Technologizer posts about Google TV

Google TV Lives!

By  |  Posted at 8:25 am on Friday, October 28, 2011

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A year ago, the first devices based on Google TV–Logitech’s Revue box and some Sony TVs–debuted. Initial irrational exuberance over for the platform melted away quickly: The software was buggy and confusing, and major media companies such as the big networks started blocking Google TV from streaming their content.

And then everybody sort of forgot about Google TV for the most part. Google occasionally said that it was working on an improved version, but the platform made news most recently when Logitech said that the Revue’s sales had been catastrophically bad. I began to worry the Google TV wouldn’t make the cut of arrows that Google wanted to put wood behind.

Now Google is talking about Google TV again. Rather than hyping expectations, the company is taking an intentionally subdued approach–its blog post is titled merely “An Update on Google TV,” which sounds at first like it might be a warning that it’s winding down. But the news is good: Sony TVs will be getting the new version early next week, and the Revue will get it soon thereafter. (There apparently won’t be any new Google TV devices until 2012.)

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Some Slightly Better News on Google TV

By  |  Posted at 10:39 am on Sunday, July 31, 2011

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Last week, there was much discussion on the Web of one specific tidbit from Logitech’s dismal first-quarter financial results: more of the company’s Revue Google TV boxes were returned to Logitech than got sold.

Logitech has issued a press alert with a few notes:

  • The Revue price reduction to $99–it was originally $249–goes into effect today.
  • “Google TV 2″ is “expected” to come out this Summer. (Google hasn’t said much at all about it so far–the platform was barely mentioned in the keynotes at May’s Google IO conference.)
  • Logitech wants to be sure that people understand that the Revue’s “negative sales” didn’t mean that more consumers were returning the boxes that buying them. Consumer returns, the company says, were comparable to those of other products. “Negative sales” means that more distributors and retailers were returning unsold units than buying additional ones. (In other words, it wasn’t that people have been trying and disliking Google TV–they haven’t been interested enough in the idea to buy it, period.)

I still think that the concept of Google TV has promise. But at this point, its future is entirely dependent on version 2 being more usable and less buggy than the original, with more big-name content that doesn’t get blocked by the big media companies that own it.  And if version 2 turns out to be a disappointment, I suspect that Google TV will end up not being one of the arrows that Google chooses to put wood behind.



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How Google TV Can Be Saved

By  |  Posted at 8:02 am on Friday, July 29, 2011

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Logitech is taking a beating for throwing early support behind Google TV. The company announced that it will cut the price of its Logitech Revue Google TV box to $99, which means each unit will be sold at a loss. And just in case there was any question of whether Google TV was a flop, Logitech offered an embarrassing statistic: The Revue saw more returns than sales last quarter.

This isn’t the end of Google TV. Google plans to revamp the software this summer with an interface based on Android Honeycomb, with access to the Android Market. But to make Google TV a living room powerhouse, Google and its hardware partners need to learn a few lessons from the first generation’s flop.

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Bad Revue: Logitech’s Google TV Box Suffers From “Negative Sales”

By  |  Posted at 2:19 pm on Thursday, July 28, 2011

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How is Logitech’s Revue–the first stand-alone Google TV box–selling? Logitech says sales are “slightly negative.” As in, more Revue boxes are coming back to Logitech than are being bought and used by consumers. I feel the company’s pain, but I’m not surprised by the bad news. I like the idea of Google TV, but when I tried the Revue last October, I found its software horrifically rough around the edges, to the point that it was no fun at all. Logitech has knocked the price down from $249 to $99, but a shaky product is a shaky product no matter what the price is.

As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber points out, the Revue is an example of a trend I cover in my new TIME.com Technologizer column: products which ship even though they’re clearly not ready to ship. I don’t know the Revue’s backstory–and tend to think that Logitech may have been as surprised by anyone at how iffy the Google TV software is. But reviewers like me and early adopters who bought the Revue found it lacking, and told other people. Is there any way that Google TV’s chances at success wouldn’t have been a lot higher if Google had finished it six months or a year later and invested the extra time in creating something that pundits and real people would have loved?

 



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Google TV Will Get a Reboot

By  |  Posted at 5:31 pm on Wednesday, May 4, 2011

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Harry’s hopes that Google TV may be salvageable might be realized: Mobilized’s Ina Fried reports that the search company has learned from its mistakes, and will make some changes. The second incarnation of the product will be targeted as an “add-on” to TV in its traditional form, not as a replacement as some thought it was intended to be.

Of course, this whole Internet-television convergence thing is still in its infancy, and there’s a lot of work to be done before somebody gets it right. New apps are on the way, as well as more powerful hardware — with a focus on what TV won’t or can’t provide.

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Is Google TV Salvageable? I Think So. I Hope So, Anyhow!

By  |  Posted at 8:55 am on Friday, April 29, 2011

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Logitech announced its financial results yesterday, and among the factoids it released was this: It sold $5 million’s worth of its Google TV-powered Logitech Revue box rather than the $18 million it expected to move.

I found Google TV so disappointing in its initial incarnation that I’m not the least bit surprised that consumers are staying away in droves. And I’m curious how a smart company liked Logitech, which usually makes very good products, misjudged it so badly—maybe the platform that Google described to it in the planning stages was better than the one that shipped.

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Ashlee Vance and Claire Cain Miller are reporting that Google is asking hardware companies to delay announcing Google TV products until it can refine the software, which has received iffy reviews. Sounds liked a good idea to me.

Posted by Harry at 8:26 pm

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Google is rolling out the first major update to its ambitious, interesting, flawed Google TV platform. Among the improvements: the ability to search in Netflix, the power to move the Dual View picture-in-picture window around so it doesn’t block things, and an Android app that serves as a Google TV remote control.

Posted by Harry at 10:34 am

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The Curse of Beta Hardware

By  |  Posted at 5:04 am on Friday, November 26, 2010

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[NOTE: Here's the lead story from last week's Technologizer's T-Week newsletter--go here to sign up to receive it each Friday. You'll get original stuff that won't show up on the site until later, if at all.]

Once upon a time, everybody agreed that the fact a product was in beta testing meant that it wasn’t yet ready for prime time. When I started writing about technology back in the early 1990s, pre-release versions of applications never got anything approaching mass distribution; I remember acquiring a beta copy of Windows 95, as a member of the press, and feeling extraordinarily privileged.

But times changed–and so did the role of betas. The Internet made distributing prerelease software cheap and easy, so many companies began releasing applications widely. Today, if you’re curious about an upcoming version of a program, there’s a very good chance you’ll be able to download a beta and try it for free. (With stuff like Web browsers, life without widespread betas is nearly unimaginable.)

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Cutting the Cable-TV Cord? Maybe Some Day

Fear and rebutting at the Future of TV conference in New York City

By  |  Posted at 6:50 am on Monday, November 22, 2010

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Cord cutting–getting rid of cable or satellite TV–is the buzzword du jour in the TV and electronics industries. Pundits have proclaimed TV dead, or at least dying00going the way of the recording industry, which went from pricey CDs to cheaper downloads and now to mostly-free streaming.

That was the juiciest topic last Friday at New York University during the Future of Television Conference, a gathering of TV brass such as the CEO’s of Showtime and Univision, senior executives from MTV Networks, Discovery, and Yahoo, and founders of Internet video startups. The subject also permeated Pepcom’s Wine, Dine & Demo  tech show the night before, where about a half-dozen Internet-to-TV products were being shown.

The conclusion, at least to this reporter, is that cord cutting is about as real now as growing new organs in vats. Consumers will do it–but they won’t do it in droves just yet.

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Google TV: The Critics Are Being…Critical

By  |  Posted at 10:23 am on Thursday, November 18, 2010

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The Wall Street Journal‘s Walt Mossberg and The New York Times‘ David Pogue are often among the first tech writers to review major new products. In the case of Google TV, however, they took a bit more time. Both wrote about the platform for their columns this week (here’s Walt’s story and here’s David’s), a few weeks after the first reviews. (such as mine) appeared. Neither of them is impressed–they have overlapping-but-not-identical lists of usability gripes, and come to the conclusion, as I did, that it’s just not ready for prime time.

At this point, I think it’s fair to say that Google TV, as represented by the first products that incorporate it–Logitech’s Revue and Sony’s TV and Blu-Ray player–is a critical dud. (I got a advertising e-mail from Logitech that optimistically referred to happy critics writing positive reviews, but it linked only to Oliver Starr’s review at TechCrunch, which is the most favorable one I’ve seen.)

I’m curious how well the Logitech and Sony products will sell this Christmas, especially since they compete with much cheaper options, such as the Roku players which start at $59.99. Also unknown: Is Google going to stick with Google TV for the long haul, or will it turn out to be a Wave-like fling? I hope that the company sticks with the idea and improves it–for one thing, I think the people who buy Google TV devices this year are getting an alpha product and deserve to get a more polished update. For another, I still think the idea has plenty of potential–a Google TV with fewer bugs and kludgy design decisions and a more harmonious relationship with Hollywood could be a winner.



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Logitech Revue Reviewed: Google TV Isn’t Ready for Prime Time

By  |  Posted at 8:47 am on Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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Logitech’s Revue, the first standalone box to run Google TV, has gotten its share of criticism for its $299.99 price. Which is perfectly understandable–that’s three times the cost of Apple TV and five times what the cheapest Roku costs.

But when I attended Logitech’s Revue launch event earlier this month and saw everything the box could do, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t overpriced. It’s designed to play all Web video, not just a subset; it lets you find programs on cable or satellite; it has a full built-in Web browser; it streams your own video and audio; it comes with a real keyboard. In short, it does most of the things you’d get if you connected an even pricier PC to your HDTV.

Most of the Revue’s functionality is made possible by Google TV, which melds Web-based services with Android-based software. Google’s wildly ambitious goal is to make Googling for TV as simple as Googling for Web pages. But when I tried a Revue loaned to me by Logitech, I discovered that the box’s problem is polish, not price. Google TV is profoundly rough around the edges.

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No ABC, NBC or CBS Web Video for Google TV

By  |  Posted at 8:14 pm on Thursday, October 21, 2010

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Hulu isn’t the only online video site that’s blocking access from Google TV. ABC, NBC and CBS have restricted their websites too, Reuters reports.

Fox may follow, an anonymous source tells Reuters. Either way, this is devastating news for Google TV. One of the platform’s main draws, I suspect, is the ability to watch any web show on the big screen. There’s still plenty of content on the Internet that isn’t created by a major network, but without the heavy hitters, Google TV has little chance of disrupting cable. It’s certainly less attractive for would-be cord cutters.

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Logitech Revue: A Swiss-Army Approach to Internet TV

By  |  Posted at 4:18 pm on Wednesday, October 6, 2010

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After I attended Cisco’s unveiling of its ūmi telepresence system this morning, I hopped in a cab and went to Logitech’s launch event for Revue, its Google TV box. It made for a fascinating comparison.

Cisco’s product, like Apple TV and Roku, is about doing one thing.  All there devices compete with Revue, because it does many things:

  • Like Roku and Apple TV, it’s a way to watch movies and listen to music;
  • It supports not only services Google has partnered with, such as Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand, but just about any video on the Web;
  • It attempts to meld Internet video, live broadcast video, and DVR video into one seamless entertainment extravaganza;
  • It integrates with Dish Network boxes at a deeper level–it can control them and search recorded videos;
  • It lets you browse Web sorts of all sorts using the built-in Chrome browser;
  • It uses Logitech’s Harmony technology to let you control all your living-room gizmos;
  • It offers iOS and Android apps that let you use your smartphone as a remote control;
  • If you spend $150 for an optional Webcam, it provides ūmi-like HD videoconferencing (although at 720p rather than Cisco’s 1080p);
  • It’ll let you download and install Android apps (but not until early 2011, when Google makes its TV Android Market available).

Whew. (I’m probably forgetting a capability or two.) Revue costs $299.99, which is 3X the price of Apple TV and 5X the cost of the cheapest Roku, but it does so many things that I think the price isn’t nutty–if it turns out that the many things it does are things people want to do on their TVs. (That’s not a given: In many ways, Revue is a modern take on the idea Microsoft tried to popularize as WebTV a decade and a half ago, and which has fizzled in one form or another ever since. I’m still unclear whether there’s a critical mass of real consumers who want to use the Web on their TVs.)

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Google TV: More Details Emerge

By  |  Posted at 9:28 am on Monday, October 4, 2010

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One of the key selling points of Google TV compared to other Internet-TV systems such as Roku and the new Apple TV is the fact that it’s designed to tap into all the video on the Web, not just the stuff that’s available via services designed to work on a Google TV box. But that doesn’t eliminate the need for Google to work with content companies to ensure that their services work really well with Google TV. And today Google is announcing a passel of partnerships with outfits involved in video, music, and other more: CNBC, HBO, Turner, the NBA, Pandora, Napster, Twitter, and more. It’s also revealing that it has deals in place with both Amazon and Netflix, replicating the two core services on Roku.

More details here:

We still don’t know exactly when Logitech plans to ship its Revue, the first stand-alone Google TV box, or how much it’ll charge for it. That information will presumably be announced at an event Logitech is holding on Wednesday of this week–I’ll be there, and will report back with that news and more thoughts on Google TV then.



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Internet TV Boxes Galore

By  |  Posted at 7:53 am on Tuesday, September 28, 2010

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My new Technologizer column for TIME.com is up–it’s a look at the new wave of Internet-TV boxes for the living room that are arriving over the next couple of months, and it focuses on the new Roku, since that’s the only one I’ve personally kicked back with so far. I mention the new Apple TV too, of course–FOX News’s Clayton Morris has one in his possession, and he likes it and thinks it’ll become “a quiet hit” for Apple.

Now that Roku’s out and Apple TV is just about here, the next big questions for this category all rotate around Google TV and the Boxee Box–both of which aim for a more feature-packed, comprehensive approach to Internet TV than the keep-it-simple-and-cheap Roku and Apple TV. I hope to try ‘em all before the holidays are here.



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