How Google and Apple will control TV

Two Silicon Valley giants will do for TV what they did for mobile phones -- take it over

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.

CES is upon us. In other words, it's Shark Week. And Silicon Valley smells blood in the water.

In fact, if you track the record of the great majority of consumer electronics products launched at CES, it's mostly just chum.

About 2,800 exhibitors will hawk mostly down-market, obscure products this year that won't compete successfully against the biggest brands.

Last year, for example, more than 100 new touch tablets were announced at CES. Remember the Azpen, Enspert, Hanvon, Kno and Vilix tablets? Neither do I.

Some Android tablets will have a future. And, of course, iPad rules. The Silicon Valley platforms, if you ignore HP's WebOS debacle, are dominating.

But the touch tablets announced at last year's CES running Windows, QNX and Linux are dead -- or might as well be.

Last year's tablet feeding frenzy points toward the future of TV. If you're not Apple or Google, you'd better be one of those sucker fish that clings on. Within the next three years, everyone else is going to be lunch.

Google TV

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said last month that by the summer of this year, the majority of TVs available in stores will have Google TV "embedded."

It's not exactly clear what Schmidt meant, or how accurate his prediction is likely to be. Google TV is a boob-tube specific version of its Android mobile platform running a special version of its Chrome browser. Regardless, Google is sinking its teeth into television, and it's likely to keep chomping away until it gets its fill.

Google this week announced new hardware partners for its TV initiative, including the two S. Korean giants, Samsung and LG -- the world's first and second biggest-selling TV makers. The third biggest seller, Japan's Sony, was a Google TV partner from the beginning. So all the biggest TV brands will start selling Google TVs this year.

Google also said they're being supported by Taiwan chipset maker MediaTek and U.S. chipset maker Marvell. The new chip makers replace Intel. And, of course, Vizio, which was an early partner, is still on board with its box.

Google claims there are more than 150 Google TV-specific apps. Google also acquired Sage TV in the summer of 2011. Sage TV makes Tivo-like digital video recorder (DVR) software for recording shows.

Meanwhile, Sony is on record as saying that its Google TV-supporting television sets are among its best sellers.

Google TV will start making serious inroads into the market this year, and will probably surprise a lot of people.

Apple TV

Google is a great white shark circling and thrashing around in clear view. But lurking out there somewhere is an even scarier creature -- Apple.

Rumors about an Apple TV set have circulated for years. Most recently, it became clear in Steve Jobs, the recent biography of the late Apple founder by Walter Isaacson, that the rumors are true. Apple intends to unveil a new TV, and probably this year.

The rumor mill says Apple is probably working on a 50-inch TV. Other rumors suggest smaller-screen TVs.

Other rumors say Apple has been securing the rights to TV content that the company can offer in season packages and a la carte. In particular, Apple is thought to be pursuing the rights to sell U.S. and international sports programming.

Landing content deals has been hard for Apple, according to insiders. After seeing what Apple did to the music industry, Hollywood executives are holding on to their wallets when Apple is around. Still, Apple's mission, which appears to be becoming the content consumption conduit of the lucrative, profitable end of the market, combined with market power and billions in cash, will eventually win the day.

This model for selling content is very much in line with global trends, which see subscribers to cable and satellite networks leaving, and instead opting for Internet-based services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

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