A Boon for IPTV Operators? – GoogleTV’s Acquisition of Widevine

December 4, 2010
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Access to mainstream programming is one obvious reason Google purchased Widevine (announced on 12/3). With Widevine’s well-respected content protection system it should follow that the major TV brands will release their product in one form or another to a GoogleTV offering. With Widevine, Google could allow the content owners to set their own rules for how they package and sell their product on GoogleTV.

A less obvious meaning of this move is that it may create a new middleware option for IPTV providers. At last month’s TelcoTV, Iacta demonstrated their casual gaming service operating on the GoogleTV platform (see page 10 of the latest edition of Screenplays Magazine for my article on this demonstration). Iacta’s port to GoogleTV preserved the ability of the operator to include their branding as part of Iacta’s service. In other words, from a customer user interface perspective, it looked like an Iacta/Operator-branded service and not GoogleTV.

Using Iacta’s demonstration as an example, why couldn’t operators customize the open source GoogleTV to create their own interface? The addition of the Widevine content protection system would provide the authentication and security necessary to assuage the concerns of content owners. If someone were to add the hooks into things such as billing and Emergency Alert System, GoogleTV might serve as sort of an open source middleware for traditional, franchised IPTV systems.

This might significantly improve cost, time-to-market and innovation compared to the traditional approaches to IPTV. I think Google would encourage this type of development. For instance, their online bookstore, that will soon launch, centers on the revolutionary idea of working with independent booksellers. In this light, it is not hard to fathom a scenario where Google, through its purchase of Widevine, encourages independent Communications Service Providers to adopt their platform in order to promulgate GoogleTV.

What do you think? 

Image courtesy of Iacta

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9 Responses to A Boon for IPTV Operators? – GoogleTV’s Acquisition of Widevine

  1. December 8, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    The obvious reason Google acquired Widevine – content protection technology - is unlikely the real one.  Why does Google need to be in the DRM business?  What does it do to improve its Google TV service?  Almost every other video service finds licensing DRM sufficient…
    The less obvious reason is possibly Widevine's video optimization (bit rate adaptation) technology, which Google needs for its Android and Chrome platforms.  But why pick Widevine instead of more proven platforms.  There are potential synergies with Google's WebM, but Google will need to reconcile issues such as Widevine's proprietary approach with WebM's open codec and media container format, among other aspects.
    I lay this out at: http://www.fiercecable.com/story/why-google-likely-overpaid-widevine/2010-12-07#comment-510

  2. December 8, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Mark.  The Economist has an interesting article about Google and whether it can maintain the magic.  They are doing some interesting things (from autonomous cars to alternative energy) that could take them to entirely new directions.  

    http://www.economist.com/node/17633138?story_id=17633138

  3. December 8, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    RBindl expresses a common complaint about Google…the disjointed product line. But the past couple of months they've made great strides to subsume many of these various products under a single gApps account. Not fully there yet, but they are making progress. I'm so looking forward to getting rid of the gMail accounts I had to maintain outside of my gApps account in order to access things like Youtube, gVoice, Analytics, Wave, and Picasa.  Once this convergence is complete, however, Microsoft is going to have their hands full if they hope to stem Google's cloud push with Microsoft 365.

  4. December 7, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Another excellent article on this merger can be found at:
    http://copyrightandtechnology.com/2010/12/05/google-acquires-widevine/

  5. December 6, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Dr. William Cooper has an excellent analysis on the motivations behind Google's purchase of Widevine, which can be found here:

    http://informitv.com/news/2010/12/04/googlebuyswidevine/

  6. December 6, 2010 at 9:46 am

    An interesting thought… Have PC's, TV's, iPhones, and Droids become the 2010 version of Telescreens from 1984. I wonder how Orwell would write the story today.

  7. December 6, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Another implicit impact of this acquisition is that GoogleTV becomes much more than just the TV and is a multi-device solution, whether it be smartphone, PC, set-top or TV.  To your point Roger, whether or not Google can pull it all together such that it is easy to pull up their pictures, email, etc. into a cohesive interface may be the difference as they increasingly compete with Facebook for people's attention.  

  8. December 6, 2010 at 9:18 am

    I wonder if tthis help IPTV or in the long run compete with it? Then again I wonder if there's food for thought from this, opportunities to include, or a lesson for IPTV service providers on what to do or not to do?
    After watching FB on 60 mins last night I wondered if Google isn't becoming a bit disjointed, while FB has a better formula of making all the pieces fit together in one spot. Sort of the bundle we often talk about. I almost get lost in the Google world at time with GSearch here, Google Docs there, Gmail over there, Picasa/Paniramio photos in two other spots, maps and worlds with different views, YouTube and/or Google Video, and what else have they taken over that is scattered about on the web and barely tied together with links and semi-shared passwords.

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