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Is Google TV Right for Service Providers?

While Hollywood frets over what Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) TV could do to advertising revenues, a new analyst report explains something Google TV won't do, and that is provide a straightforward means for service providers to offer video over their broadband networks. (See Hollywood Fears Google TV.)

Longtime industry analyst Steven Hawley, principal analyst and consultant with TV Strategies, took an in-depth look at Google TV in his report, "Google TV & Google’s TV-related Initiatives," and concluded that there are significant hurdles for telcos looking to use Google TV as the platform for a video offering. At the same time, Hawley concludes, Google TV is not a major threat to IPTV offerings.

The attraction of Google TV would be that it allows consumers to search for content across multiple platforms, including pay-TV content and online content, based on common search parameters, Hawley says. That process is much more dynamic than the current Electronic Programming Guide way of navigating content.

"Google TV could well be an inflection point in the way TV is going to be delivered," Hawley says. "But it is not a panacea for telcos [that] want to avoid building a head-end, and it is not something that can be easily integrated into an existing IPTV offering."

For the time being, he concludes, Google TV will reach consumers via the service's five developer partners, announced at launch in May. So a consumer must buy a Logitech Ltd. Revue, a Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) set-top that is Google TV-enabled, or a Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) TV with Google TV integrated. (See Google TV Comes Out, the World Tunes In .)

Hawley makes the case that none of Google's launch partners is at the head of its competitive field right now. Dish recently lost former telco partners such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) to DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV). Sony is playing catchup to LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) and Samsung Corp. . Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) has struggled to crash the set-top box market. (See Street Pounds Dish for Sub Losses.)

Google TV itself may be in catchup mode: Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has relaunched Apple TV recently, and Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) TV is already integrated with eight of the top 10 Internet-connected TV manufacturers. (See Apple to Launch iTV.)

A service provider that wants to use Google TV to augment its pay-TV offering and use OTT video as a differentiator will still have to integrate set-top hardware, Google's Android operating system, and Google Search into its existing IPTV system, or hire third-party integrators to handle the job, Hawley notes.

Dish Network has signed on to do just that kind of integration of Google TV into the set-top boxes/DVRs that it provides, and this could be a very smart move for Dish, Hawley says, if Google TV proves to have consumer appeal.

"Dish is doing the integration, working with sister company EchoStar Networks, which has already integrated the Sling capabilities into its box," Hawley says. "But this would not be easy for a service provider, especially not your typical IOC [independent operating company]."

Service providers who are intrigued by Google TV might want to check out Dish as a partner, he says, or consider working with an integrator or software company.

Hawley cautions, however, that there are a lot of unknowns still surrounding Google TV.

"We still have very few details available about the development environment," he says. "They have not released a developer kit yet, although they have released some details if you are a content developer, such as guidelines for Web programmers. But there are no APIs [application programming interfaces] available yet, and the SDK [software development kit] is not coming until next year."

All of that has led Hawley to conclude that Google TV is not a slam-dunk success waiting to happy, even if it does have the potential of changing the way TV is viewed.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading
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