It’s tough to bank on Google

It’s Google I/O time and it’s another conference, like WWDC, that I wish I was attending. Despite that I am not going, I still need to pay attention since Google will inevitably announce something that I will have to consider building on or for. Android is still the biggest thing to come from Google, and startups, like Spuul, have to build on android. There is still some schools of thought that say stick with iOS or start with iOS and deal with android later. However, if you are doing anything at all in Asia or the emerging markets you have to be on android. Period. But I insist that the money for paid services is still in iOS. Android users just don’t pay the way iOS users do – not even close.

Like with WWDC, Google will spend the week announcing a ton of things – I won’t even bother trying to play soothsayer since I don’t think it makes sense to. But I am more sensitive than I have been in the past at taking Google products seriously.

I think the biggest problem with whatever Google will announce is deciding which products or platforms to bank on. I see android TV is already getting some pre announcement love and folks are blessing it as the new thing for Google and it’s love affair with TV. Let me be first the first to say I hope it works cause god knows the current TV ecosystem is fucked. My money is still on Apple TV cause it works, it’s dead simple to build on and we know Apple values ecosystem lock in which means Apple TV is here to stay.

Android TV? Who the hells knows. Google TV was also heralded as the savior for the TV ecosystem and the next best thing to sliced bread for developers working around the TV. What happened to it? It was promising but in typical Google fashion it was essentially a beta that never made it out of beta. I understand why Google does this but it makes it hard to know which beta projects to depend on or bet your company’s development dollars on. Once bitten, twice shy.

I am sure some big companies can jump on every new Google dream in hopes of being the front runner and to ensure that big companies stay big but as a startup I don’t have that luxury. We actually semi invested in Google TV cause it was easy to stick to HTML 5 and HLS for a host of Smart (which we all know means hella dumb) TV platforms. Google TV was almost a reference platform of sorts and mostly just worked – wish I could say the same for the supposed Dumb TV platforms which are some of the worst shipping ecosystems of the modern day web.

But Google TV was a dud and once it looks like a dud the normal Google response is to not really kill it, that’s far too easy for them, but to let it just limp along pretending to be alive but we all know it’s actually the walking dead. Then Google got Apple envy and decided to make chromecast which on paper, plus based on sales, seems to be rocking. But some studies are showing that it’s not being used much. This doesn’t surprise me cause unlike an Apple TV, chromecast is not super user friendly. Yes it works, but it is a pain to setup and is buggy as hell. I am actually hoping that Google will re affirm their commitment to it during I/O, fix all the bugs and double down on it since I think it has legs.

As a techie though it is shocking how much Google forgot to ship with chromecast. Security for streams was not something they focused on but has improved some with updates. At Spuul we still find that HD content with encryption creates brain freezes faster than swallowing a Magnum in one go. The real shocker with chromecast though is there is no easy way to serve video ads with it. Yes – a video product from Google that doesn’t even have a premium content focus has no hooks to any of the standard video ad platforms – not even Google’s own video ad platform. I find this quite comical since if they aren’t going to focus on premium content, something folks pay for, one would think they would make it easy to stream free content with ads.

I hear Google is going to announce something new on the TV front, which I guess means Google TV is dead, but this action will call in to question what the plan is with chromecast. My guess is Android TV has different goals than chromecast so one would hope both platforms are a go and will see proper investment by Google. However, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Android TV getting all the attention while chromecast starts to whither on the vine.

I will be watching the announcements and doing my best to read the tea leaves as to what Google makes that actually will still be going strong in a few years.

Time to update my Google minus account via my Vizio Google TV chrome browser.

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