Google has reportedly asked manufacturers to delay announcing support for its television platform, just weeks before the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Google TV, which brings search and the web to television screens, launched with Sony and Logitech but received mixed reviews. The major television networks blocked access to their online shows. Other television manufacturers, including LG, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba and Vizio were expected to present their products at the trade show in Las Vegas. The request to delay their introduction while Google redevelops the software has apparently not gone down well with manufacturers.
While internet companies like Google generally release software products early and refine them in response to feedback, consumer electronics companies that ship hardware devices and displays work to product release cycles to fit seasonal sales patterns. Shows like CES are their shop window.
Toshiba confirmed to The New York Times that it would not be announcing or demonstrating a Google TV or Blu-ray player at CES. Jef Barney, the vice president of Toshiba’s digital products division said: “We have an understanding with Google about the future product roadmap and will bring the right product out at the right timeframe.”
Google declined to comment but said in a statement: “Our long-term goal is to collaborate with a broad community of consumer electronics manufacturers to help drive the next-generation TV-watching experience, and we look forward to working with other partners to bring more devices to market in the coming years”.
Sony sent engineers from Japan to California to work on Google TV. Their launch product received mixed reviews, with particular criticism of the keyboard. A Logitech product that works with other televisions had a better reception, but was considered by many to be too expensive. The major networks were unimpressed by the entry of Google into the world of television and blocked access to their online shows.
Sony remains confident in Google TV, saying sales were in line with expectations but declining to give numbers. Hiroshi Yoshioka, who heads the Sony TV business, said sales were likely to pick up when more services were available, including the ability for users to download applications. “Some reviews have been good, some have been bad,” he told The New York Times. “It might take a little longer for users to really start having fun” with Google TVs, he said.
Developers are still waiting for details of how they will be able to distribute applications for the platform. There is no announced launch date for Google TV outside the United States.
The confused picture is very different to the eagerly anticipated and enthusiastically adopted global launches of products by Apple, although their attempts to connect with television have so far failed to replicate their success with mobile phones and tablets, with which Google also competes with its Android software platform.
Google faces a number of cultural problems as it attempts to enter the television market. Viewers are not accustomed to searching for entertainment on television, or using a keyboard to do so. Most web sites are not designed to be viewed at a distance on a large display, or navigated using a remote control. Television viewing is often a shared social experience, and is not necessarily suited to intensive interaction. The television business is traditionally territorial, making it more difficult to launch services globally. Programming providers are also defending their existing business models and are resistant to new entrants to their value network.
Consequently, Google needs to develop stronger partnerships not only with consumer electronics manufacturers but also with programming providers and distribution networks if it is to succeed in this space.
That said, Google is well-placed to disrupt the market and drive innovation that has long been lacking. Google has everything to gain and little to lose. Display manufacturers equally need Google on board as it may represent their best opportunity to participate in a connected television ecosystem.