Google just announced Google TV, a device/spec that obliterates the line between "TV" and "computer." Suddenly it's going to be a lot easier to get content from around the web onto your TV -- because your TV has full access to the web. Sure, some TVs and devices support limited web functionality today, but with Google TV it will no longer be a matter of which widgets your set-top box or Blu-ray player supports, because Google TV is a full operating system (powered by Android) that can access any website (including Flash-based content) and run applications (from day one, you'll be able to run Android apps like Pandora). While I think there will be problems with how the OS organizes this wealth of content, the fact is that Google TV is going to make it a lot easier to get independently-produced content onto the big (home) screen. Video and analysis after the jump:
The problem with the Apple TV is it is closed. Basically Apple is just selling you a box that you pay for the privilege of using to buy more stuff through Apple. iTunes is a walled-off store that's blockbuster-oriented (only recently has Distribber stepped up to the plate to make it easier to get indie content into iTunes, but it's still not a cakewalk). Google TV, on the other hand, will pull content from all around the web indiscriminately, listing independently-produced content alongside releases from walled-off stores that only sell studio films.
This is going to be huge for YouTube Rentals, because now the consumer is paying to rent something on their TV very similarly to how they would through a VOD cable channel. Much of the reason YouTube Rentals hasn't taken off to date is because people do not want to pay money to stream something over Flash video on their computer; they're used to that being a free viewing experience. Which is totally reasonable, since the quality isn't that high and the screen isn't that large. But combined with Google's efforts to release VP8 as a royalty-free video codec (even if it might have some issues), Google TV should bypass Flash (similarly to how YouTube uses h.264 for iPhone and iPad viewing) and allow the quality of a YouTube Rental to match the quality of, say, Netflix's HD streaming, which is pretty damn good as long as the connection is sound. Additionally, YouTube is launching YouTube Leanback, a new interface designed for the TV. I suspect and hope that, for independent filmmakers, this will be a BFD, because now all a TV-watcher has to do is call up the Google search box:
"Mother's Day MILF" is listed right there in the search results, and I'm guessing that's not because it's a $300 million FOX film in 3D. No, it's listed there because of a search algorithm, which is much more democratic in enabling audiences to find content than, say, a curated page in iTunes. Using Google search, audiences can find our films, and immediately click "rent" or "buy" -- all on their TV. This means, now more than ever, search engine optimization (SEO) for a project is of paramount importance. Hell, audiences can even tether their Android phone to Google TV and just say our film's title using voice search. More on SEO in the days to come.
The proof, of course, is in the pudding, so when Google TV comes out in Fall 2010 (it will be on set-top boxes, built into TVs, and integrated into other devices like Blu-ray players and (hopefully) game consoles), we'll know more. I wouldn't be surprised if it's full of bugs and not nearly as refined from a user experience standpoint as an Apple product -- just like the first version of Android wasn't that great. But then Google released a huge update with Android 2.0 and now Android phones might be outselling iPhones. The difference here? Google TV will outsell Apple TV from the day it comes out, because Apple TV isn't very popular. And while Apple TV was largely meaningless for independent filmmakers, because of its openness Google TV is the concept we've been waiting for.
[search image courtesy TechCrunch]