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Google TV versus Apple TV: Who Will Dominate the Home Theater? Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 June 2010

ImageWe are on the cusp of Apple’s WWDC conference on June 7th where they will be announcing the much talked about iPhone 4 and a new line of iPod Touches, possibly with built-in cameras.  What hasn’t leaked out is the direction that Apple will be talking their Apple TV line.  By comparison to the iPod / iPhone / iPad, Apple TV (our review) hasn’t seen the breakout and rampant success of those products.  In many ways, the Apple TV works as a complimentary component if you already invested in other Apple products.  For instance, you can treat it as a music server and select play lists via an iPhone / iPod Touch with the Remote app.  Interestingly, Apple TV has never interacted with the App store, a fact that may change on Monday.  Apple TV is also a closed system, directing users into interaction with Apple formats in movies and music through iTunes.

Apple TV

Google TV is taking a different approach with their product, specifically from a software point of view.  Their concept is to simplify how you find your television shows and movies by searching your cable / satellite / DVR boxes as well as Internet sources like Netflix streaming.  Google is working with partners like Sony and Logitech to integrate the Google TV software into their hardware; either directly into televisions or into a set-top box.  Google TV is also pushing the concept of web browsing on your television, likely with a version of their extremely fast and lightweight Chrome browser.

If Apple is going to announce a new version of the Apple TV (Perhaps Monday or later this year), it will likely be a hybrid of the current Apple TV and a much larger focus on high definition streaming (the instant 1080p streaming currently seen on the Xbox 360), cloud storage and app compatibility.  It’s also likely that the device would ditch the current operating system in favor of the simple iPad interface.  Hypothetically, Apple could launch themselves into the living room very easily with the excellent streaming video content apps like Netflix, ABC’s application and eventually the Hulu app that’s coming to the iPad later this year.

In regards to attractiveness to content providers, Google TV may hold a key advantage due to their dominance in the advertising space.  Google's model will allow TV advertisers to target specific keyword searches (ideally for a channel or a show) as well as the demographics of the audience.  If large networks are looking to partner with a provider that’s allowing them to earn big advertising dollars, they are more likely to allow their content to be accessed through Google TV.  It would be a choice of ad-supported content on Google TV over pay-per-view content over Apple’s iTunes on Apple TV.

Google TV

The new Apple TV would have to be more competitive on price as well with other set-top boxes already performing well.  Products such as the Roku HD XR, Microsoft Xbox 360 (rumored to get Hulu compatibility announcing this month), Tivo Premiere and the upcoming Boxee Box are already offering many choices for consumers.  Something in the $100 to $150 price rage may be possible if the unit is basically an iPad without the screen.  They could also afford to take a hit on the hardware price if their customers are spending money on the App store.

Google TV and the potentially new Apple TV also presents a sizable threat to Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft in regards to the enormous market for casual games.  They have the capability to offer a huge library of content through iTunes or simply a web browser.  Games dominate over 50% of the app store on iTunes and the market share will only grow if consumers have the ability to play these casual games on their high definition television sets.  Apple would also have a leg up in this scenario by allowing iPod Touches, iPhones and the iPad to be used as controllers for the applications on the TV.  (Very similar to the Remote App)

Steve Jobs has always proclaimed that the Apple TV is nothing more than a hobby for Apple (most recently at the D8 conference), but it’s unlikely that Apple would allow Google to get a strong foothold in the television space, especially with studies showing that we are spending over five hours a day in front of the television.  In any case, Fall 2010 is going to be interesting for web-savvy consumers who are looking to invest in new way to watch TV, movies and other entertainment.

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