SAN JOSE, Calif. Two big pieces were missing when Google rolled out its picture of the future of integrated Web and TV services at Google I/O Thursday—cable TV providers who deliver most of the broadcast content and MIPS Technologies that powers many of the sets.
Google announced a partnership with satellite TV provider Echostar, but no other service providers at this point. "They don’t have a broadband cable TV partner and that’s the weak underbelly of this so far," said Richard Doherty, principal of market watcher Envisioneering (Seaford, NY).
Given competing advertising models, cable operators are not likely to back the Google initiative anytime soon, potentially cutting the Google service out of the brunt of its market.
"Cable operators provide half the world and two thirds of Americans with TV, and I don’t know of a cable operator who would want to work with them," said Doherty. "I was at the Cable Show [the cable TV annual event] last week and Google TV did not come up once though I am sure everyone knew about it," he said.
The GoogleTV roll out echoed another big industry event that brought together giants, but eventually fell flat. "It reminds me of General Magic a few years ago—it's not a complete solution yet," said Doherty of the mobile systems startup.
Software developers in the audience at Google I/O where the initiative was launched may take offense that Google is not releasing a GoogleTV developer's kit until after Sony and Logitech ship their first systems. Giving those companies an opportunity to have a market-making exclusive is, in a way, a small sign of a lack of the openness Google touted at the event.
On the processor side, Intel's Atom based SoCs are apparently the only chip currently available to run Google TV. However that is expected to change eventually. Google said it will make its software available as open source code in the summer of 2011.
Sony and Logitech are building the initial GoogleTV systems using Intel's CE4100 chip, aka Sodaville, an SoC with an Atom core. A port of the code to MIPS processors which power many of today's TVs is apparently not yet available.
But MIPS was quick to remind Google about the search giant's open charter and MIPS' willingness to be a partner.
"Google TV is the latest architecture-neutral solution from Google and, leveraging our past work with Android and our ongoing relationship with Google, MIPS Technologies is now in an excellent position to work with our licensees as Google TV moves beyond its initial reference platforms and into mainstream development within the digital home market—a market where MIPS is already the number one processor architecture," said Art Swift, vice president of marketing at MIPS in a press statement.
Meanwhile, Intel is planning to roll out a GoogleTV reference design that other OEM can adopt. "You will see it over the next two or three quarters," said Wilfred Martis, general manager of the retail consumer business in Intel's Digital Home group.
"Our goal is to help Sony and Logitech ship product in fall," Martis said. "Once we do that we will do the scale designs--essentially reference designs--any OEM can use," he said.
The wins mark the first time Intel has gotten one of its TV SoCs design into a TV or set-top. Its first generation part, Canmore, was announced in August 2008 but never designed into a system.
The Sodaville SoC can handle all the broadcast and GoogleTV processing. However, some TV makers will prefer to use their own pixel processing SoCs in addition to Sodaville. "Most digital TV OEMs are very particular about their picture quality and do a lot of fine tuning of the panel and use their own secret sauce," Martis said.
Intel still supports the Yahoo Connected TV software platform launched about three years ago in tandem with the Canmore chip. However, now Intel only supports the Yahoo software through Metrological, a third party in Europe.
Intel plans to work directly with other smart TV software platforms, but would provide no details. "There will be other players in this market once the smart-TV phenomenon happens," Martis said.
In a press statement timed with the GoogleTV launch, Yahoo said it has partnerships around its connected TV software with five of the top ten TV makers including LG, HiSense, Samsung, Sony and Vizio. It has 7,000 registered developers for its Widget Channel and more than 50 applications developed to date.