Google TV needs to step up or naff off

By Mic Wright on June 25th, 2012

Google TV has landed in the UK. This is not like Apollo XI making it into orbit around the moon. No. This is more like Apollo XIII disgorging astronauts into the sea after a disastrous and near-fatal mission. As late as last year, Eric Schmidt was big pimpin’ it around tech conferences promising that Google TV would be the dominant force in big box stores by now. It’s nothing of the sort.

Google TV is one of those oddities that floats around Google’s core business, drawing attention from tech bloggers and obsessive geeks, but which means nothing to the consumer market.

Google is a company in crisis. Android makes very little money for OEMs and the OS is lagging against iOS. Sure, dev heads and tinkerers prefer its openness, but most consumers tend to be frustrated by its pig-headed approach and Google Play’s awful take on app security.

Chrome is being pushed heavily by Google with cutesy ads and plenty of billboard space. The trouble is the public isn’t hot for the web-heavy OS. The world is still in love with the iPad or yoked to traditional laptops. The idea of putting everything in the cloud while security breaches are so common does not appeal to the mass market at all.

Google’s core product is its advertising business and that monster is still fed by search. Therein lie horrors. The Google homepage set to become as cluttered as the obscene future visions floating around AOL designers’ heads in 1998. It’s also a bully, pushing users and businesses to pay attention to the odious Google+ and reportedly giving Google services undue prominence over others.

Things look hopeful over on YouTube, with Google working hard to become a content producer. The strategy is to steal revenue from traditional media conglomerates but there are problems with that. Google could soon fine itself angering those big beasts even more than it has left Apple livid and looking for revenge.

Apple is a major worry for Google. It is starting to cut the search firm out of iOS as if it were a growth. Google Maps is already set for the chop and search within iOS, which by some measures makes more money for Google than Android, could be next.

Google went head-to-head with Apple in the phone business when it turned Android from the bastard child of the BlackBerry into a touchscreen-orientated iPhone enemy. History will show that to be a fatal error.

Microsoft has already won patent battles that cream off a significant amount of Android revenue. Now Apple is looking to take brutal action to kick the little robot while it’s down. Bringing Android and Google’s app store to the living room with Google TV is unlikely to be the answer.

Google seems punch-drunk these days. By announcing a maps event just before Apple pulled the covers off its solution in iOS 6, it came off as weak. Apple operates on its own schedule while Google is pre-emptive in trying to outfox its enemy’s game plan. Without serious thought, it could find itself leap-frogged in mobile by Windows Phone and left out in the cold by Apple.

Google needs to do mad things such as the Google Cars project for publicity value and to underscore the supposedly inventive ethos of the organisation but the centre must hold. Leaving search to fester and allowing the Android army to go rusty in the hands of dead ducks such as Sony and the increasingly tired HTC is an exceedingly poor strategy.

Google TV needs to get revolutionary fast, else it risks getting a bullet in the brain quicker than a snitch caught out by a surly mob boss.