Tony Stark upstages Google TV
David is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) TV hasn’t taken off; it definitely isn’t being sold on the majority of TV’s like Eric Schmidt predicted it would. Nielson estimates that there are nearly 115 million TV’s in the US this year, putting the TV penetration rate at over 96%. Market research firm Gartner reports that broadband penetration is up to 77% in the US. The company that finally cracks the internet connected living room; whether it is based around a Google TV or Apple TV box or a video game console like the Xbox or Playstation faces huge growth potential. Google, through Eric Schmidt, is not the only one with big ambitions for their TV initiative. Walter Isaacson quoted Steve Jobs in his biography as “finally” have cracked the TV market with a yet to be released, but much rumored, Apple TV.
At Google I/O there were several announcements that make Google’s offering in this arena at least a little more appealing. These included more content and applications coming to the Google TV, more devices launching and the Nexus Q. Unfortunately Tony Stark, sorry, Sergey Brin, had a cameo appearance during each of the two main keynotes. This meant that some of the details for Google TV, as well as Google +, got pushed to the later more technical developer sessions.
Google was pushing their content library at Google I/O. Part of this was the ability that Google TV users will have in the future to buy or rent over 100,000 movies and TV episodes for viewing on the Google TV. Users will also be able to buy content on their Android phone or tablet and then watch it on their Google TV. Google will also make available more code libraries and an API to developers for the Google TV.
These somewhat limited Google TV announcements pale in comparison to the unexpected Nexus Q. The Nexus Q is the ‘first social streaming media player’. At least those are the buzz words Google would like you to associate with it. The two pound black orb is running Android 4.0, but it is not a Google TV, nor is it a standalone Google Android device. It must be controlled using a second Android device running Android 2.3 or higher. At the moment the Nexus Q seems to be limited to the content from the Google Play store. There is no installing third party applications from the Play Store, though that certainly presents an opportunity for the future. The Nexus Q can also play music or movies that you had purchased from Google Play on your Android phone or tablet on your TV, through the Nexus Q (though it streams from your Google account not your device). The Nexus Q has 16GB of built in storage, Wifi, Bluetooth, NFC and a 25 watt amp.
The focus on a completely new device for home entertainment seems odd when Google already has Google TV. Especially because new hardware for the Google TV is just launching, there are new Google TV set top boxes coming from Sony and Vizio. There are several other oddities about the Nexus Q firstly; it will be $299, a steep price for a home entertainment device that at this point is limited to Google only content. Secondly there are a few very important words engraved on the bottom of the orb “Designed and Manufactured in the U.S.A.” California is in fact the home of the Nexus Q’s manufacturing plant, this domestic production could make some more willing to pay up for the Nexus Q.
The Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) TV, which Apple has described as a ‘hobby’ is only $99 and has been picking up sales in 2012. The Apple TV has a full suite of content through iTunes and with AirPlay content can be shared between iOS devices and an Apple TV. At one third the price of the Apple TV and with the Apple TV already outselling Google TV, another three hundred dollar Android device is a hard sell.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is also pushing its integrated platform and the living room piece if this platform is the Xbox 360. With over 67 million Xbox 360’s sold the Xbox is already one of the most popular video game consoles, and Microsoft is hoping to convert that success into an entertainment device. Microsoft is bringing 40 new content ‘channels’ to the Xbox like HBO and Comcast. Microsoft is also updating the Xbox interface, putting Internet Explorer on the Xbox and interconnecting their devices with a feature called SmartGlass. With the upcoming release of Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and the Surface tablets Microsoft is working hard on integrating their platform to encourage customers to go all Microsoft, as many do with Apple.
Google, Microsoft and Apple are not the only companies salivating at the potential to put yet another computer into everyone’s daily life. Nintendo, Sony and smaller startups like Roku are all building entertainment PC’s. The Google TV updates at this year’s Google I/O were small. There was no Ice Cream Sandwich update meaning that Google TV’s are still running a version of Android 3.2 Honeycomb which is now two generations old. Google did confirm in a blog post that an ICS update for Google TV was in the works.
The addition of the Nexus Q muddies the water for Google TV; it replicates some of the Google TV functionality while at the same it is more limited than the Google TV. It also costs more than any of the new Google TV set top boxes, the new Sony box is $199 and the new Vizio box is $99. In the short term the price of the Nexus Q and Google TV without a major update will ensure that both the Nexus Q and Google TV fail to catch on.
ded004 has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.