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Google’s best course of attack after acquisition? Revitalizing Google TV

Radford C. Aug 15, 2011 1

You’ve likely read that the acquisition will give Google access to a fresh crop of patents and allow it to more seamlessly integrate its Android operating system with Motorola handsets. And while this may set off a red flag with other hardware manufacturers, there is one thing that Google can do with Motorola – Cable Set Top Boxes (STBs).

Motorola is the largest provider of cable TV set-top boxes in the U.S. In fact, the set-top box business accounted for about 30% of its revenue and all of its operating profit in the first quarter, reported Chicago Business in May. This is something that we’ve talked about in a previous podcast. In fact, Engadget talked to the head of the Google TV project many months back of doing such a move. Now it’s here. It’s not secret that Google has been trying to bring its same search and ad-targeting technology to TV for years. The culmination was a actually good looking and well received DLNA-like box that favored in our review but failed commercially thanks to Sony and Logitech price slashing on GTV-based products. But the acquisition just might be what is necessary to get Google TV to share space with  Microsoft’s Xbox and Playstation 3.

You could imagine, for example, that Google TV software will power new iterations of Motorola set-top boxes. At the very least, it will power the Android TV app experience. Power up your cable TV, and suddenly you have access to hundreds (and soon thousands) of made-for-TV apps, which are under development right now for release later this year. Some of these TV apps will tie into second-screen tablets, like Motorola’s Xoom, which is coming along with the deal.  The big thing is Comcast and AT&T are want everything to be privately labeled and will want control over how Google TV works and appears on the STBs. In fact, Comcast already has a project in store to mimic Google TV functionality thanks to Comcast’s Xcalibur project.

Earlier this year, Motorola bought SunUp Digital Systems, which powers video on the back-end, Google gains access to viewer data at a scale it’s never had before. The data is what Google has needed to deliver targeted TV advertising and measure the results with a precision that linear TV has never offered. The Motorola acquisition, from Google’s perspective, takes the set-top box maker out of the complex TV equation.

Although Google’s odds of success with Google TV is still somewhat bleak, the acquisition could give it the glimmer of hope it needs suddenly took a turn for the better.