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Will Google TV Threaten Apple, Comcast?


As the blogosphere has run rampant these days with the possibility of the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) TV, that other technological Juggernaut has moved to preempt. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has filed a patent for a Siri-like user-interface for Google TV.

No word yet on whether this development is responsible at least in part for the significant spike in GOOG to a $617.88 high 10 minutes into today's open. But if it isn't, perhaps it should be.

First, the technology.

According to patent filings discovered by Patently Apple, smartphone users will be enabled to search TV listings by way of their voice. Remind you of anything?

The simple-enough act of speaking to your Android will, in quick succession, start a chain reaction that converts your command to text, transmits it to Google's cloud, where it is processed, then pushed to your TV display. The whole thing will have lasted a lot less than what it took you to read the preceding sentence.

If that is still too much latency, Google says this solution works when the you are away from your TV. Or your home, for that matter, by as much as a quarter mile. Obviously through some GPS smartphone functionality, the TV query can be launched remotely--say, from your car, as you turn in to your neighborhood--to find the program ready for your viewing by the time you park onto your couch. Voila!

While the solution may sound like a Siri ripoff--the patent was filed just six days before Apple officially launched iCloud and Siri--it may be just a small part on a much bigger picture that suggests Google may be following a different approach to TV than its Cupertino arch rival.

Eschewing Apple's obvious hardware advantage, Google may have started to stack its chips on infrastructure.

It started in 2010, when the company announced an initiative to lay ultra-fast broadband to US homes. Although the initiative has seen delays, the so-called 1-gigabit-per-second Google fiber project is ready to debut in Kansas City.

The connection, a hundred times faster than most homes in America have currently, has been originally intended to provide better Internet to more people in the United States. Now, it intends to bundle its high-speed fiber with satellite antenna farms near its data centers. Currently being erected in Iowa, will receive feeds from broadcast networks and satellites to provide analog and digital audio, data and video services. This jives well with a Wall Street Journal report that suggested Google was weighing entry into paid-TV, competing head on with cable and satellite providers.

As such, direct competition between Google and Apple television platforms may depend on what Apple cares to tell us about its own solution. Based on speculations thus far, the two services may steer clear of competing with each other, and be downright complementary if Apple focused on a hardware-heavy approach and decides to enter into content agreement with Google.

The companies that should worry from these developments, then, are legacy providers of TV, such as Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) to name just a few. As these solutions make content available at the sound of a word, who expects users to remain invested on expensive, pre-packaged channels?

Currently, GOOG has come down some from its high of day at open, but is still up over 1 percent on Friday's close, to $611 a share.

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