YouTube has introduced new versions of its website for mobile users (YouTube Mobile) and for TV (YouTube Leanback). YouTube Leanback, currently in beta, was presented already on 20 May at Google’s I/O conference, when Google TV was also first unveiled.

What’s good about YouTube Mobile is it’s based on HTML5, making a special YouTube application unneccesary. As a result, YouTube on a mobile works just the same as on a computer. The service uses MPEG4, and streaming is set up for use over a 3G network, taking around 250Kbps.

YouTube Leanback is an important part of Google TV (for an analysis of this see our research brief ‘Google TV: lots to offer’). With this version, primarily in full-screen HD quality, there’s no need to search for videos, as a feed based on personal interests and recommendations is immediately served up (as well as a link to recommendations from Facebook contacts). This helps YoutTube address the ‘couch potato’, the most important obstacle to the rise of ‘connected TV’. Leanbox still has a search box, which presents the results as a ‘channel’. But even with this the same applies – after a search, you can sit back and watch videos one after the other. For controlling the videos, only the arrow keys and ‘enter’ are needed.

YouTube is, together with various sites for catch-up TV, one of the most important online video destinations, and as a result a cornerstone of Google TV. YouTube Mobile and YouTube Leanback can be characterised by one word: optimisation. While YouTube was primarly made for the computer, now there are also versions that work well on the mobile and the TV.

We’ll have to see yet how Google TV progresses. The product will be launched in the autumn. One of the partners, Logitech, has already announced a box (Revue) that will include Google TV. TVs (from Sony) and Blu-ray players are also planned.

The market for ‘connected TV’s is complex. There are any number of solutions (hardware and software) and business models, including independent box makers (such as Apple TV) and TV makers (such as Panasonic) and others who work with operators. The latter is growing in importance as of late, as seen by launches at a number of operators. Furthermore, Samsung is rumoured to be launching in early 2011 a TV with a hard disk and internet conenction, which will make all of the boxes (STB, DVR, media player) superfluous.

In short, there are many roads leading to Rome. Google however seems to be well-positioned. Not only does it control the leading video website, it also has a strong brand name and the Android Market for developing applications (see our background article ‘Google TV kiest voor menustructuur en search box’). A model without an operator is possible, where for example Sony will ensure that Google TV conquers the market. But cooperating with an operator is also possible, in order to better reach the market. In the US, Dish Networks (a satellite TV provider) is already a partner for Google TV, so we only have to wait and see if Google finds an operator partner outside the US.