Google's Next Frontier: Television
Google is coming to your television set. The Web search giant is hiring a team of software engineers to develop products for television and is building a sales team that will secure advertising for Google's TV offerings. Google's intentions are made clear in a series of job advertisements posted on its career Web site.
"Television remains the single most important source of information and entertainment for billions of people around the world," Google states in an ad for a television technology software engineer position in Mountain View, Calif. "We are hiring software engineers to bring Google technology to this vital medium worldwide."
Another job ad states that "Google is looking for highly intelligent, enthusiastic Technical Leads/Managers (TLMs) to build Google's Television Technology team in London to help us make the world's information universally accessible and useful for TV."
Job responsibilities include developing client or server-based applications for consumer products, such as games, mobile devices and television.
So what does it all mean? Google's press team has not returned e-mails sent by Network World yesterday and today.
Television and media analyst James McQuivey of Forrester says there are two ways for Google to get onto your television set. One is to create a Google TV channel. YouTube , which is owned by Google, has reportedly considered creating a TV channel comprised of videos from its Web site.
But a linear channel is bound to fail because there is so much programming on television already, McQuivey says.
The other possible approach for Google, McQuivey says, is to create a proprietary box, like the Apple TV, or to partner with a cable TV provider to connect cable set-top boxes to Google video offerings on the Internet, mainly YouTube .
"The Google VOD [video on demand] experience is something that they could easily convince Comcast or Time Warner or Cox or insert cable provider here that that's something they want to do," McQuivey says.
In the meantime, Google will build an audience for a future television offering by simulating TV on computers. The Google Video search engine is indicative of this strategy, according to McQuivey, because it includes videos only from Google Video and YouTube. This closed-off search model is antithetical to Google's historical mission of making all of the world's information available, and suggests that Google wants to become an Internet-based cable company, similar to Joost , he says.
All About the Ads?
Greg Ireland , an IDC analyst who covers consumer video technology, believes Google's foray into television will focus primarily on finding new ways to deliver personalized advertising, rather than on producing content.
The proliferation of digital video recorders allows viewers to easily fast-forward through commercials, and creates a problem for advertisers that Google may be able to solve, Ireland says. This could involve targeting advertising at specific viewers, based on the shows they watch, he says.
"It's a matter of taking what works so well on the Internet of matching up keywords, matching up content and subjects to the advertising to create more relevant advertising for viewers," Ireland states. "There are ways to do more relevant advertising based on what programs are being watched."
Interactive television is far more developed in Europe than in the United States, which may be why Google is developing its "Television Technology team" in London, he says. Television-based shopping applications and other Web-like functionalities have taken hold in Europe but not here, he says.
Google has already tested an auction-based system for selling commercial space for a small cable TV company in Northern California.
The job ad for the Google software engineer position says candidates should have experience with emerging TV standards and set-top box operating systems. "I would imagine [Google has] been working at the request of a [cable] service provider to figure out how, within their set-top box environments, they would deliver ... a targeted advertising experience," Ireland says.
So how close is Google to getting on TV? McQuivey thinks Google is "ready to move," based on the fact that it is building an advertising sales force. One job advertisement says Google is looking for a head of national TV sales to "research, position and brand Google Television products to senior leaders within the advertising industry."
A job ad for a regional sales manager position in New York says the successful candidate must "develop and scale a multimillion dollar revenue base" for Google's TV products.
But until we hear more from Google, it's hard to predict exactly what those products will be, says telecom industry analyst Jeff Kagan .
"Google is expanding far beyond a traditional search engine," Kagan says. "It would make sense they would have a television presence. What the television presence would be, how it would work, how they would charge for it, I don't have a clue."