. Last year they just appeared misguided. Put them together, and they suddenly look almost everything you would need to build complete home entertainment ecosystem. Whether by chance or grand design, Google may have found the recipe for disrupting home entertainment.

If Google gets their foot in the door, you can be sure companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon will find a way to finally push their way in as well. As a side effect, the US broadband market may even return to healthy competition and growth.

Of course much of this depends on China approving the Motorola deal. In theory Taiwan or Isreal could also block the deal, but China is by far the most significant hurdle remaining.

Written by: Rich Fiscus @ 14 Feb 2012 8:02
streaming Google Set-top boxes Motorola Mobility cable TV
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  • DarkJello

    Great article! The in home presence I think is the main motive for grtting Motorola. Should be exciting it will be google not apple that revolutionizes the tv experience

    14.2.2012 12:52 #1

  • molsen

    I think Apple is still trying to get many people to "upgrade" to a better viewing experiece, which may or may not work. Why am I going to pay for a premium on a symbol for tv that may or may not be all that great. I think Google's approach is better by learning from mistakes.

    Biggest thing moving fowad is a la cart programming.

    14.2.2012 13:15 #2

  • A5J4DX

    Originally posted by DarkJello: Great article! The in home presence I think is the main motive for grtting Motorola. Should be exciting it will be google not apple that revolutionizes the tv experience agree

    14.2.2012 14:10 #3

  • ThePastor

    I wish google luck. I think they can do it. But they must set a reasonable goal and stick to it. Google TV tries to do too much.

    Here's all you have to do.
    Build a cable box that has Netflix, Hulu and others built in.
    Make it so it can connect to a DLNA server and so that it can play directly from the source with many formats. (USB drive)
    Make the on screen menu good, snappy and useful.

    That's it. Sell it to every cable company out there and Voila, you are in every home in America.

    "But the bigger point here is that UMG has effectively admitted this takedown was never about copyright. They demanded YouTube censor Megaupload and justify that by saying they have a contract which allows it so its fine. Its painfully clear what they would do with a law like SOPA that gives them much more power"

    14.2.2012 19:09 #4

  • Ghostdog

    Very interesting read, cheers Rich!

    15.2.2012 07:26 #5

  • mscritsm

    Why would any cable company using Motorola as their cable box manufacturer allow Google to push its Google TV service to their subscribers? The trend is for cable providers like Comcast to create and sell their own streaming services to their subscribers. Google TV would just be more competition.

    24.2.2012 19:41 #6

  • DarkJello

    Because you have to pay for the cable service to rent the box. Plus wouldn't you go with the cable commie that offers google tv technology over a competitor?

    24.2.2012 22:11 #7

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