Sony Disconnects Google TV?; Microsoft Kinect Smart-ing

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January 30, 2012 – 12:03 am

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Sony Disconnects Google TV?

Streaming Media's Dan Rayburn has begun to notice something interesting about subtle changes to Sony's wifi-enabled TVs: the electronics manufacturer has ceased producing Sony Internet TVs with the built-in Google TV platform.

The distancing comes as Google TV struck new deals with LG and Vizio, though the platform is only available on a handful of those TV makers' new models. Rayburn adds that there wasn't a lot of hoopla around these partnerships at CES a few weeks ago, suggesting that the interest in Google-powered sets is still a bit tepid.

Clearly, Google TV has made some progress since the dismal greeting the product had received when it was released last year. But the resistance isn't so much from consumers - it's from TV makers and media companies, who fear the search giant's tendency to dominate and shape the areas it plays in. While there's no reason to fear that at the moment, Google has more patience and money than just about any other media company today, except for Apple.

Still, Google can count on support from media buyers, who are excited by having Google's Android platform across as many connected TVs as possible, since this would offer the greatest opportunity to craft campaigns directly for TV and across all screens.

Microsoft's Kinect? Smart TV Or Smartest TV?

While deciding whether Google TV is up or down, or if Apple will make it's own fully interactive TV set this year, it's easy to overlook the one tech company that seems to be doing it right: Microsoft.

Sure, Microsoft's Bing search tool has never really mounted much of a challenge to Google and the Windows smartphones have yet to capture the collective imagination the way the iPhone has. And let's not even get into its MSN portal, which aside from competing with AOL and Yahoo, is losing more display ad share to Facebook. But when it comes to gaming and entertainment, it is increasingly clear that Microsoft's Xbox console has something truly pivotal on its hands.

At CES, Microsoft's Kinect set media company hearts aflutter with its voice and motion controls. "This could ultimately give us the opportunity to finally know who is in the room when an ad is on and have a chance to have a genuine conversation with consumers," one media buyer told TVExchanger at the Las Vegas electronics show.

Last November's estimated $70 million acquisition of video search VideoSurf could help Microsoft make additional inroads into the connected TV space. Over time, Microsoft will fold this technology into its entertainment platform to buttress the Xbox 360 ecosystem and evolve search and discovery of entertainment content on Xbox Live. Microsoft has gradually convinced media observers that its Xbox 360, coupled with its Kinect computer-vision-based input, will allow it to one up the competition by squarely putting social gaming alongside entertainment.

The Next Web's Brad McCarty is becoming a big believer in Kinect's value. But Microsoft still has a ways to go, he says, "Google tried, and failed, to do TV right. It was a valiant effort but might as well be hung out to dry. Boxee's Box is great, but it still feels way too much like operating a computer and that's going to turn people away who want simplicity. Ubuntu's offering is strong, but it takes people to an unfamiliar place and consumers don't want that.

"The market is ready for something more than just a screen, but it has to be easy, it has to be familiar and it has to work. So far Microsoft has been the only company that's made something which truly does all of these things, and yet it was an afterthought to a gaming product. It's time for Redmond to get serious about TV and Kinect is the key to making it happen."

Amazon In Its Prime

In addition to giving Microsoft a second look, enough virtual ink has been spilled the past few months about Netflix and Hulu. Wired Epicenter's Tim Carmody has taken a long assessment of the e-tailer's streaming video offering, Amazon Prime, and has deemed the service, with its thousands of movies and TV shows across a variety of connected devices, to be more flexible than the competition and a bit more attractively priced.

And the competition appears a little worried. As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told shareholders in a note this past week, the company expects Amazon to continue to offer their video service "as a free extra with Prime domestically, but also to brand their video subscription offering as a standalone service at a price less than ours. But Hastings insisted he was not too concerned, adding that Both Amazon and Hulu Plus's content is "a fraction of our content, and we believe their respective total viewing hours are each less than 10 percent of ours."

Well, maybe those video companies should be a little concerned, Carmody writes. For one thing, Amazon's offer of cloud storage and video on demand purchases lets users build their own a la carte streaming library across consumers' devices. Meanwhile, Amazon's other streaming offering, Amazon Instant, is only available on Microsoft's Xbox 360. But how difficult would it be to extend it to other platforms (iPhone, iPad, Google Android…), where it would compete with Netflix and Hulu Plus?

Video could also represent a major ad platform for Amazon, as its services in that area grow. Wait – Amazon and advertising? Sure. It's easy to forget that last summer, Amazon struck a deal with demand-side platform Triggit as a way of expanding its existing retargeting program. Despite the numerous odds against it, the e-commerce giant is as well-positioned as any of the established players in the space to take advantage of the continued growth of display and real-time bidding. With video as the fastest growing online ad segment, Amazon, which now sells everything under the sun, will likely be looking to find a way to capture that business as well over the next year.

You're Hired!

TV Ad tech firm INVISION appointment of Tom Mannion as Vice President of Digital Sales. Mannion will lead sales for INVISION's DealMaker Digital product line, an ad sales solution that enables the planning and sale of digital advertising across online video, display and mobile media, while also supporting addressable television advertising. He was previously EVP of Sales at Maxifier, a provider of campaign optimization tools for ad networks and agencies. Prior to that he held SVP positions at Triad Digital Media and Solbright, Inc.

But Wait! There's More.

By David Kaplan

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January 30, 2012 – 12:03 am

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