Will a revamped Google TV finally make an impact on the market?

Jim O'Neil

editor's corner

Could Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) TV be rising from the ashes of its crash-and-burn launch a year ago?

Declared D.O.A. by any number of pundits after Logitech reported dismal sales of its Google TV-toting Revue, the product has been in virtual hibernation for much of 2011. After announcements by potential partners at CES in January were shelved, Logitech continued to try to push units to consumers who just weren't buying, and smaller players, like Roku, went steaming by, adding partners and content.

Google was unable to convince Hollywood that Google TV's business model had any upside for content owners. Nor could it ever get past the concern that making content available on Google TV was like putting a brand new Titleist up on a tee in front of Bubba Watson with the wind at his back... there was no telling where it might end up.

At Google I/O Tuesday, the product didn't get the star treatment it saw a year ago, but it did get some upgrades that should keep it around through the summer and, perhaps, give it a shot for better sales during the holiday season.

After a long delay, Google says it's finally pushing out the Android Marketplace to Google TV. But, don't get too excited yet, as it won't arrive until this summer. It's one feature that has been eagerly (and petulantly) anticipated by Google TV owners, many of whom have started notes for the past year with the phrase, "Got an update today, but no apps-again."

But Google promises they'll land this summer, including apps that address multiscreen use, so you should be able to integrate your Android phone and tablet with the big screen TV in the rec room. The assumption, of course, is that it includes content, but we'll have to wait and see what content owners have to say about that. Judging from the way pay-TV operators are pushing content to devices like the iPad, it looks like something that likely will happen... to a point.

Google also said, without going into much detail, that it would be offering enhancements of some of the existing apps already in use, like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), YouTube and Google Search, and talked about, but didn't share much here, either, a simplified user interface.

On the partner front, Samsung and Vizio and back in the fold, joining Logitech and Sony as hardware vendors, apparently unruffled by Google's pullback of their CES announcements and of the slow sales Logitech has seen.

The deal Google's YouTube made with Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. and NBC Universal this week for 3,000 titles for its YouTube movie service also doesn't hurt Google's chances to make, well you can't call a "never-was" a "comeback," so perhaps a "fresh start" is a better phrase. It may even prompt Tinseltown to loosen their grip on more content. Either way, it's overdue and I'm eager to see where this mulligan lands.--Jim

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