August 16, 2011 at 11:54 am

4 Ways Motorola Deal Could Realize Google TV’s Failed Promise

google tv motorola mobilityGoogle bought Motorola Mobility yesterday, causing all sorts of twittering and speculation in a normally news-dry month.

One thing is certain: Motorola’s “Mobility” division has the wrong name. It might instead be thought of as Motorola’s app hardware division, because it houses the company’s smartphone, tablet, and television set-top box businesses. And there’s nothing “mobile” about a set-top box.

We already analyzed what Motorola’s smartphone and tablet businesses could do for Google. What about Google TV, which hasn’t officially failed yet, but which retailers are returning due to an apparent lack of demand?

Some see Google’s purchase as a defensive patent grab, and there is surely some truth to that, as Google mentioned in its announcement. But Motorola Mobility could also benefit Google TV strategically in at least four ways.

1. Native TV Apps

Google promised us last October that in the coming year, Google TV would run apps natively.  Well guess what — it’s August, and we still haven’t seen any sign that this is really happening. The same way Google’s ownership of Motorola Mobility should enable it to make the Android OS run even smoother on that hardware, Google’s new command of Motorola’s Home Digital Video line should help it make native Google TV apps a reality.

2. Google Fling

What ever happened to Google Fling, the wireless protocol that was supposed to let Android users send photos, movies, and music to their home entertainment systems? Google also promised this in October, and yet our fearless Android app reporter has yet to encounter it in a single music app. Meanwhile, Apple iOS developers have jumped all over Apple AirPlay as a way to send music from iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads; Android developers have mostly ignored Fling. Maybe it’s because nobody has Google TV — but perhaps they will soon, assuming regulatory authorities look kindly on Google’s proposed acquisition. At that point, more Android apps will enjoy the same ability to play music on the best speakers in the house that iOS music fans find so alluring.

3. Truly Modern Cable Boxes

Cable boxes are lame, in part because unlike most other forms of technology, cable companies have de facto monopolies across most of the country so they don’t need to compete with each other very much. Because it’s such an advertising giant, Google won’t be able to leave those cable boxes alone — but as it reengineers the things to harvest data and present ads, Google has the opportunity to fix the byzantine menu systems on today’s cable boxes and add new features like voice command, for starters.

Challenges will remain, because cable companies will safeguard their content from apps until they are assured that their shows won’t somehow leak onto the internets, and also because the head of Comcast reportedly hates Google. But within the next five years, Google should be able to make cable boxes that don’t feel like relics of a bygone era, building an API that lets apps do things with television shows — build playlists, share shows with friends, and hold online viewing parties, which brings us to…

4. YouTube Live Music Channel

If any of the above three things come to pass, Google should have a decent way to send YouTube to even more televisions — and, importantly for music fans, the nice speakers that are often connected to them. YouTube has done plenty of experimenting with live music and ambitious HTML5 apps, and Google TV (with Motorola-conferred advantages) is the perfect place to put them. Cable companies bristle at competition to televised offerings, so perhaps as part of the deal, live YouTube music videos could be repackaged as a cable channel along the lines of Palladia.

Do you use Google TV? Let us know your thoughts on how it works as a music platform — or what it’s missing — and if we use your comment, we’ll include a link to your website. Evolver.fm syndicates articles to Wired.com, Gizmodo, Billboard, Hypebot, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and others.

(Image courtesy of Flickr/dailylifeofmojo)