Yesterday Google released a video player for Mac OSX. On the surface that might not seem like big news. Google Video still looks like a picked-over flea market. Meanwhile, iTunes is on a roll – offering over 250 programs for download. Google is clearly playing catch up in the online video market – and not very well.
While Google has failed to make a dent with its video store, it may have better luck with its video DRM system. Yesterday’s release of the OSX video player wasn’t so much about supporting the Mac platform as it was about making the Google Video DRM system available cross-platform.
Why is a cross-platform DRM system important? Because without a cross-platform solution you would need to control the operating system on every device that you wanted your content to play on. That’s the sort of crazy strategy that only Microsoft would attempt – and it hasn’t worked very well for them.
While it’s true that Apple’s Fair Play DRM is limited to the iPod and iTunes, iTunes at least runs on both Windows and Mac. Apple has clearly avoided licensing their DRM to manufacturers of competing portable devices in an effort to protect iPod sales. That strategy might work for a while, but it’s not a permanent solution.
Google’s recent move raises some interesting prospects. The Mac OSX operating system is Unix-based, just like TiVo. Sort of makes you wonder how hard would it be for Google to port their player to the TiVo, or some other DVR platform. They could easily license their technology to cable companies, or they might even make it available for free in order to gain market share.
Unlike Apple, Google has no hardware business to protect. Unlike Microsoft, Google has no operating system business to protect.
And while we’ve speculated that Google Music (if it ever happens) probably won’t have a significant impact on the iTunes Music Store, Google Video could become a viable distribution channel for downloadable video content – especially if Google beats Apple in the race to get downloadable video to the TV.
Hollywood will almost certainly prefer Google’s terms to Apple’s:
- Google lets content providers set their own pricing.
- Google lets content providers determine DRM restrictions.
- Google splits profits 70/30 with content providers – content providers getting the majority.
Since iTunes video deals are not exclusive you would expect that any studio providing content to the iTunes store will eventually provide content to Google video.
Of course videos protected with Google’s DRM system won’t play on your iPod – but that’s quite a bit less important than music not playing on your iPod. It seems pretty clear that consumers aren’t going to stop watching television just because they can download a video to their iPod. What they really want is the ability to download a video to their television.