Google Pay TV: We’re not in Kansas anymore

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When Google recently announced plans to launch its experimental fibre network most of the fanfare and media attention revolved around it providing a cable-TV as well as a phone service. The initial fibre connection, soon to be launched in Kansas in 2012, and Europe later on in the year, will bring users speeds exceeding 10 to 15 times what a normal broadband connection (4 megabits per second, downstream from the internet to the user’s computer and 1 Mbit/s upstream) gets.

Concerns in the American marketplace centred on the fact that users who are used to having an all-inclusive cable tv, phone and internet service wouldn’t give those up just for super fast internet. Those concerns have been quelled by the rumours that Google will come to the market with a TV, phone and internet package and that major content producers like Disney and Discovery have come onboard.

One tends to wonder what has changed since a number of the major content providers boycotted Google TV in October last year. At the time CBS, NBC Universal and Disney all confirmed they were denying access to full length episodes on Google TV. The main concern for the content providers was that they wouldn’t be fully compensated for their content as Google didn’t want to pay an upfront licensing fee.

Cable heavyweight, Viacom recently lost a copyright lawsuit to YouTube in which the precedent was created that internet companies, even if they know they are hosting infringing material, are immune from copyright liability, if they promptly remove works at a rights-holder’s request — under what is known as a takedown notice. The fallout from these issues has been most felt in the hardware side of the business as the Logitech Revue and the Sony Internet TV and set-top box have failed to sell.

If we compare this to the groundswell behind Apple’s TV rumours we can see that there is a much larger battle taking place. Apple has the historical advantage in that it has a consolidated hardware fan base. People who bought the iPhone then went onto buy the iPad, and a few already have Apple TV.

These hardware evangelists plus the fact that it has partnered with content providers like Netflix and its own iTunes means that there is a very active ghost within the machine. The source of Google TV’s power then, is in third-party apps which all have varying costs and quality issues – and the only thing holding it all together is search. That said, the apps eco-system makes it a lot easier for users to choose what they want, and don’t want, to see.

On the hardware front, Apple’s “Airplay” will allow users to pull up any piece of content on their iDevices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch) and play it on their Apple TV. This is one area where you can’t help but feel that Google has missed a trick with Android — the connection between the mobile device and other stationary ones.

This leads us back to the fibre connection. Having such a strong fibre and wireless connection means that the internet will be accessed at a quicker and more substantial rate than ever. Such a connection to the internet means that streaming from Youtube, the world’s second largest search engine, becomes a distant memory, holograms will become the norm and searching for content will be more imperative than ever.

If we combine the onset of the fibre network with Youtube, Android and Google+ we can begin to see the ubiquitous Google coming to the fore: One that knows where we are, what we’re looking to be entertained by, what we enjoy and how to deliver it to us, quickly.

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