May 18, 2010

Can Smart TV change a culture of coach potatoes?

In its continuing bid for world domination, Google has set its sights on Internet TV. The company is expected to debut what it's calling Smart TV -- software for Internet-connected TVs -- at a conference on Thursday for software programmers in San Francisco.

Google is partnering with Sony, Intel and Logitech in an effort to create an interactive television experience for viewers.

"The revolution we're about to go through is the biggest single change in television since it went color," Intel Chief Executive Paul Otellini said.

There's no doubt that Internet TV seems like the next evolutionary step for mass consumption.

The question is, will it succeed?

Television has been, and continues to be, a lean-back interaction, and outside of video-on-demand services, adoption rates have been low for lean-forward technology -- Internet functionality via TV. No doubt part of the reason is that those capabilities -- like Apple TV -- have been limiting. But the nature of TV consumption is still largely passive. People lounge. They are not necessarily moved to interact.

The intersection of the Internet and video -- and how Gen Y and the next generation consume media -- seems more suited for tablets like the iPad and even smaller screens like smartphones.

But I would not bet against Google. There are reportedly 1 million sets that are already Internet-TV compatible, and 10 million more are forecast to be sold by 2011. Not to mention few companies have the reach and scale of Google.

Additionally, as James McQuivey of Forrester Research noted in a story in the Los Angeles Times, this affords Google the "opportunity to extend its operating system that now powers Android phones, inexpensive netbook laptops and tablet computers." As important will be the potential to reap huge benefits from its advertising and search businesses.

That said, I still wonder about the long-term success and adoption rate by consumers. TV spawned generations of couch potatoes and even a robust and seamless Internet TV experience may not get them leaning forward.

Google to debut Internet TV software in joint initiative {Los Angeles Times}
Smart TV: Google, Intel and Sony ready to shake things up {ZDNet}
Google to launch Smart TV for easy surfing between Internet and TV {Device Magazine}

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