Google presses pause on internet TV project

20 Dec 2010

Just weeks before the influential Consumer Electronics Show, Google has asked TV manufacturers to delay some of their new TV hardware offerings that feature the Google TV software.

Negative reviews of devices by Logitech and Sony and content providers blocking their content from featuring on Google TV have resulted in the internet giant asking TV hardware firms to hold off on announcements, reports suggest.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Nevada, manufacturers like Toshiba, Samsung Sharp and LG had been prepared to launch new TV sets featuring Google TV functionality.

According to the New York Times, the latest request has caught manufacturers off guard.

It appears that now Samsung will be the only manufacturer at the show to have TVs with Google TV functionality, like that of Sony and Logitech.

Reviewers have given Google TV a lukewarm reception and the internet giant intends to rework its software to ensure a better toe hold in the internet revolution.

Google’s new departure

The consumer electronics industry represents a new departure for Google, from a hardware perspective, and is clearly unfamiliar territory. While the internet firm was able to cancel its Nexus 1 smartphone last year and perfect it with the impending launch of the Nexus S by Samsung, U-turns don’t work in the TV hardware market.

These machines are made for mass consumption, are expensive to manufacture and supply chains are vast and complicated. TV manufacturers just aren’t wired for hold-ups.

Google also held up the launch of its Chrome OS software on consumer laptops, forcing manufacturers to miss the Q4 sales season and you have to wonder how much good grace it can trade on, even if it is the biggest internet company on the planet.

Google clearly wants to do in TV and in computers what it has achieved in a relatively short time with Android on smartphones. And it may succeed yet.

The core difference is, however, smartphones are a new market that is characterised by people upgrading constantly to newer devices at a whim depending on spending power.

But computers and TV represent a different kind of investment by individuals.

Also, the major players in these markets enjoy sway and power, and are perhaps more conservative than mobile phone makers, even though some of them have their own mobile device divisions. In a recessionary world, they more than ever need people to buy their goods.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years