LAS VEGAS — A clearly ill-at-ease Google co-founder Larry Page used his keynote here to unveil a new transaction video service, a bundle of free downloadable software and search engine functionality for Motorola mobile phones.
He shouldn’t have been nervous at all, since Page had frenetic comedian Robin Williams on hand to help deliver his message. Williams kept the large crowd at the Hilton Theater rolling in the aisles with his R-rated humor.
But seriously folks … Larry Page, the self-described nerd who does not have a second career as a late-night talk show host, announced Google Video. This was one in a number of micro-transaction content plays unveiled at International CES. In this case, Google users several months from now can visit the site (video.google.com) and choose to download top CBS shows such as “CSI,” “Survivor” and “NCIS” as well as classics from the library including “I Love Lucy,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Have Gun Will Travel” and two “Star Trek” series (“Voyager” and “Deep Space Nine”) for $1.99 each.
CBS CEO Leslie Moonves appeared onstage to hype the service saying: “This is yet another exciting platform in which CBS can leverage its market-leading content to a whole new audience.” Along with CBS, Page announced a deal with NBA TV so fans can watch games 24 hours after they’re over for a fee (also $1.99). Former Denver Nugget star and Turner Sports analyst Kenny Smith stepped on stage, praising the deal but lamented the fact he could not watch his former glory days. The CBS and NBA offerings were clearly the A list of the video options, but there are others, including music videos from Sony BMG, old footage from ITN, classic cartoons and so on.
In a move that edges Google from its leading search roots to software distributor, Page unveiled Google Pack, a free collection of software bundled by the company. Among the programs are Adobe Reader 7, Ad-Aware SE Personal, Google Desktop, Earth and Talk, browser Mozilla Firefox, Norton AntiVirus 2005 SE, Picasa, Real Player and Trillian. The package is currently in beta, but users can test it now. The download was demonstrated during the presentation and it worked.
On the mobile phone front, Google also announced a deal with Motorola so handset owners can use the Google search engine to find a place to eat or check the weather. Motorola handsets with the Google search icon will arrive in the first quarter of this year. Beyond these announcements Page spent time lamenting the fact that all types of CE devices could not communicate with each other and that each of us were burdened with too many power cords, among other terrible ills of modern society.
He pointed to the Internet as an example of a pure invention that moved from the university to cover the globe thanks to basic technology that could be used by everyone everywhere. It was ironic in the Q&A that Page had to dance around the many rights issues encumbering content for his new video service. One has to guess the rules governing content did not come from a university lab but from a legion of lawyers hired by the content community.
The presentation ended with an extensive Q&A session with Robin Williams helping Page answer queries from the audience. Williams had the audience in stitches as he insulted everyone under the sun a la Vegas legend Don Rickles. If Page wants to sell a lot of video on his site, an unedited copy of Williams’ contributions to his keynote should do the trick.