It struck me Thursday, sitting across from Google's Eric Schmidt and Sony's Sir Howard Stringer in my exclusive interview following the Google TV announcementthat there may not be two companies on the planet more different than these guys.
On my right, Sony , the world's most integrated, digital entertainment eco-system; on my left, Google , still throwing things against the wall, but mostly a one-trick-pony desperately trying to come up with a new revenue stream. Gotta give them props for trying, though.
First, some thoughts on Google TV: we've seen WebTV before, and Intel's ViiV microprocessor, and industry's attempts at bringing the promise of the internet from the small screen on my laptop to the big screen in my living room. And as Schmidt told me before our interview began: "I've been doing this for 10 years, but now it finally works."
Well, "works" is an interesting word.
Again, the concept of web and TV all in one is an interesting one, but nagging glitches and snafus clouded Google's unveiling.
Not just little issues, but big ones.
It seemed prime time just wasn't ready for, well, prime time! But as difficult as it was to get the snafus out of the way, the promise of all this is really quite intriguing.
I've never been a big proponent of interactive television.
Remember the old company IN, a pioneer in all this? I had the same issues then as I do now: TV is passive, the net is active. For me, each has its place. Simple. I listened to the Google engineers tell me the way people watch TV now, that the experience has become far more interactive. I don't see it yet. What Google showed me yesterday was far more distractive than interactive. Exercise versus entertainment. And when Paul Otellini tells me in my exclusive interview that he's already sold 1 million chips for this new era of interactive TVs, I wonder how many of those will sell versus how many will sit on shelves. Or if they do sell, how many consumers will actually use the capabilities designed into them?
Meantime, Google cobbled together an impressive group of CEOs, from Dish Network, to Best Buy, to Logitech, and Adobe, Intel, Sony.
And it seemed all of them had something quietly nasty to say about Apple. Seems like Nintendo seized on that concept a few weeks ago with its Sony-isn't-the-enemy-anymore-Apple-is battle-cry.
I asked Schmidt about that, and his response was more than reasonable: We compete and we partner, he told me, and that's healthy. In fact, he said, it's a model for American industry today that works, and drives innovation. Nothing wrong with that. That might be the reason behind a steady stream of hardly subtle digs against Apple through the entire event, the most notable from Schmidt himself when he introduced Stringer, by saying something to the effect: When we think of innovation, we just think of Sony.
And from a more global perspective, Stringer told me the same thing: We collaborate, and we compete. With everybody. All the time. Nothing wrong with that.
I asked Schmidt about China. He said the situation has reached a kind of stability that Google is comfortable with. And I asked about AdMob. Schmidt boisterously claimed mobile advertising is alive and well, thanks to Apple's iAd, and if the feds try to block Google's play for AdMob, Google will fight. And fight. The company won't be letting this deal go without a serious fight.
The event yesterday was interesting to say the least, but from an action-away-from-the-ball perspective. It's easy to get caught up in the broad market themes that take the Dow and Nasdaq down. But markets are made up of individual stocks, each with individual stories, and many worth telling. Google, Sony, Intel, Apple. Innovation continues.
And clearly, so does the drama.
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