Google and Logitech have revealed what they are calling the “Google TV companion box”, also known as Logitech Revue. At $299.99, the small shiny black box will be, as the name implies, an addition to your current TV peripherals, rather than a replacement. It will interface with your current TV, allow you to search the web, watch online shows, video chat with anyone else with the same system, add apps through the marketplace, and stream media to your computer.
Google TV is expected to appear in other devices, particularly in Sony’s Internet TVs and Bluray Disc players, giving new customers the option to avoid the third-party box addition to their already cluttered entertainment centers.
Google TV has a full web browser based on Chrome that integrates the Web with your television and controls your DVR, but the quality of features in Google TV is not the big question. The question is, will Google TV change the Web and how we watch TV, the way Google hopes it will?
To come up with an answer to that question, one needs to consider what the question really means and what Google’s philosophy is on the subject. As any of us who use the web can confirm, the advent of Google has made the web easier and faster than ever before. According to technicians at UK dedicated hosting company 34SP.com, what once took people hours to find, they can now often locate with a single Google search.
Google hopes to offer that same functionality to television, which is now much more than just cable TV. In addition to cable, many TV viewers have DVRs, on-demand services, and, most significantly of all, online streaming video services, such as Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, and the numerous free services offered by Hulu, TV.com, and individual networks. Google hopes to integrate all of that into its own universe, just as it once did with the text and images of the Web.
For Google to succeed, however, it will require more television and Bluray player manufacturers to adopt their technology. Most people will not spend an extra $300 on a set-top box, unless they believe they are getting something they cannot get through less expensive methods. This has been the shortcoming of Apple TV, Roku, and other boxes that remain niche-market devices. What is clear, however, is that there is a market for streaming services, as evidenced by Netflix’s unparalleled success and the growing popularity of sites like Hulu.com.
The other, more profound change that must occur is that Google must change the mindset of TV viewers, particularly those who are just now learning how to use their DVRs. If Google can convince this population that holding a wireless keyboard and searching Google TV will make TV easier than navigating the unfamiliar interface of DVRs and their cable providers’ on-screen guides, they might have a chance.
In theory, this transition might be easier than you would think. After all, Google is so familiar to anyone who uses a computer that the word “Google” has become a verb. It would not be a stretch for those users to “google” their favorite shows from their TVs, if that feature is already built into them. In reality, however, it will require widespread manufacturer support and well-devised advertising and marketing. Failure to execute their plan correctly could lead Google TV down the path of Google Wave, a very useful and well-received tool that never caught on with the average user.
Logitech and Sony are already optimistic about Google’s latest baby, and other manufacturers will most likely follow. The question is: will you?