Does Google TV have the horsepower to outrace IPTV?

Is Google TV poised to come screaming down Main Street U.S.A. blowing the doors off the IPTV, cable and satellite TV industries, leaving their carcasses strewn in the gutter like road kill? Will it become as mainstream as YouTube? Succeed where Apple TV has failed?

You have to believe that it's given pause to execs looking, say, a year down the road to a product rollout. And anyone with a plan that stretches much further than that, well, (1) can you actually plan that far out in an industry that changes at the rate this one does, and (2) you'd better get moving, because the train is leaving the station.

I watched Google's rollout of its new world changer and frankly, was a little underwhelmed. I thought that, maybe, they'd hatched this one a little too early, because right now--and this is from a guy who loves all things Google--this dog don't hunt. Somehow, the birth of Google TV seemed more of a struggle than it should have been, especially following a nearly seamless rollout of the company's new mobile OS Froyo, which was just dazzling.

Even after Google overcame a bandwidth shortage and started clicking on all cylinders, rolling out feature after feature that should/could have produced WOWS!, I instead found myself thinking "Is that it?" After all, start-ups all over the world are rolling out hybrid set-top boxes, working to bring the Internet to the living room and give users a converged entertainment experience that includes all the interactive bells and whistles that you'd expect--all of the interactive bells and whistles, frankly, that IPTV has promised and so far mostly failed to deliver.

But there are a couple of things that might help guarantee Google TV's success, and, surprisingly, it's not just that the company has deep pockets. One, advertisers already appear to be ga-ga over it (see this story). They're geeked that they can better target ads, have the opportunity to be interactive, count clicks and only get charged for ads that viewers actually click on.

For another, it's Google. And even though the only aspect of its initial rollout that I was really geeked about was it's quick search capability, and the possibility that there may finally be a way for consumers to find the content they want to find, the company won't stop there. It will continue to evolve Google TV, even before it's set to hit the market in the fall. And, look at their partners, Sony, Intel, Logitech. It's a team that will continue to look for ways to push the edge.

Is Google TV the dawn of a "New Era in Television?" In some ways, absolutely. But, perhaps, not in the way you'd think. When Google TV launches, we'll see a bump in cord-cutters, but that's a given. For some consumers, adopting disruptive technology is like a scout collecting merit badges. It also will change the way consumers consume content, as TiVo did when it created a generation of time-shifted viewers.

But Google TV could ignite change in the IPTV ecosystem as well. With a well-funded and driven competitor looming in the rearview mirror, perhaps we'll see the industry step on the gas and begin innovating the way it should. -Jim

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