Google (GOOG) is set to announce that its Android software has been adapted to run on set-top boxes. The news will probably be announced at the Google I/D developers conference on May 19 and 20. According to The Wall Street Journal, "The technology -- designed to open set-top boxes, TVs and other devices to more content from the Internet -- is attracting interest from partners that include Sony Corp., Intel Corp. and Logitech International SA, which are expected to offer products that support the software."
Android, an open-source software operating system, has already had unprecedented success in the handset market. The company offers its own version of the product on its Nexus One phone, HTC offers handsets with the OS, and Motorola's (MOT) flagging fortunes have been revived by its Android-powered phone, the Droid. Android was first introduced on November 7, 2007, making the speed of its adoption all the more impressive.
Google hopes to have the same effect in the TV set-top box business by getting developers to offer programs that will help consumers view internet content on TV. Similar efforts by other companies have had little success in a world dominated by entrenched products from set-top leaders like Scientific Atlanta, which is part of Cisco (CSCO).
The set-top initiative is part of the "Google everywhere" strategic plan that puzzles many investors and analysts. The company offers free desktop applications (which can be upgraded to a paid product), book indexing, an e-mail service, free video hosting and streaming for a great deal of content on YouTube, translation software and maps that include driving directions and traffic flow. And that's just a tiny part of the free software services available from the firm.
Each time Google launches another free product, many shareholders shutter. But the company still makes massive amounts of money on its search business. Revenue in the company's March quarter was $6.8 billion and net income was $2 billion. The rate of revenue growth has slowed in the last two years, both because of the recession and what appears to be a level of saturation in search market.
Since many of the Google products like its Android system don't include its search products, investors are left with one conclusion: "Google Everywhere" is "Google Everywhere for free". That's not a new conclusion, but it's one that's confirmed every time the search company launches a major new initiative.
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