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How Google and Apple will control TV

Mike Elgan | Jan. 11, 2012
In the global business marketplace, Silicon Valley is a shark, a killing machine hardwired with powerful instincts for tracking down sick, weak and slow businesses, and devouring them without hesitation.

The future of TV is both a la carte and eclectic, with viewers drawing programming from Internet services like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube, as well as social networks and directly from companies like Google, Apple and Amazon.

2. Remotes

TV user interfaces are, as a category, the clunkiest, most confusing and out-of-control interfaces in the history of consumer electronics. The average family has multiple overlapping, over-complex remotes that they don't know how to program or use.

The onscreen menu and selection systems provided mostly by cable or satellite companies look like they were designed by the government. The North Korean government.

The overall user interface experience for TV users is frustrating, confusing and totally unacceptable.

The future of TV user interfaces look a lot more like Apple's tiny Apple TV remote, Siri and Microsoft's Kinect interface than they do existing models.

3. Social disconnection

Culture is social. TV is culture. (Sorry, but it is.) Viewers are spontaneously rolling their own kludgy workarounds to the social isolation of television. As millions of people watch TV, they're socializing at the same time with laptops, tablets and smartphones.

During major TV "events," like the Oscars or the Super Bowl, Twitter is on fire with people instinctively making TV social.

Obviously, TV itself needs to be social. For example, the combination of TV with Google+ hangouts would be incredible. FaceTime on the TV would be straight-up George Jetson.

Google+, Twitter and Facebook -- and direct sharing of movies so that distant friends can watch together while chatting or seeing each other on video -- all these features must and will be built into TV.

4. Mass advertising

Football games tend to be supported by advertising for beer and tires. Daytime soap operas advertise floor wax and weight-loss products. News programs advertise pharmaceutical drugs. Children's cartoons advertise artificially colored junk foods.

Beyond crude gender- and age-related stereotypes, TV advertising is broad-brush, mass-produced guesswork.

The future of television advertising is massively contextual. When Google advertises to you, it will target those ads based on your purchase history, interests, geographic location, social group and even possibly your web-searching history.

Before you cry "Big Brother," be aware that people want contextual advertising whether they know it or not. The reason is that the TV will know what you want before you do, and offer it up on a silver platter. If you love sushi, and a TV commercial tells you about a new Japanese restaurant in your area (because the TV knows who you are and what you want), it's a message you want to hear.

Google and Apple are the two companies in the best position to fix what's broken about television.


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