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Google Media Server: A Giant Toe in the Door?

By Erika Morphy TechNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jul 1, 2008 4:00 AM PT

It already dominates the Internet -- why not the TV? Probably Google wasn't thinking exactly in those terms when it conceived the idea for Google Media Server, its latest addition to a ballooning product line. But planting a foothold in a medium in which it so far only dabbles is clearly the driver behind this release.

Google Media Server: A Giant Toe in the Door?

Google Media Server is the company's latest enhancement to its Google Desktop suite. Basically, it is software that allows users to view content from the Internet on a television.

Unlike many other media server software applications, it can support videos from YouTube and photos from Picasa Web Albums -- both Google properties.

It runs using Google Desktop technology -- e.g., Desktop gadgets for the administration tool and Google Desktop Search to locate media files. "All you need is a PC running Google Desktop and a UPnP-enabled device such as a PlayStation 3, wrote Software Engineer David Garcia.

True Convergence

If nothing else, anytime Google makes a new announcement or acquisition, it is difficult to resist reading into what that one-off development really means for the big picture. The Google Media Server is no exception.

Media Server illustrates the vanishing distinctions between the Internet, mobile phones and more traditional communication channels such as television -- a blurring of the lines that Google is leveraging very well, William Madway, a marketing professor at the Villanova School of Business, told TechNewsWorld.

"So media content has to be able to migrate to any platform," he said. "What's interesting about this is that the content is migrating from PCs to a stationary device; that's in contrast to most of the migration occurring today, but nonetheless, a very wise move. It also is very open in its architecture, working with the video leader, YouTube, intstead of a proprietary software."

Others take a more parochial view.

Google Media Server "is a bit -- but an important bit -- player in its long-term strategy of creating true convergence," Jordan Hudgens, CEO of Vidshadow, an online video network, told TechNewsWorld.

Google has become the largest distributor of online media on the Web, he continued -- and now it is exploring the potential of cross-platform distribution.

The point, of course, is the continued monetization of its content. With the TV in is grasp, Hudgens said, Google has another channel for placing targeted ads.

"These ads will get different rates and have different targeting and relevance for advertisers," he predicted.

Reinventing the Wheel?

Google is not the first Internet player to try to make the leap to the living room TV screen, notes Sterling Market Intelligence Principal Analyst Greg Sterling. Other market entrants include SlingMedia, TiVo, Apple TV and Hulu. One way or another, he said, "the two 'platforms' are quickly becoming interoperable, and the screen in the living room will eventually just be a big PC in addition to an on-demand premium content distribution channel."

More provocative, though, is Google's move into original content distribution online through an initial deal with Seth MacFarlane, creator of TV's "Family Guy" cartoon, says Sterling.

There are two ways to view that move, he wrote: "It is either a creative extension of Video for AdSense and related experiments, or it's Google moving into original content creation and distribution."

Google as a TV network? Who knows? Maybe Google really was thinking about TV domination when it conceived of Media Server.


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