Intel GM Talks to Jeff Vinson About GoogleTV

Yesterday I was given a private interview with Intel GM for Retail CE, Digital Home Group, Wilfred Martis, after his keynote presentation on Intel and GoogleTV at the CONNECTIONS 2010 Conference in Santa Clara.  An enormous amount of marketing buzz was created leading up to the announcement of GoogleTV which is designed to blend linear TV broadcasting, online features and personal content into a more compelling TV viewing experience.  The buzz continues in both the technical and general public media outlets.  As one conference attendee told me, his father in Sweden even knows about GoogleTV. . . and he never hears about anything new.

Key Partnerships for Google Wilfred has been a busy man since Vincent Dureau, Google’s Head of Video, announced GoogleTV with their partners Intel, Sony, Best Buy, Dish, Adobe and Logitech at Google I/O in May.  As Wilfred noted, Intel has learned its lessons from past failures like the “Intel Viiv” platform, that it needs partners across the video delivery ecosystem to be successful.  Bringing key CE device manufactures, software and retail leaders together with a leading US MSO may not insure success, but getting them on board early can help identify unique potential conflicts prior launch.

Atom CE4100 Processor – Major Horsepower for High Cost CE Devices Only: Without getting buried in the technical details,  I asked Wilfred how this high end processing unit would fair in the STB market which seems to be dominated by low-cost devices required to meet the price points of mass worldwide markets.  He responded by asserting his product (and therefore GoogleTV?) is not for the mass markets in China and India.  He claims the Chinese government caps pay TV subscription prices to about $1.50/month.  Therefore, he stated, his product would be priced out of the Chinese market.  There wouldn’t be enough revenue potential to offset the box cost.

High Priced Blu-Ray Players: Again, Wilfred mentioned the price discrepancies between low end and high end devices.  He said the CE4100 processor is not aimed at the $79 BD player mass market, but rather the (smaller?) high end “$399” sector.  In his mind, these players offer a better overall viewing experience for consumers (who can afford them.)

UI – One of the Keys for Success of GoogleTV: In his keynote address, Wilfred emphasized the importance of a simple User Interface for GoogleTV across all devices.  So, I asked how this squares with the fact that any Blu-Ray disk can over-write the native OS on the player and present a branded, unique UI from the studio producing the content.  Wilfred believes studios will not want their own UI once their customers experience the Google UI.  They won’t need to have a team of Java programmers since new apps for Google Chrome can be written and launched in no time at all.  His conclusion is that movie studios will give up the unique branding opportunities (and additional programming costs) the BD specs offer.

Will GoogleTV Hype Supplant the 3D TV Hype? Wilfred believes that 3D TV is inevitable;  and Intel is betting on 3D TV – for the long term.  For the near term, 3D TV will be limited to ‘special events” like World Cup Soccer.  As a matter of fact, he was excited and looking forward to seeing the first 3D World Cup matches on the 3D TV in the Intel lab.

For Now, Market Buzz is King: With no products launched, but the promise of a richer viewing experience, most of us will have to wait for the fall to actually experience GoogleTV.   Targeting just the high end market means that margins must remain high for Intel to achieve an acceptable ROI on their Atom CE4100 chip.  That said, I’m sure other SoC manufacturers will be scrambling to port the necessary GoogleTV features to their devices to meet the needs of the larger consumer mass markets.  As Wilfred noted, based on the data from other market disruption technologies, we should know in 18 months if this venture represents the future of TV or just another makeover of WebTV.

Keep pushing forward.

Jeff Vinson

[You may contact Jeff directly for consulting and full-time employment opportunities.]


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