With TV, Google Stumbles (Again)

By Doug Mohney December 22, 2010

For all the recent fear talk about Google getting too big for its britches, the company is instead fumbling under its own weight of projects. Recent setbacks in delivering new software products and a gigabit fiber network are signs that it might be time for the company to tighten up a bit and refocus its energies to delivering products and services rather than dabbling in everything.

Multichannel News reported Google has asked Toshiba, LG and Sharp to postpone launches of Google TV-based products, which had been planned at the Consumer Electronics Show. Google wants more time to improve the Google TV software, having been flamed by bad reviews on initial Sony and Logitech products out in the market.

To be fair to Google, mixing TV and the Internet is hard. People don't put up with issues on TV that they get with their PCs, having been spoiled over decades of "turn it on and it works" without having to wait for booting and software updates.

Yahoo has been hacking away at getting a footprint into TVs for years, but it and other software developers have been handicapped by HDTV manufacturers installing the barest minimum hardware resources -- CPU, RAM and flash storage -- into their products.  Skype got its client into higher-end TVs last year, so it's an uphill battle for Google to get loaded on board and build the whole ecosystem. (We'll leave how Google is being snubbed by content providers for another day.)

But TV is not the only area where Google has hit the "pause/stay tuned" button. Earlier this month, Google pushed back its release of Google Chrome OS hardware. Interestingly, the same complaints about the limited/beta-only Cr-48 Chrome notebook -- slow hardware, needs more work -- seem to overlap with the complaints around Google TV.  

Symptomatic? Certainly, Google has wanted to have a more intimate relationship with the world above and beyond its search engine, but has had mixed results. Android has been a big hit -- when someone other than Google is selling the phones and handing technical support -- but the potential for Android tablets has been limited by Google's ability to deliver a version of the Droid specifically tailored for tablets. Samsung and others have launched tablets based on the existing versions of Android, but it appears a "real" tablet-supporting version of the OS won't be available until the "Honeycomb" version is released.

Finally, Google made all sorts of representations back in February about how it was going to build out one or more cities with gigabit Ethernet fiber connections to everybody's house. Municipalities embarrassed themselves trying out do one another for Google's attention, with mayors jumping into lakes and renaming the town "Google"....and then nothing out of the company until a low-key blog announcement last week announcing the hiring of Milo Medin to head up its residential broadband efforts.

And oh-by-the-way, it'll take until early 2011 before we select a winning community or communities.

The good news is that Milo knows networks, having built @Home back in the day when we still had IPv4 addresses out of our ears and he's kept his head in the game on broadband. The question that Google's shareholders should be asking -- why didn't the company hire Milo back in February?


Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TechZone360 and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

Contributing Editor

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