Published November 22, 2011
I want my Google TV.
And I'm betting there are probably a few other people out there who want it too. Unfortunately, the only company making a standalone Google TV box threw a tantrum this month and decided to pull the plug.
With a lot of pomp and ceremony, Google launched its foray into the living room just over a year ago. There were a lot of promises, the company admits, that exceeded the reality. The interface was something only a Microsoft employee could love (folders, really?) and it lacked some basic video search functions, believe it or not. But Google TV also introduced a lot of benefits.
Google TV devices truly integrate live TV, streaming video such as Netflix, and other online services such as Pandora, for onething. With a Logitech Revue box you can control all your home theater gear and switch between multiple feeds, your cable channels, and YouTube video playlists. That's something Microsoft's Xbox 360, Sony's PlayStation 3 and a raft of other streaming set-top boxes simply cannot do.
There's just one problem: Logitech's CEO Guerrino De Luca has lost his patience and is killing the box.
You can still buy Revue in stores for $99, but after this holiday season that's it. That leaves just Sony supporting the software, which appears on a couple of its TVs and a Blu-ray player.
So is Google TV dead? Not quite.
In the first place, the decision to kill the Logitech Revue is one the company is bound to regret. True, Logitech makes some very fine products, from keyboards to speakers, but it's going to miss out on the rapidly expanding market of set-top boxes that deliver services consumers have shown they want. There are now nearly a dozen different models, ranging from Roku to Netgear that deliver Netflix, Pandora, and a host of other streaming entertainment to TVs.
Logitech's CEO whined that the Google TV software was "beta" -- even though Google is rolling out a brand new version with more features and a much improved interface as you read this. It's more attractive, easier to use, and beefs up some of the video search functions that were lacking in the first version.
One has to wonder if Logitech has ever heard of Android smartphones. Google introduced the HTC G1 in 2008. The phone was clunky, the software was stilted, and the battery life? Forget about it. But HTC and Google stuck with it. Android phones now dominate the market, squeezing out BlackBerry, sending Nokia running to Microsoft, and offering more models and features than Apple's iPhone.
The moral of the story: Don't bet against Google.
The Google TV interface seen on a high definition television set.
Fortunately, some bigger consumer electronics companies understand this point. Samsung announced last January it would release Google TV products -- "news" that it reiterated this week. And Google TV is working with Vizio, the king of inexpensive flat-panel TVs. There have also been rumors that LG would join the Google TV gaggle, although no one will officially confirm this.
The big advantage the Logitech Revue box has -- er, had was that consumers could get all the latest connected TV feature without having to buy a new TV. Sure, there are other $99 boxes out there, but no one offered the kind of integration that Google TV offered -- thanks in large measure to Logitech's universal remote control software (something, incidentally, it took the company years to perfect). So, it's disappointing that Logitech isn't sticking with the product.
If you buy or already have a Revue box, it will get the free software update. A Google representative also told me the company plans to roll out Google TV on other devices and equipment using different chipsets next year -- at different price points.
Too bad we won't get it in time for Christmas.