Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Google's 3-screen strategy: two down, one to go

Google's Nexus One launch could mark the end of Phase 2 of its 3-screen strategy. Next stop: the TV screen. Widgets will make the difference, as they did in the smartphone market.

Screen #1: the desktop or laptop computer
Google dominates (search, ads, apps) and attacks the incumbent (Microsoft) with its Chrome OS and browser. Not likely to move into hardware.
Usage has dramatically improved over the past 10 years. The computer remains the best suited tool to extract value from the Internet, with its elaborate OS and array of user interfaces: keyboard, mouse - not much use for widgets (apart from desktop icons/shortcuts) or touch screens (apart from Microsoft's tabletop computer).
Operators are basically dumb pipes, hardwrae is completely interoperable.

Screen #2: mobile/handheld/nomadic devices
Totally different dynamics, with an iron grip from the operators. Both hardware and software providers try to enter. Google has focused its attention here, over the past few years. The smartphone is opening up the mobile broadband market, despite limited OS and user interfaces, but thanks to widgets (for access to apps) and touch screens.
The Nexus One (as well as a Chrome-based smartbook) is probably as far as Google is willing to go, together with all its other mobile efforts (Google Voice, AdMob, Android, Chrome, apps like Navigation and Maps),

Screen #3: television, home cinema
Connected TV (or HbbTV: hybrid broadband broadcast TV) is all the rage at CES 2010 now. Numerous boxes are launched (Boxee, Roku, PopBox, Yuixx, IP Vision), as well as Net TVs (Netflix + LG), set-top-boxes (Humax) and OTT software platforms (ZapMyTV).
Success will likely have one basic ingredient: ease of use. User interfaces come in just one form: the remote control (no keyboards or touch screens).
Google is still on the sidelines in TV land (apart from a TV ads auction system), but that will change once they realise that they can become dominant in this market as well; all they have to do is embrace the widget. Widgets are the ideal user interface to content and applications.
And they can wrestle control from Yahoo! once more (as they did before in the search market and the search ad market): Yahoo! and Intel first developed a Widget Channel (a year ago), but Yahoo! hasn't done much in this space recently.

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