Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Google shares lessons learned from Google TV 1.0

The just-concluded TV Next conference in San Jose, on October 4-5, provided an opportunity to hear from a number of companies that span the broadcasting and internet ecosystems, on their visions of "Tomorrow's TV and Multi-Platform Experiences".  Just over one year ago, Google announced that they, (along with Intel, Sony, Logitech, Best Buy, DISH Network and Adobe), would attempt to merge those two worlds of broadcast and internet-based content by developing a "Open Platform to Bring Web to TV". So far, the company's attempt to leverage the Android operating system in the creation of Google TV has been less than a rousing success. In fact, the effort to bring the web to TV was blocked, when the major broadcast networks responded by denying access to their websites on the Google TV hardware.

At TV Next, Shanna Prevé, Business Development Lead for Media Content Partnerships in Google Video Services and Google TV, shared five lessons that she says Google has learned from the "1.0" release, in her presentation: "Do We Finally Have Convergence in the Living Room?" Preempting questions about last year's launch announcement, she began her presentation by stating the fact that Google TV is NOT an open operating system. Only Google's chosen partners can develop for Google TV.

Beyond that, the first lesson she said, is that Google was reminded that their forte is search. The company has found that searching for content is the most commonly used function by early adopters of Google TV. This would seem to be a foregone conclusion, since a specialized content search was one of the top features that Google promised to deliver in their TV system.

But, it turned out, Google's design of a modified search engine for video was not what users wanted. Prevé said that Google's second lesson-learned has been that they can't predetermine where users will want to go on the web.  Google's original assumption was that users would only want to search for video on their TVs, so they attempted to prioritize such content in their results. The discovery that people wanted to go to the same websites as on their PCs "came as a surprise", she said. The lesson here is that if you give a user a display with internet connectivity, they expect to be able to access the entire web.

Lesson #3?  Though Google was excited by all the clever features in their TV 1.0, users were confused by what Prevé called the "new paradigm". As a result, Google plans to remove the list of nested menus in the 1.0 UI design, and in the forthcoming 2.0 version a "home" button will always take users back to watching TV, where a small translucent overlay of apps will appear on a menu bar.

The fourth lesson that Google learned, according to Prevé, is "when you know what you are looking for, search is great, and if you know specifically what you are looking for it is even better". According to Google's studies of usage, viewers only know what they are looking for half the time. The Google TV "What's On?" feature got much more usage than the company expected. In other words, viewers tendencies to "channel surf" did not go away when they were given other functions for finding content. It sounds like Google didn't do enough research ahead of time on how most people watch TV.  Had they never heard the expression "500 channels and there's nothing on"? Typical pay-TV subscribers would greatly benefit from a better discovery process, to shorten the amount of time wasted flipping past all the infomercial channels.

Finally, the biggest lesson of them all (which Google should have known from their Android Open Handset Alliance experience), is that it takes an ecosystem to build a product that delivers value to consumers. The last painful lesson that Google learned is that "Content is King". They should have learned this lesson from the Google Books debacle. Some content owners just do not want their property organized by Google.

In conclusion, Prevé said that Google now sees their TV effort as being very very early, and that after four years of development they finally have a product that they (now) wish they could have released last year. There are many big issues still unaddressed however. Though the Google TV SDK and emulator have finally been released to developers, the Android App Store is not yet open for TV. It will be "soon" said Prevé. In regards to dealing with content owners and distributors, she would only say that Google is making a better effort to make them aware of the next TV product and its features. As expected, nothing could be said about incorporating Google TV into Motorola Mobility's set top boxes at this point either.

So, as they say in the TV world, stay tuned!

No comments: