Tag Archives | Google TV

Google TV: The Critics Are Being…Critical

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.


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

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

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

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

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

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.


The Boxee Box: Nearly Here, Still a Contender

What a difference a year makes. When Boxee and D-Link unveiled the Boxee Box  in late 2009, things were pretty quiet on the Internet-TV-in-the-living-room front. Now, after a bit of a delay, the companies are getting ready to ship the Box in November. And it’ll compete against the all-new Apple TV, set-top boxes and TVs based on Google TV, the first devices that support Hulu Plus, and a bevy of other methods of getting video off the Internet and onto an HDTV. Little Boxee, in other words, will face daunting competition from some pretty formidable rivals.

I met with Boxee CEO Avner Ronen and D-Link Director of Consumer Marketing Brent Collins this weekend to get a sneak peek of a nearly-final Boxee Box. And you know what? Despite the avalanche of competition it’ll face, it still looks pretty cool.

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Google TV vs. Apple TV: It May be War, But They're Nothing Alike

I’m home from the IFA conference in Berlin, but the show continued on without me–and today’s major event was a keynote by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, with an extended demonstration of Google TV. You can watch it here.

The Google TV demo didn’t really involve any new news, but it was significant as Google’s first public walkthrough of the platform since Apple announced the all-new Apple TV. The names may be similar, but the two companies’ approaches to TV really are radically different.

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Logitech's Google TV Box: Google, Intel, and Harmony Inside

This morning’s unveiling of Google TV was so dense with stuff that needed to be explained that we didn’t hear much about Logitech’s Google TV “companion” box other than that there’d be one, and it’ll ship this fall. But I visited with Logitech after the keynote and got a few more details.

  • This isn’t a replacement for your cable box with a tuner and CableCard slots, or anything else  too fancy, technically speaking–it’s a black gadget about the size of a thin hardcover book with HDMI in (for your cable connection) and HDMI out (for your TV). There’s also a SPDIF connector, two ports for IR blasters, a couple of USB ports for accessories such as game controllers, Wi-Fi, and an Intel Atom CPU and related electronics. That’s about it. The big benefit here: It’ll work with any entertainment setup you’ve got, as long as you have an HDTV.
  • The box incorporates Logitech’s Harmony software, which powers the company’s popular universal remotes. You’ll be able to use an existing Harmony remote, an iPhone or Android app, or future Logitech remotes (including one with a touchpad and QWERTY keyboard) to control the box and all your other living-room devices, such as the TV itself or an AV receiver (the quick demo I got even included the iPhone app controlling a TiVo). The Harmony angle helps to explain why Logitech–a company synonymous with accessories–is making a set-top box.
  • The fact the remote will be able to control a TiVo doesn’t mean there’s Google TV-TiVo integration that would let you find a show using Google TV and then record it on the TiVo. Dish’s DVR is the only one which will allow that.
  • The box won’t come with a controller–you’ll choose one separately, or use one of the smartphone apps. (Correction: I misunderstood. It will come with a remote, but you’ll be able to opt for one of the other smartphone apps or other Logitech controllers instead.)
  • Logitech isn’t talking about a pricetag. I predict $199 or thereabouts…