By Harry McCracken | Friday, April 29, 2011 at 8:55 am
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.
At this point, we know that Google TV is a major disappointment. But I still think there’s a good idea in there, somewhere. I hope that Google TV turns out to be something that Google continues to plug away at, rather than a Wave-like brief misadventure. And it seems to me that it’s pretty obvious what the company needs to do to get it right:
Polish it up. The first version of Google TV I tried just don’t function very well–the quality of its data about TV programs was uneven and I kept running into problems so strange that I couldn’t tell whether they were usability gaffes or outright bugs. Google TV just needs to be better at doing what it’s trying to do.
Placate content owners. A major chunk of the appeal of Google TV was supposed to be watching Web-based content from big companies–which sounded like a swell idea until the major networks and others began blocking Logitech and Sony’s Google TV devices from streaming their shows. Unless Google can convince at least a few of these outfits to unblock their stuff, Google TV will feel crippled. (Apple TV and Roku get around this issue by not attempting to provide unfettered access to the Web in the first place.)
Rethink the input. Me, I like the fact that the Revue comes with a full-blown, no-compromises wireless QWERTY keyboard. It’s way better than trying to tap, tap, tap out alphanumeric information on a traditional remote. But I worry that it’s too intimidatingly geeky a means of input for a mass audience. Maybe Google TV needs something like TiVo’s remote with a slide-out keyboard.
Up the hardware requirements. The Intel Atom processor inside the Revue struggles at times to keep up with the demands of video playback and the Google TV interface, like an underpowered netbook. Devices based on this platform need enough muscle to ensure that they feel like…well, like TV.
In a couple of weeks, Google is holding its IO developer conference. It’ll mark Google TV’s first anniversary, since the software was announced at last year’s show. It would be a good occasion for Google to update us on its plans for the platform–and if IO comes and goes without Google saying anything about Google TV, it’s time to worry whether it has a future.