How convenient. Word gets out that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is launching its Google TV (or IPTV) service internationally at exactly the same time the big search engine/Android/tablet/smartphone/Motorola owning conglomerate is plotting its annual I/O developer conference which is set to open tomorrow in San Francisco.
That conference promises "more than 130 technical sessions, 20 code labs and 155 Sandbox partners," according to a blog posting by Mike Winton, director of developer relations, who raved about the ability to participate in the conference "from your live from your desktop or download the Google I/O mobile app to access the live stream from your phone or tablet."
While it might have been an oversight, Winton didn't mention anything about Google TV which, according to Sony (NYSE: SNE) at least, is launching in multiple international markets starting in the next few days. Sony's interest is obvious: the Google TV service will be carried via a Sony set-top box and will be tied, at least in Australia, to the Sony Bravia TV.
While news of any new IPTV service is always welcome, Google TV is, at least according to the reports I saw, comes across as less than earth-shattering in its dimensions. Google, unlike its counterparts at Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) who continue to say that Apple TV is a hobby, has always been serious about providing a competitive IPTV service. This doesn't sound like it.
The news stories from around the world raved about the ability to multitask on the TV, to use a TV almost like a tablet or smartphone or PC and to access YouTube content. Sorry, I can do many of those things on my DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) set-top or my Panasonic (NYSE: PC) Blu-ray player, or, increasingly, my Android-fueled Motorola Xoom tablet or Motorola smartphone. I can only get a full TV lineup on that DirecTV box.
It's kind of a big omission and maybe it will be addressed at the I/O event tomorrow. It's been said before and it will be said again, that content fuels the competitive space. When a new service such as Google TV can demonstrate that it's got the goods to compete with Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) or DirecTV, then it will be a threat that deserves attention as a so-called "virtual MSO." As long as the big attraction is, as the Hollywood Reporter put it, the ability "to surf the Internet on (the) TV set and play with apps on the screen," it's just another OTT wannabe.
So, while there's reason to be excited that big names like Google and Sony are taking the international IPTV space seriously, there are many more reasons (not the least of which is Sony's spotty record as a set-top box maker), to take the "news" with a beach full of sand. --Jim Barthold