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Forget Phones, Google Gives Top Advertisers Google TV

Google’s gained quite a reputation for surprising attendees at conferences with an “Oprah” moment of giving them free Android phones. But phones, that’s so last year. With Google TV about to launch, Google’s upped the giveaway ante — handing out Google TV units for attendees at its Google Zeitgeist conference.

Zeitgeist is billed as Google’s “Partners Forum,” and it brings together some of Google’s top advertisers and others to hear a series of inspirational talks that have little to nothing to do with Google’s actual business. It’s like a mini-version of the well-known TED conference. The goal seems to be to get partners all fired up and inspired in general.

Google TV Giveaway

After a session this morning, Google announced to attendees that they’d all be receiving Google TV. In particular:

  • Dish TV & service for 3 months (a Dish TV DVR that’s Google TV capable)
  • Sony Blu-Ray player (one that’s Google TV-capable)
  • Installation by Best Buy’s The Geek Squad

AllThingsD reported that attendees will also get a Sony Bravia TV, from what an attendee told them. That’s incorrect — there’s no actual TV being given out. It’s also 3 months of service, not 6 months, being provided.

Google TV still has no confirmed launch date other than to come out this fall, but some news today from Engadget (and more discussion here) suggests it may come to consumers on October 17. But it’s already in testing, so will attendees get an early look? No, Google tells me. It won’t come until after the product launches.

Google’s Many “Oprah” Moments

Google giveways kicked off at Google I/O 2009, Google’s developers conference. Attendees there all received Android developer-edition phones, Google’s first big Oprah moment.

This year, Google handed out free phones at its Google Nexus One launch, did the same at the TED conference in February, gave Sprint EVOs phones at Google I/O 2010 in May and Droid 2 phones at the Google Voice launch last month. Those are the ones I know of; there might be more.

I’ve been at all the events above, so I’ve quite a collection of Google phones. I’ve used them for the test periods (typically they come with one month of service), then have kept them because it’s interesting to try out their various features from time-to-time and compare the different models.

For those who might care, whatever phone I use as my main phone is one that I’ve actually bought. Currently, I’m using the Droid 2 on its trial period (it’s an excellent phone, by the way), but I’m likely to move over to a purchased Galaxy phone on Verizon when the trial period is up. I also have an iPhone 4.

With the Google TV units, I’m a Direct TV subscriber. I thought about taking the Google TV setup offered, the Dish TV portion, and perhaps maintaining it, mainly to keep tabs on the Google TV service, if it offered pre-access. Since it doesn’t, I’ll skip and probably just buy it on my own.

Nofollow Issues

That leads to the question of disclosure in terms of links. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s spam team, has long pushed for bloggers to “nofollow” links to products they might receive for free, a method that prevents Google from counting those links as votes for ranking purposes. Free gifts are effectively the same as buying links, he seems to feel.

That has caused various SEO bloggers to push back when these giveaways happen, asking if all these people who receive the phones — or now Google TV units — will be nofollowing any links they might make? Perhaps most vocal is blogger Michael Gray, on this front.

Personally, I’ve long felt that it’s so difficult to decide what’s a paid link (just cash? a trade? someone does you a favor?) that Google should shift its focus to giving credit to good links regardless of their potential paid status. Time For Google To Give Up The Fight Against Paid Links? has more about this.

Why Google TV, Not Google Phones?

Interestingly, Google Zeitgeist is one of the few conferences I’ve been to recently where BlackBerry phones still seem to rule. I see them everywhere here, an indication that plenty of corporations still consider them an industry standard.

I thought Google might hand out Android phones to help counter that. But the Google TV distribution seems smart. It’s an easy way to ensure some of Google’s top partners get to see Google TV — and ad opportunities Google would like them to consider — in action.

More Info

For more background about Google TV, see our earlier story, FAQ: What We Know So Far About Google TV.

As for more about Zeitgeist, the entire event is considered off-the-record, unless permission to publish something is specifically given. However, many of the videos will be posted at the Google Zeitgeist site later today.

Despite the off-the-record mandate, many attendees have been tweeting news. Robert Stephens has a list of attendees who are twittering, which makes it easy to scroll and see what’s said. FYI, anything I’ve tweeted has come only after it was clear from Google that something was now considered public.

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