I remember a couple of years ago, I read a great book called The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture
by John Battelle. In the book, the author depicted a scene that a mom ordered a baby diaper product for her kid due to a TV commercial shown on her TV. And this specific diaper commercial was displayed to her at this time because the advertising system knows her information and web search queries. This scene sounded for me at that time like a futuristic novel, which is beautiful but not realistic.
Today Google announced Google TV, a product that could be a big stride toward realizing the scene. Basically, Google TV is a set-top-box that enables users to consume web content on the TV screens. Although it is not new and companies like Boxee are already doing this, it is still great to see that Google offers a nice integral interface between TV and web content so that you don't have to press input button in order to switch to computer desktop. More importantly, you have the universal web search on your TV screen, which could potentially tap a huge advertising market for Google. TV advertising is a $165 billion market. And if the vividness of TV commercial could be combined with interactivity of online ads and the information of users search intention, it would create the new generation of TV advertising and help Google build its next multi-billion dollar business. I believe it is a great vision that Google has.
But barriers remain. The vision will only be achieved if Google TV can hit critical mass. The key strategy for Google TV is to extend its search to more audiences rather than selling the boxes. To realize this strategy, Google TV needs to be adopted by mainstream population. But do normal users nowadays have clear understanding of Google TV and its benefits? Probably not. Even if they do, are they willing to spend money on the benefits and how much? We don't know the price point for Google TV yet, but this is a question to be answered. If the value proposition is not strong enough, it is hard for Google TV to achieve mass adoption.
Moreover, Google TV could potentially hurt cable business given the abundance of web content. If we can get the same show online for free, there is a fair change that we might want to cut our cable subscription. In this case, content producers' largest revenue contributor, cable companies, will put more pressure on content owners, letting them put less shows online for free. Then we will either see less free premium content online or more paywalls for online premium videos. This may eventually make free web video content less compelling.
In short, to achieve Google TV's great strategy and vision, many consumer and operation related issues are waiting to be resolved. And implementing it is not an easy job.