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Why Google TV Might Threaten The iPad

I tweeted that the release of Google TV might let Google leap over the iPad. What? How’s that? Some people tweeted questions back, so I thought I’d expand a bit more.

One of the biggest things to me about Google TV is that it will allow people to run Android apps on their televisions. It turns their televisions into computers while also, if it works as promised, still allows them to also easily do what TVs are supposed to do. Watch TV.

Now, it’s well known that more and more people multitask during TV viewing. They’ll have laptops open. Then as smartphones like the iPhone became common, they’d have their phones open. Then comes the iPad, so you have a better bridge between the phone and the computer.

Google TV potentially eliminates all this. You have a single device, the TV. And that’s also the key to me in leaping over the iPad. Everyone has a TV. People spend huge amounts of time on their TVs. If they start running apps on their TVs, I think they’ll want those same apps on their other devices.

If they like the tablet format that the iPad offers, an Android tablet will almost certainly come. That means people can run the same “TV apps” on their tablet. Android phones are already here — and can run those apps. In addition, Google has demonstrated how Android mobile devices can provide some pretty cool “swipe” or “send to” connectivity to an Android-powered TV.

Really, the missing piece is that there aren’t Android laptops or PCs. Instead, Google is promising a different operating systems for computers, Chrome OS. So, don’t expect your favorite Android app to make it to your PC, not as a native app.

Does that mean everything falls apart, with my gut feel on how Google TV might threaten the iPad? Not necessarily. After all, Apple doesn’t make an iPhone/iPad computer either. In other words, apps for the iPad or iPhone don’t run on the Mac.

In summary:

  • Android App = Phone + Tablet + TV = 3 devices
  • iPhone/iPad App = Phone + Tablet = 2 devices

I think the addition of the TV gives Android an edge. Not immediately. We don’t even have an Android tablet out, and I expect the iPad will continue to attract huge numbers of users in the near term.

But long term, the Android ecosystem just got significantly larger. What would be especially killer would be a true Android PC. But don’t expect that.

At a press conference today, Google execs declined to name a “winner” between that somewhat rival Android / Chrome OS projects within their own company. Andy Rubin, who leads Android and mobile at Google, said it was “unfair” to even try and declare a winner, since Chrome OS hasn’t even been released.

Maybe. But then again, it kind of supports the idea that Android has already won. Last year, we wondered when the first Chrome OS netbooks would come out. Now, the waiting has shifted to when will the first Android tablets appear. Android’s there, now, so device makers will go with that.

Whether Android stands up as a full-blown computer operating system remains to be seen. But then again, Chrome OS has never been positioned as doing all that the Apple, Windows or Linux-variant operating systems can do, either.

Then again, I’m hardly an expert in computer operating system development and usage. These are my gut feelings. I could be completely wrong.

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