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Google TV about to invade Europe

By PETER WHITE

Published: 7 April, 2012

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As we closed our issue for the week, focusing on what Google TV is going to do in France, it became obvious that the Google TV front is far wider in Europe - yes it is going to France, but also the Netherlands, and we have heard rumors of the UK and Spain also.

This gives Google the impression of a Swan - paddling furiously underwater, but serene and graceful on top of it - it has been working hard on content rights, UI, local partners and bringing down the price of entry - but without a single announcement coming out or being leaked. Google has gone on and on about how Google TV will take over the world, but not given us a clue as to how this will come about, so that so far its projections seem unrealistic.

France is one of the most competitive pay TV operations on the planet, and if Google TV can work there, it can work anywhere. Our feeling is that existing French devices, the so called Boxes (Bbox, Evolution Box, Revolution) that the IPTV players have put out there, are equally powerful devices and they do just as much, if not more, with better content rights, and accepted UI designs.

Google has yet to prove itself in TV search because it has failed to understand that it is fundamentally different from text search. For it to be successful it must be tailored to the user. Surprisingly at first sight it is easier to target adverts to users than content, for what people want to watch can vary according to time of day and various other factors which cannot always be determined by historical analysis of their recent past viewing. We have suggested that Facebook is the place to drive TV recommendations through contact with friends, and of course Google does not own Facebook, though it has Google +.

There is scope for TV search and recommendation based on algorithms, but these need to take account of the fact that what people want to watch today might be quite different from yesterday. As a simple example they might be tennis junkies during Wimbledon fortnight, but then want to avoid watching the sport until the next big grand slam comes along, or even for a whole year. But other viewers might prefer a drip feed of tennis all the year round. Recommendation algorithms can cope with such differing viewing profiles, using a variety of clever pattern identification techniques being perfected for example in the world of gene sequencing, but we are not sure that Google itself has got on top of this quite yet.

And at the same time Virgin and Carphone Warehouse, who between then own Virgin Mobile in France, have decided to increase the competitive pressure in France with their own box - an all singing, all dancing, VoIP, Home gateway, IPTV set top, and put it into a €30 a month quad play across the SFR network in France.

The consumer will definitely get good deals in France over the coming years, but it is almost impossible for something like Google TV to take hold.

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