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Google and CBS release embarrassment of a video store

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Review "This is a truly historical meeting of the established and new media," said Les Moonves, the head of CBS, about his network's new video partnership with Google. Um, no, Les. So far, it's just a really crap web site.

If, like us, you expected the new and improved Google Video service to rival something like Apple's iTunes store, then do yourself a favor and don't visit the Google shop for a few months. Google has done nothing to celebrate its unique access to shows such as CSI, Survivor and Star Trek. Instead, the company has buried CBS's shows beneath a dismal interface wrapped in a shambles of a delivery mechanism.

Think we're being too harsh? Have a a look for yourself.

Most of Google's exclusive, premium content from the likes of CBS, the NBA and the Charlie Rose show is trapped in a primitive pulldown menu. That might not be so bad were it not for the thin, hopeless pulldowns.

Take CSI, for example. If you highlight it, only one show appears at the time of writing - an episode called "Werewolves." Even MacGyver gets five episodes.

There's a whopping two pages of basketball games and just two more pages of Brady Bunch episodes - not that the latter is a huge loss.

The Charlie Rose collection is the most impressive and at 99 cents a pop, it's looking pretty good. The only problem is that all 176 episodes are described as "Charlie Rose" and provide no information in the initial search about who is interviewed. If you have a Charlie Rose fetish, that's probably not so bad, but the rest of us aren't impressed.

Incidentally, if you do an episode search for "God," the last entry is an interview with WSJ hack Walt Mossberg. So, it's pretty clear that the Google Video search has been infected by the same blog noise as the regular Google search engine.

"Each of us needs each other to take the next leap forward," Moonves also said at last week's CES conference in Las Vegas when the new Google Video was announced.

We wonder though if CBS isn't regretting its decision. Did it buy into the same Google hype as everyone else? ABC must be laughing all the way to the bank as it rides iTunes to millions of sales.

Google has done some nice things such as providing fairly lengthy preview clips at the start of each video. And, of course, this isn't a big media only thing. Anyone can load their video onto the Google store and charge almost anything they want. They can infect their files with the mysterious Google DRM or not.

Google, however, seems to have made the same mistake as companies such as Dell when competing with an Apple or a Sony. It's not enough to throw out some cheap MP3 player or web site and expect the standard rules of business to apply to consumers. The Average Joe is willing to pay a bit more for quality in the consumer world rather than mess with some basic, hard-to-use product or service.

Google Video will no doubt improve over time. Coming out with such a poor initial service though is a huge mistake. Google would have done better to refine its product and release something that comes close to being Apple's red-headed stepchild.

We're not even sure what life form Google Video is. It's certainly not human. ®

Bootnote

We've been waiting more than three hours for our purchase of a Charlie Rose show to go through. Had to boot up a Windows box just to wait. Great stuff.

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