Nov 18, 2010

misc notes on google tv, zuckerberg and open territory

I'm usually not a fan of David Pogue's tech reviews...unless, of course, he writes something that agrees with something I wrote before. His review yesterday of Google TV was brutal ("Google TV takes an enormous step in the wrong direction: toward complexity"), with this graf describing the search-based UI and the requirement for a keyboard.

So why do you need a keyboard? First, you need it to navigate Chrome, Google's Web browser. Second, you need the keyboard for Google TV's star feature: Search. When you press Search on the keyboard, you can type in a show or subject -- "taylor swift," say, or "modern family." You're instantly rewarded with a master list of TV shows, Web videos (from all different Web sites) and even apps (more on apps in a moment) that match your query. Just scroll, click and play.

Back when Google TV was first announced, I wrote a post titled "Facebook TV" arguing that finding things isn't really the problem that needs to be solved with television, but rather that "discovering" things was a more interesting challenge. (Look, I'll pull an Anil* and quote myself...)

I don't have problems finding things I already know I want to watch. I do have a problem discovering things I should be watching that I didn't know about before. And in my mind that's a social problem, not a search problem.

Thought experiment: what if tomorrow Facebook announced Facebook TV? Would their default UI -- a stream of recommended items from your friends -- be more or less compelling than Google's search box?

Shifting gears for a second, Scott Rosenberg had a nice writeup yesterday of Battelle's interview with Mark Zuckerberg at Web 2.0. Here's the interview excerpt that every entrepreneur should have tattooed on the inside of their eyelids. Reacting to Battelle's "points of control" map...

ZUCKERBERG: "I like this map that you have up here, but my first instinct was, your map's wrong."

BATTELLE: "Of course it's wrong, it's version one."

ZUCKERBERG: "I think that the biggest part of the map has got to be the uncharted territory. Right? One of the best things about the technology industry is that it's not zero sum. This thing makes it seem like it's zero sum. Right? In order to take territory you have to be taking territory from someone else. But I think one of the best things is, we're building real value in the world, not just taking value from other companies."

I love the fact that the map is missing uncharted territory is his first instinct; that building real value is not just about taking value from other companies. (Emphasis mine, obviously.)

Connecting traditionally lean-back television experiences with online communities, social graphs, real-time chatter and new modes of content discovery is massively large uncharted territory. It's not just about taking value from cable companies and television networks, but adding value to consumers on the one end, content creators on the other, and all the actors (new and established) that live along the chain between the two. Kudos to Google for heading into it with a big bet; Twitter's sailing into it as well (seen the issue of Fast Company with @chloes on the cover yet?); Facebook can't be ignoring this; and, of course, there's Apple. We're just at the beginning of this...

* Said with love, of course.