The reasons for this advantage speak to the importance of knowing TVs stakeholders and catering to them effectively. Google’s largely on-hiatus GoogleTV venture tried to control the TV navigation layer from service providers, so the search would get done via Google TV. Not surprisingly, it failed because the networks blocked them from indexing their content online. Microsoft is cooperating with the TV networks, so let’s see what business model Google TV is coming up with for its new launch. Those agreements are a win for Microsoft, especially with its more than 35 million U.S-based customers, but what’s really going on? To get cable operator content on an Xbox, a customer needs to be a cable subscriber and pay $60 per year for an Xbox Live Gold subscription. Cable companies are also limiting what they’d deliver through the Xbox, for example:
- Comcast is streaming previously aired on-demand video
- Verizon’s FiOS only offers 24 channels
- AT&T is sending its full cable lineup through the Xbox
The points above illustrate that set-top box replacement won’t be widespread at the present time, but Microsoft has lot of traction compared to how Google tried to approach the TV business. Additionally, the Xbox itself offers more than convergence – it’s a unified search mechanism from several content sources, of course its gaming element, along with some other cute elements like the voice/gesture recognition and phone remote capabilities, etc. In my view, for now, this will go as far as Netflix, but some other fundamental elements of the business model would need to be there to be truly disruptive. How Google, and of course, Apple, approach their TV platforms in the wake of this will be very interesting, and may chart yet another course for the future of TV.