Google TV puts Apple TV on Notice - Will Apple's "Hobby" Become Irrelevant?

Google’s early unveiling this week of some of its content partners and strategy for Google TV provided a solid preview of the company’s television strategy. According to Paul Erickson, Senior Analyst at IMS Research (imsresearch.com), the potential capabilities and embedded product reach of Google TV may make another high-profile over-the-top (OTT) video play, Apple TV, largely irrelevant to consumers over time. Although the latest version of Apple TV has been significantly improved and Apple continues to deliver a strong user experience, Erickson remains doubtful: “Apple has struggled over time to make Apple TV a hit with consumers due to issues with pricing, content, and awareness. The product is now squeezed between broad OTT video capabilities on game consoles and Blu-ray players, and the search-augmented, integrated television+OTT video experience that Google TV is slated to deliver across TV and set-top box form factors.” “Google’s strategy to deliver the Google TV experience on an platform-agnostic basis, regardless of whether Google’s guide, search, applications, and OTT video capabilities are combined with cable, satellite, or terrestrial programming, makes it a product that will have a larger impact than Apple TV. This is also due to broad content support, with Google TV supporting a larger selection of content partners that is only expected to increase over time. Some of Apple TV’s more innovative features, like remote control via iPhone or iPod, already have their equivalent in Google TV, which supports remote control via Android smartphones as well as the iPhone.” Google TV still faces some hurdles of its own, with announced retail hardware partners at this time limited to Sony and Logitech, and a few missing pieces in its content offering, notably Hulu Plus, Flickr, and others. These limitations, however, are only expected to be near-term. Erickson, who will shortly begin work on IMS’ 2011 report on Internet-delivered TV, believes, “Google TV fundamentally differs from Apple TV in that its scale is larger and less constrained; tight integration of live TV, OTT video, and Internet-driven search and applications, either in set-top box form or built straight into your TV. Without a careful re-imagining of exactly what Apple TV’s value proposition will be within this new competitive landscape that Google TV is likely to occupy at the high end, Apple’s “hobby” of Apple TV is likely to remain such.”

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