Talk of a TV connected box from Google had been making rounds on the net for a few months. Google made the news official by introducing the Google TV platform at the 2010 Google I/O Developer Conference. Based on Android, with the Chrome browser built in, it is yet another avenue for Google to bring in ad-views from your television. In the crowded set-top box market, does Google TV stand a chance? Are people ready to get more of the web on their TVs?

Over the past few years, we have seen many connected televisions with fancy widgets. However, they haven't exactly caught the fancy of the public. This may partly be due to the fact that these widgets were somewhat obtrusive ways of bringing web content on TVs. On the other hand, by bringing Android to TVs, Google is trying to deliver a HTPC experience to the consumer. In our opinion, for technophiles looking to get the web on a TV, a HTPC is a much better option, particularly considering the flexibility that it brings along. However, as HTPC enthusiasts well know, such systems are maintenance heavy. For the average Joe, a restricted experience such as Google TV might be a much better option. As a software platform, Google TV is brimming with possibilities.

Currently, only Sony's TVs and Blu-Ray players to be introduced in Fall 2010 are slated to support Google TV. It is not obvious whether firmware updates would enable Google TV on present day models. No other TV manufacturer has been announced as a Google TV partner. It is not clear when or whether some other company would be able to integrate Google TV in their models. Dish Network's subscribers can get it on their DVRs, but if the consumer's TV experience doesn't involve either of these two companies, he is forced to invest in a Logitech box or some other dedicated hardware to get Google TV. Unfortunately, such boxes probably do not make much sense in the current setup for many people. The average home is already brimming with STBs, DVRs, PVRs, Blu-Ray players and media streamers. Yet another box in the living room is unlikely to enamor consumers.

Dwelling more on the technical side, Google has joined hands with Intel to port the Google TV platform to the Intel CE4100. Promising products based on the CE3100 such as Conceptronic's Yuixx are yet to land in the hands of the consumers. It has also been reported that Intel's CE3100 powers the widgets on some of the sets from Toshiba and Samsung. We all know how those have turned out. One can only hope that Intel has more luck with the CE4100 compared to what it had with the CE3100. Android on CE4100 has the capability to upstage the HTPC as the TV-connected computer of choice, and Google knows perfectly well that the stock Android distribution would find it difficult to make the cut as a proper OS for this platform. A fork, in the form of Google TV, is the best bet, and we will hopefully see this initiative move forward to give a good experience to consumers.
VP8 vs H264 : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Conclusions
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  • EmmetBrown - Friday, May 28, 2010 - link

    > people analyzed the licensing terms for VP8 and realized that
    > Google offers no patent indemnification for potential users

    This is no different than what the MPEG-LA does (and you also hve to pay a lot here):
    Q: Are all AVC essential patents included?
    A: No assurance is or can be made that the License includes every essential patent.
  • ganeshts - Friday, May 28, 2010 - link

    Thanks for quoting the MPEG-LA FAQ here.

    The contrast is that MPEG-LA will endeavour to bring the AVC patent in question into the patent pool (Otherwise, the holding company might be in trouble while utilizing the other patents in their H264 implementation). Google is not proposing to create a patent pool, and even if it were to, it is unlikely that other patent holders would like to give away their tech for free.

    Also, while MPEG-LA doesn't offer patent indemnification, H264 tech has been around for quite some time now, and there are no patents that I am aware of for H264, which is outside the MPEG-LA patent pool.
  • EmmetBrown - Friday, May 28, 2010 - link

    Note that many speculated that H.264 may infringe some VP8 patents (VP8 was derived from previous On2 codecs, the VP8 source code also include comments dating from 2004, before H.264 was finalized) that Google could use to counter attack eventual litigation from MPEG-LA.
  • ganeshts - Friday, May 28, 2010 - link

    Very much possible! That is why MPEG-LA wants to create a patent pool for VP8, and hasn't talked about suing Google yet.

    The lawyers are going to have a field day with this, definitely.

    As I said in the post, all is well if MPEG-LA is forced to change its licensing terms. The important thing is for Google to not continue to harp on VP8 if H264's licensing terms are fixed to the satisfaction of the open source community.
  • trochevs - Friday, May 28, 2010 - link

    "if H264's licensing terms are fixed to the satisfaction of the open source community. "

    This never going to happen until Steve Ballmer is CEO of MS. MS is holding the most of the patents for H.264. Open source software is threatening the core of MS business model and MS will do what ever possible to stop open source advances.

    Also even if MPEG-LA allow unlicensed decoding of H.264, it does not change nothing in regards of the future of the Internet. Internet needs both encoder and decoder free of restrictions of any kind. We are not going to see the real potentials of the Web Video until somebody has control on video production.

    So until we abolish software patents or MPEG-LA releases the H.264 to the public domain we need VP8 and it doesn't really count if doesn't provide better quality as long it is good enough. Remember in 1997 the web was looking horrible compared to AOL. Never the less the open web is here and AOL network is gone.
  • EmmetBrown - Friday, May 28, 2010 - link

    > Open source enthusiasts clamored for technology which could
    > stand up to the mighty H264 in terms of technical prowess,
    > particularly considering the fact that Theora compared very
    > poorly with it.

    That's not really true, at least for the H.264 implementations YouTube is using:
  • ganeshts - Friday, May 28, 2010 - link

    I remember reading that YouTube uses a variant of x264. The key here is scope for future improvements at the same bitrate. If YouTube were to update its variant to the current x264 version, the quality could be much better. I agree that there has been a lot of FUD around open source codecs, but we have to remember that open source codec development always has to be careful about treading on patents, and inevitably, in the bigger picture, the quality suffers.

    Remember that it is not only YouTube which will adopt WebM / VP8 if Google has its way. If websites like Vimeo also go the same route, the quality of HD video on the net is likely to be worse than what it would be if H264 were to be the standard.
  • EmmetBrown - Friday, May 28, 2010 - link

    > The introduction of VP8 may also lead to a demand from
    > consumers that their camcorders and PVRs record video in this
    > format. While companies are unlikely to yield in to this (and
    > Google itself wants to use this for Internet videos only)

    That's not really true, look here:

    also other developers are starting independent hardware implementations:
  • ganeshts - Friday, May 28, 2010 - link

    I don't think any of the listed hardware companies do consumer cameras or camcorders.

    The Google Group link also suggests decode only.

    Cameras and Camcorders do 'encoding', which is converting raw sensor data into video using some codec. Why would a company risk delivering not so good looking video on the HDTV with VP8, when they could create better looking videos at the same bit rate with H264 (for which so much silicon is already available and tried and tested)?

    As I have mentioned in the article, even Google agrees that this codec is meant for web use only.
  • EmmetBrown - Friday, May 28, 2010 - link

    > Also glaring is the absence of any technical rebuttals to Jason's
    > analysis (at least that we are aware of) from any Google
    > engineers or other proponents of VP8

    There are some comments about this from VP8 developers on webm blog:

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