An air of mystique has surrounded Google TV, and Logitech's Google TV device, the Logitech Revue, since they first became public knowledge. On Wednesday, Logitech unveiled the Revue and we got our first in-depth look at what Google TV can do. And more than halfway through the presentation, I feel as if we have as many questions as answers.
Make no mistake: Today was a Logitech event, not a Google TV event, and what was shown here was centred around the Logitech Revue, which happens to take advantage of Logitech's Harmony remote control platform. The Harmony platform alone supports more than 5000 brands and 225,000 devices, which means you'll be able to control your audio-visual peripherals via the Revue system. And with those capabilities enabled in the Revue, it adds to the device's potential appeal, as opposed to another scenario where perhaps the Google TV platform could be integrated into other devices.
However, at $300, Logitech faces a hard sell. After all, the current trend in streaming set top boxes are to push prices down, to wit the latest Apple TV, Roku XDS, and WD TV Live Plus are all $100 or less. Sure, the Revue price includes one keyboard controller, and can to talk to audio-visual peripherals through cabinets, just as the $350 Harmony 9000 remote. And if you buy the added $150 TV camera peripheral, the Revue has the potential to grow the market to migrate video chat off of the laptop screen and onto your television screen.
Plug-in box vs. new TV
Logitech's approach does make sense to a degree, after all with some 60 million HDTVs in the market today, consumers who just bought a shiny, new TV in the past five years may not be rushing the gates to get the latest TV features, no matter how much the CE industry might like to think that will be the case. That makes the prospect for a TV with integrated Google TV (Sony will show theirs next week), or a TV with integrated Skype (like Panasonic's models), less influential in the short term.
But Logitech's Revue has other limitations. For one, it will only work with HDMI-enabled set top boxes. OK, sounds modern enough. But wait: That leaves out my Comcast Motorola DVR box and set top box. And even if those did have HDMI out, the communication would only be one-way, not two-way, as was showcased today in admittedly nifty demos with Logitech's launch partner, DISH Networks. (That means on ordinary set top boxes, you can search and access the electronic program guide, but not the search the DVR, for example.)
The trick here, as Logitech president Gerald Quindlen noted, is seamless integration among content. Revue, claims Quindlen, is the "first platform that integrates the web, broadcast TV and apps seamlessly. And as the developer community and support grows, the potential for Google TV is unlimited."
Potential is the key word here. And it's potential for a new platform, and potential for a product running that platform.