As ever Google is doing its damndest to steer us into a bright new future, in particular one in which “one man, one company, one device, one carrier” doesn’t rule the roost and our wallets.
That wouldn’t be Steve Jobs, head of Apple, that Google vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra had in mind would it?
Gundotra was speaking at this morning’s launch of GoogleTV, the new integrated Android-based TV and internet platform that will be installed in new Sony televisions and also available via a set top box for existing HDTV sets.
But GoogleTV doesn’t just pose a problem for Apple and other tech companies out of the loop on GoogleTV (the other main partner is Intel). It’s also a big new poser for conventional TV companies.
One the one hand it will allow viewers to run computer programmes at the same time as they’re watching programmes, giving a big boost to direct response ads. and, of course, it will reinforce the TV set as the focus of home diversion, something the PC has made heavy inroads into in recent years.
But many viewers will surely also choose to ignore the offerings of the TV companies entirely as they gaze at their big new Sony device. They’ll be able to access Facebook or YouTube (or porn) in gleaming high definition or download the programmes they want from the many online film and TV archives.
It will surely accelerate the shift from TV companies as broadcasters to TV companies as content makers. Which is fine and dandy in principle but making programmes is a more expensive and risky business than broadcasting other people’s. And it will allow the world’s better content providers, such as HBO in the US and the BBC in the UK, to challenge the big advertiser-funded broadcasters on a global stage. The Beeb might even start to make a profit.
Advertisers too will have mixed feelings. The direct response element will be appealing, more TV viewing the same. But it will become even easier to edit out ads completely. So things like sponsorship, product placement and own brand programmes will become far more important. And these things are completely unregulated on the internet.
Despite the hype, Google has genuine reason to be pleased at regaining the technological blue riband (there are other such applications but none as seemingly simple as this).
As for Mr Jobs he’ll be making it very clear to Apple’s thousands of developers that they’d better come up with something even better, and quick.
The worry for Google, Intel and Sony is that the first GoogleTV sets won’t be available until the autumn in the US and the rest of the world, presumably, around the middle of 2011.
So there’s still quite a lot of time. The first Apple-branded TV is surely only a few months away.