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Thoughts on Google Video Store, and Google Pack

By - January 06, 2006

As I posted earlier, I had the chance to talk with Marissa Mayer about Google Pack, and Jennifer Feiken, who runs Google Video. I’d have posted earlier, but I was under embargo.

The news is out now, and the analysis begins (live coverage at Engadget here). My two cents on both: Google is now officially a Really Big Company, and is acting like one. Diversify your revenue streams, for one thing. Leverage and consolidate your core strengths, for another. And protect your vulnerable flanks, for yet another.

Googvid

The ability to sell video is great, but not news. We’ve known that was coming. What is really interesting is the pricing leverage: Google is splitting revenues 70/30 – that’s 70 to the content producer. Also very important is that the producers of content are the ones who set the price – again, totally different from traditional models. Thirdly, Google is doing its own DRM. That’s very interesting, and probably best left as the subject of another post. Producers can decide to not use DRM, as Charlie Rose did, Feiken told me.

This is a major step toward entirely new models of content distribution, and if I were Comcast, DirecTV, the telcos, or frankly anyone in the traditional video business, I’d be a bit concerned. It gives content producers far more power to connect directly to audiences, and the leverage will only increase – in five years, it won’t be 70/30, it’ll more likely by 80/20. Gary has a good roundup of some of Google’s competitors in video. (And Tristan has an overview here that is useful too). Clearly they are not the only player here, and the video/content industry has no interest in insuring that one party owns distribution.

What I really wonder is what the split to producers like CBS or the NBA is with traditional players like Comcast. I’m guessing it ain’t even close to 70/30. This is market disruption at its finest, assuming the service actually works (it was delayed at the time of posting.) And, of course, that a critical mass takes it up on both ends. Feiken told me that they currently have “thousands” of videos up for sale or rent, and about 40 major content partners. She also said she expects that the major movie studios will join up soon.

Another very important part of this announcement is ranking and relevance. I asked Feiken how Google plans to rank Google Video searches – clearly this ain’t no simple PageRank play. Will they rank by popularity? Profitability? Metadata? “We realize this is a difficult problem to solve and we are definitely innovating in this area,” Feiken told me.

Watch this space. From my book (p 241-42):



Google is clearly in the process of declaring its position relative

to the content industry, and it seems to be this: we will become your

distribution sugar daddy. We’ll be Switzerland—allow us to index

your content, and when people find it through us, we’ll enable you

to sell it. This approach became more apparent with the discussion

and disclosure of a 2004 patent application in Google’s name that

creates a system by which media is discovered and then paid for.

In such a system, one can imagine that Google has or will cut

deals with any number of content owners and somehow incorporate

that content into its index (the company has been rumored to be do-

ing just that, but refuses to comment). When you search for some-

thing, let’s say “usher,” the actual content that Usher has created will

come up in the results, and thanks to the distribution deals Google

has cut, you can buy that content right there on the spot. Everyone

gets paid!

With Yahoo, of course, this already happens. But for Google to

put itself into the position of media middleman is a perilous gam-

bit—in particular given that its corporate DNA eschews the

almighty dollar as an arbiter of which content might rise to the top

of the heap for a particular search. Playing middleman means that

in the context of someone looking for a movie, Google will deter-

mine the most relevant result for terms such as “slapstick comedy”

or “romantic musical” or “Jackie Chan film.” For music, it means

Google will determine what comes first for “usher,” but it also

means Google will have to determine what should come first when

someone is looking for “hip-hop.” Who gets to be first in such a sys-

tem? Who gets the traffic, the business, the profits? How do you de-

termine, of all the possibilities, who wins and who loses?

In the physical world, the answer is clear: whoever pays the most

gets the positioning, whether it’s on the supermarket shelf or the bin

end of a record store. As Yahoo also becomes a superdistributor of

media content, I have no doubt the company will figure out some

way to index and distribute media content that is moderated by the

traditional market forces of who pays the most, and what is the most

popular.

But Google, more likely than not, will attempt to come up with

a clever technological solution that attempts to determine the most

“objective” answer for any given term, be it “romantic comedy” or

“hip-hop.” Perhaps the ranking will be based on some mix of

PageRank, downloading statistics, and Lord knows what else, but

one thing is certain: Google will never tell anyone how it came to the

results it serves up. Which creates something of a catch-22 when it

comes to making money. Will Hollywood really be willing to trust

Google to distribute and sell its content absent the commercial

world’s true ranking methodology: cold, hard cash?

We’ll see.

Finally, Feiken is not immune to the joints after midnight implications of Google Video. “We see this as a historic event,” she said. I have to agree.

OK, enough said on that point.

Googpack

Now, Google Pack strikes me as an obvious play for Google, the company has made no secret of its intention to poke Microsoft in the eye from time to time. And honestly, they are right – setting up and maintaining a PC is a right pain in the ass. I very much hope this thing works, and plan to try it out on a new PC Federated Media is buying this week. (More on Pack here at SEW).

I spoke to Marissa Mayer about Pack, and she had some fun stuff to say about it. I noticed no version of Open Office in the Pack, and she reminded me this is just the first version of the Pack, and since it updates itself automatically, why, there might be Open Office in an update shortly. They are in active discussions, I was told.

Pack, if it becomes popular, will bring a whole new set of users to Google, mainly because it includes Toolbar and Desktop, which of course means more searches, and more data, and more money for Google.

“We realize software distribution will have to become one of our core competencies,” Mayer told me.

“Some of (the applications in Pack) will result in increased revenue to us,” she also noted.

Well, I asked, might you ever include Microsoft products in a Google Pack? “If they are interested,” the ever on her feet Mayer responded, “we’d be more than willing to discuss it with them.” Over to you, Mr. Ballmer….


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27 thoughts on “Thoughts on Google Video Store, and Google Pack

  1. What is so puzzling is the non-inclusion of Google Web Accelerator – although Beta – they could have at least offered it as an addtional option.

    Also, one would think that they would offer free optional Gmail accounts for those who do not have them..

  2. dendrite says:

    Great post John. The rest of the blogosphere is slapping their foreheads, pointing, and just “reannouncing” the announcement. You’ve clearly had time to form some interesting analysis (thanks to insider-ish status, no doubt.) Anyway, this is just some kudos to point out that I think your blog has really improved over the past couple of months. Your posts seem a lot more incisive and less dissenting(?) towards Google overall. (Could this be related to the success of your book, and acceptance within the Googleplex iteself? I bet.) Anyway, keep up the good work!

  3. huatong says:

    I tried the download. It took less than a second. The installer works behind the scene. Amazing!

    huatong

  4. None says:

    Doc Searls: “Will the video only run on Windows.” Larry: “I think we’ve not done as good a job as we should. We have a version for Mac that’s not downloadable yet. We have some teams working hard on getting the other things ported but they’re not out yet.”

    So at least they admit to have been sluggish about getting their applications ported over to mac and linux. And do seem to be working in that direction.

    “Our users and AOL users can message each other. The openness of Google talk …”

    Would like to see more on this. I don’t think the two networks can message each other yet. But maybe it means gTalk and AIM users will be able to talk directly instead of a roundabout way.

    “iPod and Sony Playstation Portable users will also be able to download and watch any non-copy-protected content from Google Video, and even get it specially optimized for playback on their devices.”

    Good idea, I definatly see it being done with all the other video services. If it isn’t already.

    At first I thought what the hell is a google pack going to be good for. But it’s actually an easy way to update many programs at once, especially your google suite. And you get the choice of what you opt to install. I would like to see all the downloadable google programs not use their own system tray icon. As well as futher integration of all their products.
    So it seems everyone is developing a pay video service (yahoo, msn, google, apple). How long could it be until all the content providers, the same ones from tv, put there stuff on each one of those video services? And each video service (yahoo, msn, google, apple) becomes a cable/video provider for the internet? I don’t profess to know a lot about computers but it seems to make sense to me. I mean it would give the content producers more money but offering to more services. And how long after that, until it is a simple monthly subscription service? Where we choose (if we choose) the internet video/cable provider that suits us. Anyway I see each yahoo, msn, google, and apple providing most of the content you can get on your television soon.
    Another important question: based on the previous paragraph and if this happens think about how much this will piss off the cable providers. I mean if people drop their cable television providers for these new internet ones (if each ends up offering the same content) they will be reduced to being an internet provider. Not only that but these internet services can offer loads more content a la user uploaded videos, indy stuff, etc… And its just a simple step to hook your computer up to your tv or any device up to the internet. How everything pans out in this new war will be interesting.
    But would this maybe give way to a more uniform drm between all these companies? With apple, because they have the dominate player, i’d have to say no. But with the others? Agian probably not. And if internet companies were the video content providers of the future would microsoft actually be forced to serve video feeds to people on linux? Or release there video application on linux? Especially considering it would give whoever does somewhat of a leg up in that realm. As I said earlier I don’t know a lot about computers. I’ve tried linux, and run ubuntu on my other computer whos sole function is to surf the web. Main is windows for games. But do give your input. I’m curious whats possible and whats not.

  5. bubba says:

    What was the deal with the overflow rooms at CES? When we showed up at the advertised overflow ballrooms in the Hilton they were being used for something else and were directed to the Concierge tent in the parking lot. Not only that but the best portions of the keynote were blacked out by CEA with graphics saying the presentation was “proprietary”.

  6. Google Pack seems to be a clear indication of Google entering into desktop based apps, rather than web-based ones which is its forte. To me, there is a significant distinction between the two. Desktop apps are more difficult to maintain, since bugs and glitches can’t be fixed quite that easily – requiring an update push to every registered user.

    I’ve been MS Windows for quite a while now, and it still doesn’t seem to be as secure as I’d like. MS releases patches for it ever so often. In a similar desktop scenario, does Google think it can do a better job of firstly writing secure, bug-free software, and then providing ease of updates? Or, is this point about ease of updation and maintenance moot because the Google apps would be simpler than a massively complex OS? The reason I feel this is a different ground for Google is because during the last year or so, I have already seen a few news items about bugs and loopholes in Google’s desktop apps. Desktop apps have been MS’s forte, and I wonder how easy Google will find the going there.

  7. I think Larry mentioned a Google Talk client for Blackberry and Nokia? Where is that available?

  8. Ian Wallace says:

    I must admit to being mostly ignorant of the Google Video service – I’ve watched a few clips on the site, never downloaded a local copy of anything, never really browsed around. But I understand from readings on other blogs that the service enforces certain restrictions based on the user’s locality. Are Canadians going to be able to download CBS and NBA content, or will the licenaing arrangements cover downloads by Americans only? Canada’s Radio & Telecommunications Commision is pretty rapid in making sure American TV-content providers obtain licenses to broadcast via Canadian cable/satellite companies, and I can’t imagine they’d be thrilled to let their control be bypassed, even if Google allows it.

  9. Deckard says:

    I love’n’hate each day i cannot identify with Google:

    Video.Google kicks ass. It comes in the right moment, as all of the world is at last being swamped with cheap broadband. It’s what Skype could do Dialpad couldn’t. All the higher harmonics of this decidedly “now” phenomenon are supplementary, if irrelevant — Pagerank, alternative indexing technology, and whatnot.

    On the other hand, Pack.Google has not much to do with Google’s mission statement to “organize the world’s information and make it universally
    accessible and useful”. It has to do with ease of use of disorganized information. It speaks directly to ordinary consumers of information. The “Pack” says: “i’ll help you use your PC running on Windows and earn some money righteously”. Microsoft and others are doing that for centuries. Microsoft was always controversial: from infamous 640KB-for-all, through trying to destroy Open GL, to unleashing dot Net. But wasn’t Google pure?

    Void of philosophical know-how, Google is slowly (from servers’ point of view, that is) putting itself into a position to be newly regarded as:

    a) A reformist turned populist.

    b) A big player pushing the “don’t be evil” concept through the world of grey, instead of being insistant to painting the world black-and-white! — the only medium in which the-don’t-be-evil messages really click.

    Google doesn’t seem to be pure anymore, and today is that day. Brothers Page and Brin: do what brothers Wachowski did — start putting philosophers on payroll, it’s that day. Prove us wrong or now will be the winter of our discontent.

  10. Tom says:

    Mr. Battelle touched on Google DRM:

    Thirdly, Google is doing its own DRM. That’s very interesting, and probably best left as the subject of another post. Producers can decide to not use DRM, as Charlie Rose did, Feiken told me.

    And I agree that’s the subject of another post. But in my thinking and reading about some of the catawalling going on at other blogs, Om’s, infoworld and The Register column regarding the issue it seems the thrust of all these “complaints” is “…another (proprietary) DRM framework…”

    I think it’s a two-edged sword.

    On one hand, yeah – another DMR and palyer framework I have to interact with – that creates end-user friction and more of with each additional company putting out a DRM solution.

    On the other hand, and this my thinking, if I were a company that was going to develop a music/video download service and I had the resources; developers, cash and cachet, I would most likely opt to develop my own DRM framework as well, and NOT because I wanted to create a hook into users primarily.

    The higher priority, and it’s quite likely the highest priority with ANY download service provider today be it a small player with limited resources and audience, to the largest like Apple and Yahoo or Google, is product reliability and liability.

    If I were Google (or any company) my thought process on the issue would likely be, we should develop our own DRM solution so we have 100% control over our product/service with regards to reliablity and liability. We don’t want to have to be dependent on or be forced to re-engineer software to accomodate a 3rd party developers DRM solution we are relying on. THis could implemetation problems as well as surrender the ability to manage the end-user experience and features with our player software related to their implemtation protocols.

    There’s a serious Quality of Service issue on that issue alone that you, as ther service provider must grapple with.

    There is also the liability issue related to copyright infringement and/or hackers.

    If you, as the service provider are reliant on the 3rd-party DRM solution and that DRM solution is compromised in some way as to degrade QOS or worse, make available the opportunty for end-users to download content and be re-used or replublished by end-user(s) such that it harms the content owner in any way could you as that service provider be liable for damages? Could I be shut down from operations until the 3rd-party DRM solution comes up with patch or solution?

    These are serious issues that I’m sure Google and ALL other service providers contend with. Many, without the aforemention resources likely opt to go with the Windows DRM solution laking any or all those resources.

    Condiering a company the size of Google and having the resources, coupled with Google’s vision they likely have for Google Video it was likely a no-brainer when considering the DRM issue.

    However, this doesn’t resolve the end-users’ complaints of too many DRM solutions. Perhaps an Open Source DRM(.org if you will) solution needs to be constructed.

    Tom

  11. Tom says:

    Also from Mr. Battelle regarding Google Video:

    But Google, more likely than not, will attempt to come up with
    a clever technological solution that attempts to determine the most
    “objective” answer for any given term, be it “romantic comedy” or
    “hip-hop.” Perhaps the ranking will be based on some mix of
    PageRank, downloading statistics, and Lord knows what else, but
    one thing is certain: Google will never tell anyone how it came to the
    results it serves up. Which creates something of a catch-22 when it
    comes to making money. Will Hollywood really be willing to trust
    Google to distribute and sell its content absent the commercial
    world’s true ranking methodology: cold, hard cash?

    They will most likely have organic results based on PageRank and metadata on one portion of the SRPs and on the right-hand side have keyword/paid listings with either text-based and/or rich media ads.

    They (I’ll bet) could use advanced search features/filters using a PageRank-type factor, in addition to, for example, user-feedback/review (return results with X-stars or more etc.) also including a price range (between $0 and $1.00).

    If you look at Google Print and those SRPs they have keyword-based listings in the results with paid results on the right related to the keyword search. I doubt Video Store SRPs will look little different from the arrangement of Print SRPs with the exception being you could see rich full-motion ads on the right-hand side of the Video Store SRPs.

    Clearly allowing for paid promotion on the right of Video SRPs and other Google properties like Print (limited to text and some banner not full motion), will provide for Hollywood’s desire to leverage cold, hard cash to promote their content as well as anyone else that wants to pay for premium advertising like this on Google properties.

    I may be over simplifying this somewhat in that Google may have some idiosyncrasies regarding relevance and the individual searcher profile that Google builds about us, and how that may factor in but I think you may be over-complicating this as well, John.

    Tom

  12. JG says:

    From Battelle’s book:

    Playing middleman means that
    in the context of someone looking for a movie, Google will deter-
    mine the most relevant result for terms such as “slapstick comedy”
    or “romantic musical” or “Jackie Chan film.” For music, it means
    Google will determine what comes first for “usher,” but it also
    means Google will have to determine what should come first when
    someone is looking for “hip-hop.” Who gets to be first in such a sys-
    tem? Who gets the traffic, the business, the profits? How do you de-
    termine, of all the possibilities, who wins and who loses?

    The thing that strikes me the most about these questions is that the mindset or paradigm underlying the questions presumes usage of a ranked list as THE means for answering a user query.

    Why would one even presume that ranked lists are the way to go?

    Ranked lists are almost literally a 50 year-old technology, hearkening back to the early days of the Cranfield experiments of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Clearly they are useful in situations where the information need is one-dimensional.

    But media.. from video to music to whatever, clearly has a multiplicity of dimensions, and a multiplicity of possible reasons for relevance.

    So instead of presenting a single ranked list, why not do multiple, side-by-side ranked lists? Why not return, instead of a ranked list, more of an automatically (machine-organized) browsing space. Really, this is what people are after, in media. People are not after finding “an answer” when they type in “slapstick comedy”. They are simply narrowing down the space of documents in which they would like to browse.

    So what google needs to do is move beyond ranked lists, into a results page that offers more of a browsing space. You do that, and you’ve “shew[n] the fly the way out of the fly bottle”, i.e. removed the invisible barrier to the understanding that ‘who comes first’ is really a non-issue. It is only a product of how you think the problem has to be solved.

  13. Fred says:

    For an objective analysis of Google Pack go to:
    http://www.winsupersite.com/reviews/google_pack.asp

  14. Mike Smith says:

    Downloaded Twilight Zone episode. Played in google player fine. Only problem I see is I have a 42″ plasma display and an Archos portable video player. The google GVP video format won’t let me use my portable Archos hard drive to dock to my plasma screen to watch the Twilight Zone episode I payed $1.99 for. Google I like my computer, but I like my plasma screen more. I know there are DRM issues. We have to solve this problem for the mainstream audiences not just computer geeks. Have I missed someting in all this?

    Content Provider
    CEO, Entertaincom

  15. Lucrecia says:

    If I can´t use this stuff on my Mac, then it´s not worth it. Don´t leave us us, Mac is still the most user friendly system! Lucrecia from Spain

  16. Kirill says:

    I found some interesting informatiob about Google pAck and Norton Antivirus 2005 Special Edition. You can read all topic on my site

  17. Kaka12272 says:

    I haven’t been up to anything recently, but so it goes. Such is life. What can I say? Pretty much not much exciting going on to speak of. I haven’t gotten much done lately, but I don’t care.

  18. Kaka43165 says:

    I just don’t have much to say recently. Such is life. I’ve basically been doing nothing. Basically nothing seems worth bothering with. Oh well.

  19. i have collect all the google video and Google latest and new version packs on my site just can find out more information here.

    http://www.drinksos.com/hangover-cure.html

  20. Kaka22564 says:

    I just don’t have anything to say. Not that it matters. Eh. I’ve just been staying at home doing nothing, but I don’t care. That’s how it is.

  21. Kaka30846 says:

    My life’s been pretty dull recently. Shrug. My mind is like a void. I haven’t gotten anything done lately. I can’t be bothered with anything recently.

  22. Baza says:

    Downloaded Twilight Zone episode. Played in google player fine. Only problem I see is I have a 42″ plasma display and an Archos portable video player. The google GVP video format won’t let me use my portable Archos hard drive to dock to my plasma screen to watch the Twilight Zone episode I payed $1.99 for. Google I like my computer, but I like my plasma screen more. I know there are DRM issues. We have to solve this problem for the mainstream audiences not just computer geeks. Have I missed someting in all this?

  23. Thx @ John for great link°!

  24. CableGuy says:

    Perhaps an Open Source DRM solution needs to be constructed first.

  25. Lad says:

    Thank you John, i think some kind of DRM is the way to death.. as we see on Microsofts Zune Player, anyway Google will find a way to promote it and squeeze some money from us

  26. joern says:

    Google Pack seems to be a clear indication of Google entering into desktop based apps, rather than web-based ones which is its forte. To me, there is a significant distinction between the two. Desktop apps are more difficult to maintain, since bugs and glitches can’t be fixed quite that easily – requiring an update push to every registered user.

  27. Irene says:

    Google is becoming better then better. I use this easy to unpack google pack