Apple ‘got’ the right combination of simplicity (interface) & complexity (apps) long before the rest of the smartphone market – including Google. Now, while Apple is still dipping its feet into the TV market with the new $99 streaming Apple TV set top box, it’s Google who is pushing ahead when it comes to delivering internet video to our TV’s. But don’t count Apple out just yet.
This recent ABC’s Nightline shows off the soon-to-be-released Google TV, a device Google hopes will find as much success under and inside your TV, as Android is finding on phones. Take a look:
While Apple is trying to press you to use iTunes for most of your content (Netflix is the only other video source available on the new Apple TV), Google is going for the whole internet’s library of video. There are built in apps for Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Unbox, and new apps will surely come out quickly after the product is officially released. The killer feature is Google’s specialty – you can search for a show, and whatever video source is available online will come up in the search results. Select one, and you’re off to watching.
While this doesn’t immediately fix the problem of content providers clinging to their archaic “content bundle” cash cow, it will be a huge step in educating consumers about what TV could be. DVR was a small step – allowing people to time-shift their shows, to watch at their convenience. But the future of TV is this ‘library’ concept, where you don’t have to preemptively choose a show to ‘record;’ instead, you’ll just hop on your TV and pull up whatever show you missed, instantly from somewhere online. When consumers get a taste, they’ll start thinking, “why am I paying for all these channels, when all I really want to watch is X & Y?” And when enough consumers start asking that question, it’ll be the end of ‘cable tv’ as we know it.
But what about the content owners, you’re wondering? Why would they put their content up on the internet, if it means more people will cut the cord to their cable bundle? It will be very similar to how the music industry eventually caved in after Napster, and started to offer their music for sale digitally – if you don’t give the people what they want, at a reasonable price, they’re going to go somewhere else to get it; often times that means ‘pirating.’ While the content providers might want to think they can kill piracy through lawsuits, the only real way to reduce it is to give in, and offer a compelling product that makes piracy less appealing than just coughing up for it. Hulu was a good start in this case.
When Hulu came out, many ‘pirates’ found Hulu to be easier, and the short commercials, not too much of a put-off. So while not collecting the same kind of revenue as they had been used to on their cable networks, the content providers did find a way to curb pirating and collect revenue. By raising the cost from a few commercials, up to a few commercials plus $10/mo for Hulu Plus, suddenly the dynamic had changed once again. If that $10 got *all* of the current episodes for all networks, they’d probably be onto something (also, a ~$30 which also included all the “standard” cable channels might be a good option, too); but since it’s still just a small selection of the overall breadth of shows, it’s going to send the pirates back off to pirating again anyway; and why pay $10 for *some* of your favorite shows, when you’re already off pirating the other ones anyway?
So this is where Google TV has it right: give consumers access to *all* available content, no matter where it’s from. When the content providers see they’re losing viewers and subscribers, they’re going to have to choice but to add their videos to the pool of online content, so they can collect some of the revenue from unplugged viewers. Hopefully, at that point, Apple will come around to offering some kind of subscription TV service, and Apple and Google can both work to do for the TV industry, what they’ve done for the cell phone industry; and we can kiss the cable ‘subscription service’ good riddance.