How Google's A-Team Will Finally Make Web TV Work

Last Updated May 21, 2010 11:48 AM EDT

The marriage of television and the Internet has been a dream in the technology industry since 1996, when WebTV first appeared. But to date no one has combined the intelligence of the net with the sublime stupidity of television in a way that broke through to the mass market. The introduction of Google TV yesterday finally brings together a team that has the size and scope to change that.

Google (GOOG) has assembled an corporate A-team that can attack the problem from all angles. Eric Schmidt led the keynote on Google TV and seated behind him were CEOs from Sony (SNE), Best Buy (BBY), Logitech (LOGI), Dish Network (DISH) and Adobe (ADBE). As Gizmodo noted, this might actually be an AA team, since there is large anti-Apple (APPL) contingent here. As managers should know, having a common enemy always builds team morale. But there are also important structural advantages to each of these team members.

The first question is how to get this product to consumers. Sony will be building Google TV into sets that will go on sale as early the fall. As my BNET colleague Damon Brown pointed out, a single integrated unit is really the future, so having a powerful partner like Sony is key. But Google will also be able to reach customers through a set top box built by Logitech.

To sell the public on an idea that has flopped so many times before, Google will be relying on the retail muscle of Best Buy. Giving customers the opportunity to try the Google TV experience out in stores will be key, since the NYT reports that integrated Internet will increase the price by at least $100 over comparable non-Web sets. Content providers will want to develop big, flashy offerings that exploit the large, communal screen a television offers. Partnering with Adobe will ensure that web video can be rendered well on this big screen and that media rich applications designed in Flash can make the transition easily. The television screen will be a great venue for the Flash based games already on Android and the web.

Which of course brings us to the most important part of this equation, Google. Being able to do a single search that seamlessly delivers content from both TV and the Web is pretty sweet. Being able to browse the net without getting off your couch, even sweeter. But having a television that syncs with the entire ecosystem of applications and devices powered by Android is what really seals the deal.

Oh, and there is still one more agent on this mission impossible. Assembling all this talent takes capital, and Dish Network is the money man. As my colleague Cathy Taylor points out, the jump to television brings another 4 billion potential viewers into play. Dish will be Google's partner in targeting advertisements to this vast and lucrative market.

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  • Ben Popper

    Ben Popper writes at the intersection of culture and technology. His work has been published in the NY Times, Washington Post, Fast Company, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic and many others. He lives at www.benpopper.com.

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