Why on Earth Did I Order a Google TV?

A few weeks ago I ordered a Logitech Revue.  If you don’t know what that is, maybe you’ve heard of the Google TV? No? Well anyway, the Revue is a box that you plug into your TV.  It runs Google software (a version of Android, actually) that lets you access the internet from your TV. With it you can do things like search for your favorite shows and find them on cable, Amazon, or the general internet.  You can even use it to surf the net on your TV.  If you know me, you know that I’m an Apple guy and don’t own any other Google products.  So it may seem odd that I made my first Google purchase.  I have some good reasons.

The idea of the internet-connected TV has been around since the WebTV of the mid-90’s.  It never really took off because it was awkward and limited.  The 2000’s introduced Netflix and YouTube streaming to game consoles such as the XBox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii as well as dedicated streaming boxes such as the Roku and Boxee. While they did bring the internet to your TV, they were limited mostly to streaming video. Apple even offers a product called the Apple TV (which I have), but its main purpose is to stream iTunes content.  Google took a more ambitious approach and designed software that integrates with your TV, allowing you to search across the internet and cable for programming, control your DVR, browse the internet with a modern browser (and Flash), and even run apps!

The official Google TV came out in October of 2010.  It came as Logitech Revue set-top box that could plug into any TV or as software built into certain Sony Bravia TVs.  The Revue shipped with a full-sized keyboard with an integrated trackpad and TV remote and cost $299.  The product sounded very cool, but the entry fee was high.  It didn’t help that setup was a bear and the Google TV software felt unfinished.

Since its release, Google TV has had a rough life.  Soon after it’s release, CBS, ABC, HBO, Hulu, and NBC blocked the Google TV from streaming video from their websites.  This was one of the flagship features of the device – it provided the “full internet”, including Flash. Logitech has cut the price twice – first to $250 and most recently to $99, which now means they are selling for less than they cost to make.  In the last quarter, more Revues were returned than were sold, netting Logitech a $45 million dollar loss.  Add to that the slipped promise of TV apps that were supposed to arrive in early 2011.  We’re more than half way through and still nothing. There is supposed to be a 2.o software update on the way, but an official release date has not been announced.

And so here you find me, buying a Google TV.  Why on earth would I want one after all the negatives that I just explained? Well the first reason is price.  I had $25 in reward cards for Best Buy, so I really could get it for $75.  The second reason is that despite all the issues with it, I think we can get use out of having a browser on our TV.  The third is that an update is in the works and it sounds like it will address many of the issues.  A $100 price point makes it worth it. Fourth, I’m a nerd at heart. I like to experiment with things. I love technology.  Just because I think Apple does it best doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in other products.  I just can’t pay full price for them.

My Google TV is now on its way to Best Buy for store pickup.  I think it will be in by this weekend and I’m excited to pick it up.  I’m expecting about a half hour of setup and some software inconsistencies, but I’m also expecting to  take advantage of some of the internet integration that it offers.  I’m expecting to browse the web on my TV.  If it turns out to be worse than I thought, well I’m a nerd, I can handle it. And it only cost $75 🙂

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