Monday, August 15, 2011 at 10:21 am.

Hey, cable companies: Now is the time to embrace Google TV and the new Motorola

Despite a multi-decade monopoly on delivering digital TV into homes, American cable companies continue to distribute laughably terrible software. As a result, interacting with your TV is often a chore. Enough already!

Great TV service in the future demands great software. But the cable guys suck at software. So it’s time to partner up.

Now that Google is buying Motorola — one of the top set-top box makers, and a long-time vendor to many of the top U.S. cable providers — it’s time for the cable guys to think seriously about giving up more control of their software stack, embracing a Google TV-like platform, and focusing on running great networks and curating great channel lineups.

(Especially if this could also encourage consumers — not cable companies — to somehow foot the bill for cable boxes.)

The television, like the mobile phone, is getting more sophisticated. It is basically becoming “the big computer in your living room.” It started with gaming, DVRs, and on-demand, and is now evolving into streaming video, apps, and advertising. And this demands better software than what exists today. This is where Google-Motorola is in a much better place to drive than Motorola and the cable companies were until now.

Yes, Google TV 1.0 was a dog, and Google TV 2.0 might not be enough of an upgrade. And the cable companies are starting to learn, as they are recently demonstrating with decent — but not amazing — iPad apps.

But this could be an opportunity for the cable guys to sit down with Google and Motorola and figure out what they all need to create the TV platform and interface for the future. TV channels, web video, movie rentals, interactive advertising, apps, and the Internet, all working well together.

Why bother? Because if it’s good, people will keep paying for cable, and may even pay more for value-added services, faster Internet speeds, etc.

But if the cable industry continues to produce the same garbage, many smart people out there will continue to look for (and build) alternatives. Apple and Microsoft have ambitions here, and so do many entrepreneurs. And by the way, Google isn’t necessarily the only solution. The key is to build great software and devices for consumers, no matter who’s building it.

But, specifically based on this deal, this is Google’s chance to be helpful to the cable industry, and to really help it evolve. Don’t screw it up, cable guys.

Earlier: Sony whacks Google TV prices; Logitech’s Google TV price cut is working