Friday, May 28, 2010

Google TV: Right hand, meet left hand

When Google announced Google TV at last week's I/O Conference, one of the jaw-dropping omissions was that there was no mention whatsoever of support for WebM or the VP8 codec, which Google had announced with a great deal of industry support the day before. YouTube, the world's largest online video site, owned by Google, announced that it would make all its videos available in WebM going forward. At the Google TV announcement, however, YouTube's participation was limited to a strange "we pick the content for you" service that seemed to have no connection to Google TV whatsoever. Yesterday, an Intel executive said that the company might support WebM in the future, "if VP8 establishes itself in the Smart TV space," whatever that means. And, as if that isn't enough, Google TV will be based on Android 2.1, even though the company launched Android 2.2 to great fanfare minutes before the Google TV announcement.

When companies get big, groups stop talking to each other and bureaucracy takes hold. It's clear that the WebM and Google TV teams didn't talk to each other, or if they did, there was no adult supervision applied to insure that they worked together. It also looks like the Google TV and Android teams didn't talk very much, either. If WebM is such an important initiative, why isn't it in Google TV? From Intel's perspective, it may never be in Google TV. Why on Earth is Google planning to release Google TV with an old version of Android? Why did YouTube look like a "bit player" in the Google TV announcement?

Looking from the outside, this suggests that there are some serious management problems at Google. The WebM product group and YouTube are working closely together, but Google TV is completely out of sync with both WebM and Android, and Google TV is barely talking to YouTube. They're all in the web video business, but they're working at cross purposes. Intel won't adopt WebM unless "VP8 establishes itself in the Smart TV space"? "Smart TV" is what the whole Google TV initiative is about. How can VP8 establish itself if it's not included?

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