Google-Motorola can help cable companies conquer Internet TV

August 15, 2011

By Dan Frommer
The opinions expressed are his own.

Despite a multi-decade monopoly on delivering digital TV into homes, American cable companies continue to distribute laughably terrible software. As a result, interacting with your TV is often a chore. Enough already!

Great TV service in the future demands great software. But the cable guys suck at software. So it’s time to partner up.

Now that Google is buying Motorola Mobility — one of the top set-top box makers, and a long-time vendor to many of the top U.S. cable providers — it’s time for the cable guys to think seriously about giving up more control of their software stack, embracing a Google TV-like platform, and focusing on running great networks and curating great channel lineups.

(Especially if this could also encourage consumers — not cable companies — to somehow foot the bill for cable boxes.)

The television, like the mobile phone, is getting more sophisticated. It is basically becoming “the big computer in your living room.” It started with gaming, DVRs, and on-demand, and is now evolving into streaming video, apps, and advertising. And this demands better software than what exists today. This is where Google-Motorola is in a much better place to drive than Motorola and the cable companies were until now.

Yes, Google TV 1.0 was a dog, and Google TV 2.0 might not be enough of an upgrade. And the cable companies are starting to learn, as they are recently demonstrating with decent — but not amazing — iPad apps.

But this could be an opportunity for the cable guys to sit down with Google and Motorola and figure out what they all need to create the TV platform and interface for the future. TV channels, web video, movie rentals, interactive advertising, apps, and the Internet, all working well together.

Why bother? Because if it’s good, people will keep paying for cable, and may even pay more for value-added services, faster Internet speeds, etc.

But if the cable industry continues to produce the same garbage, many smart people out there will continue to look for (and build) alternatives. Apple and Microsoft have ambitions here, and so do many entrepreneurs. And by the way, Google isn’t necessarily the only solution. The key is to build great software and devices for consumers, no matter who’s building it.

But, specifically based on this deal, this is Google’s chance to be helpful to the cable industry, and to really help it evolve. Don’t screw it up, cable guys.

Related from SplatF: 10 questions about Google’s Motorola dealGoogle-Motorola: Winners and losers and Hey, cable companies: Now is the time to embrace Google TV and the new Motorola

This post republished with permission from SplatF.


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One cable company, Virgin Media, has already succeeded in this arena with its Tivo partnership. Tivo makes the world’s greatest DVR and has already incorporated Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, and Spotify into its offerings. Not sure why Google would pay $12 billion for MMI when it could have scooped up Tivo for $2 billion. Perhaps Microsoft will be the smart one and buy Tivo. Goodness knows Mr. Softee needs something to get investors interested.

Posted by personal_ensign | Report as abusive

Another antitrust debacle from the technology sector unless Comcast is forced to allow us to use Non-google/Motorola set top cable boxes or Comcast is forced to open their cable infrastructure to competitors. If not, then Google is getting a direct “in” to controlling content to Comcast cable TV customers. I think they are an insidious company and we will regret this in the end.

Do you see that this puts Google in our living rooms via our access to Comcast, including all its subsidiaries? They will be involved in controlling our content. That’s in addition to being able to track us and collect our data on the web. They use the Microsoft business model. If you can’t make it, buy it, then run everyone else out of business.

Posted by SeaWa | Report as abusive

Google TV is a waste of money. You can watch online TV with other services like the TVDevo website . They offer several viewing options for worldwide TV and movies.

Posted by laurastammer | Report as abusive

$70 Billion TV ad business has to be something of major interest to Google – I have found in past cable has had difficulty doing things outside their immediate area of expertise, it’s a matter of record – I’ve seen so many efforts to have in-house customer care and billing systems fail over past 50 years- mainly CSGS, Amdocs, and Convergys still carry the CC&B load.

As far as STBs – 80% – Motorola and Cisco (S/A), others have approx 20% minor players

Canoe Ventures has to be considered a failure so far. Strategy was to fight Internet search and social media using a flawed plan

Paul Allen / Charter made an attempt at STB business.

Google TV is struggling , and failing to gain tractions so far.

I can’t see cable figuring out social media and target marketing on their own.Have had 15 years to get something going with 1-1 target ads while Amazon, Google, eBay and others have long proven ad models that work. Google revenue is nearly 100% ad generated

The STB business is where Motorola dominates both in US and internationally – not in the phone business

The Comcast project Xcalibur still has the feel and smell of vaporware (or something similar to previous billing system attempts by MSO’s) – I could see Comcast attempting to use it to negotiate a deal with Google – which could be great — let Comcast do the TV and content part and let Google do the software – Cloud and social media – that would be a big win-win deal –

Posted by hlair | Report as abusive