Thursday, March 18, 2010

You're only as good as your partners

According to the New York Times, Google has partnered with Intel, Sony and Logitech to port Android and a set of Internet-oriented applications to set-top boxes, HDTVs and other devices. Google is also said to be working with Dish Network to implement Android and similar applications in Dish's satellite receivers.

In any kind of industry consortium, you're only as good as your partners. Logitech, which is being called on to provide peripherals including a remote control, is an excellent choice, although their inclusion in the consortium seems like overkill, given that many companies can do remote controls well. The quality of the partners goes down from there:
  • Intel has a terrible track record with consumer electronics; it repeatedly announces industry initiatives and partnerships, but very little comes from them, because Intel's chips are both overkill and overpriced for most consumer electronics applications.
  • Sony has lost its market leadership in consumer electronics. The company's engineers strive to lock customers into Sony technologies, and that has made the company an also-ran in many markets. The company's fierce unwillingness to compromise on Blu-Ray delayed the entire consumer electronics industry from launching the technology for more than a year, and its arrogant overpricing and over-complication of the Playstation 3 allowed Nintendo and Microsoft to dominate the console market until very recently.
  • Dish is a weak #2 in the U.S. satellite television market, and its repeated court losses against TiVo mean that the company may not remain a viable satellite receiver or set-top box manufacturer.
I would feel a lot more comfortable about this effort if Google had managed to attract a couple of ARM licensees and additional consumer electronics manufacturers such as Samsung and Panasonic. (Signing up Samsung would have gotten them both the ARM processors and additional consumer electronics clout.) Google may be planning to add more companies to the consortium, but if this is all they get, I don't see Google TV gaining much market traction.

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