Hey, here’s a question…

…and I genuinely don’t know the answer.

I recently attended the Adobe Max conference and was one of about two thousand lucky recipients of a new Google TV. The unit, a Logitech Revue, arrived last Thursday, and I blogged about my initial reaction on Friday. Since then, I spent the weekend playing around with it more, customizing the UI a little, adding my own bookmarks, deleting some that I won’t use, moving some stuff around, and generally playing around on it, and I have to admit, it’s not bad. Combined with a nice little, entry-level HDTV (40″ LCD, 60Hz, HDMI) it’s a pleasant experience, and I stand by my initial reaction. It’s not bad, in fact, once I realized that I could watch Lynda.com videos on my TV over the weekend, my appreciation of it skyrocketed. I don’t have an HD converter box in my back room, so it’s just straight cable, and as a result, I’m not using the box to its fullest (no DVR functionality, no “Live TV”). I also still stand behind my sort of “consumer confusion empathy” point of view as well. I see the potential, but I don’t know if the mainstream consumer walking into a Best Buy is going to think, “oh, I need that” and move to spend $299 on a device that, at least in my mind, competes for Xbox, Playstation, Macbook AIR, and iPad eyeballs. Each makes a compelling argument. If I’m going to spend $299, why not just spend another $200 to get a dedicated little portable tablet that can browse the web, view video, and has the added benefit of being portable?, etc.

So it got me thinking. Google just reportedly offered $6 billion for Groupon. That’s a lot of money. Why couldn’t Google spend a portion of that subsidizing the shit out of Google TV? Why is it $299? Why not $49? Why not offer every television, DVD, Blu-Ray, game-box, manufacturer subsidized versions of Google TV as well? Why not offer every set manufacturer a $500 incentive to pass along to the customer? Imagine you walked into a Best Buy or Target to buy an HDTV and there were two models, both 42″ or 50″, whatever. One was $1500 and the other was $1000? Or more realistically, one was $1000 and another was $500, then on sale it was, say, $399? The only difference being the cheaper one had Google TV built in? Or even better, what if, for every HDTV you bought, Wal-Mart offered you a free GoogleTV? Imagine the ancillary sales for Logitech for cameras, Harmony remotes, etc?

Part of my frustration was the lack of content and apps when I powered mine up. Now early adopters are used to that. I had an Android phone for months before there was even one compelling app to download from the marketplace. I played Rainbow Six online with the same dozen or so complete strangers for months before anyone else I knew was on Xbox Live, so I’m used to being in virtual deserts, but how compelling would it be, from a developer standpoint to know that after this holiday season, everyone who bought a television was going to be a Google TV user on December 26th? Six billion (with a “b”) is a lot of fucking money. I think it’s technically a shit-load. One sixth of that is still more money than I can fathom, and I can fathom quite a bit. If you’ve got 6 billion to drop on something as ridiculous as Groupon, don’t you think you could put a little of that cheddar behind something you actually own and developed in an effort to see it gain traction?

What am I missing here?

Logitech Revue with Google TV: First thoughts.

Okay, so my Logitech Revue arrived yesterday and I set it up in the back room on a 40-inch Toshiba 1080p LCD HDTV.

Quick thoughts, then I’ll spend some time with it this weekend and maybe discuss it in a little more depth over the holidays.

The setup was stupid painless. I’ve seen postings online about how long and arduous the setup is, and I think these must be some seriously jaded people. There was nothing in the setup that felt overcomplicated, or unnecessary. You’re hooking up a pretty damn complicated device that has a lot of moving parts in terms of technical touchpoints. Do you have an HD converter box? Do you have cable or satellite? Do you have an AV receiver? Do you want to use the keyboard as a remote? Unfortunately, it’s inherently a little “more” than an AppleTV and as a result is going to suffer from a bit more of a setup process. Not to mention, it’s not an Apple product designed to talk to other Apple products, so there won’t be that sort of Fisher-Price Apple setup as a result. It just simply is a little bit more or a device.

The keyboard is cool. Period. It’s got a lot of features beyond a keyboard, and I loved how it immediately set up as a remote to the TV. It took me a couple of times playing with it to figure out how to switch Video sources from TV to Wii to GoogleTV, but it’s all good. That could be frustrating to people who aren’t natural tinkerers.

It immediately saw our NetGear Stora on the network, and within minutes we were selecting from hundred of movies, thousands of pictures, and an endless supply of MP3s that we’ve archived over the years. All of our family movies, taken on our FlipHD and stored on the NAS were available, streamed flawlessly, and looked brilliant on the TV. To me, this is THE feature I was most looking forward to. We literally have the entire Disney library on the Stora, and having access to that outside of Xbox was a Godsend.

Netflix Streaming, again, perfect. I understand the frustration with it using the older API which doesn’t allow for searching. That has become the number one feature over on the Xbox, but my wife remarked, “well can’t we just go to netflix using the browser and edit/add/delete from our Queue?”. Now you know why I love the woman. She’s right. We don’t miss it. It looks great, and again, we’ll use the shit out of it in the back room of the house (while some of us play Fallout in the front of the house…).

Flash? Okay, well that kinda sucked. We went to Cartoon Network, because I had already spilled the beans to my daughter that she’d be able to play Finn and Jake on the HDTV in the back room on a MUCH bigger screen than her laptop (4 years old and she’s all over Cartoon Network with her laptop) and she was all over that. Sadly however, when we went to Cartoon Network and headed over to the Adventure Time page, the animation was so slow and gruesome that my daughter said, “Daddy, can you close that because it’s going so slow that it’s not fun when it does that…”. How sad, a 4 year old child already knows what to do when, “your Flash is slow”.

Web browsing and YouTube? Again, pretty sweet, but that shit’s all pretty much WebTV. I don’t really see using it much beyond maybe looking up something you need quickly on Google, or checking weather… I’m much more inclined to reach for the iPad for quick browsing. Likewise, I don’t think either of us will be checking email on the TV. We just won’t. That experience I think is much more “personal” than feels comfortable doing on TV.

Overall? I think I’d have to give it about an 8 out of 10. If I had an HD converter box in the back, and set it up as a DVR, then I’d probably bump it up to about a 9.

But here’s the thing. It’s $300. If I’m about to drop $300 on something, I’m MUCH more inclined to start looking over at iPads. I just don’t “see it” as something people are looking at and considering buying. But I’m likewise on AppleTV. I have no desire, even at $99 to go out and buy an AppleTV. I don’t care how much it integrates with my “iTunes whatever”.

Also, the lack of content is noticeable. No Hulu (actually, it’s blocked. You go there with the Chrome browser, and you get a nice note, “Hey there, we notice you’re using a Google TV. Unfortunately, fuck you and the horse you rode in on…”) and none of the other video content providers outside of social/shared video services like youtube and vimeo, which I suppose are okay, but certainly not content I give two shits about watching.

So it’s cool. I think it’s pretty sweet overall, but I absolutely see why people are hesitant to get it, why it just seems like it doesn’t fit into any sort of “consumer experience process” and why it’s going to be quite the uphill battle going forward. If developers figure it out and deliver some compelling apps for it, you might see it start to catch on. People are warming up to the “mini OS / App experience” on devices I think and this could easily be the first of a trend that heads over to Television. I already see an opportunity for an app that I might consider working on over the holidays that might plug what I think is a hole in the experience with shared/networked media. That’s why I thought I’d spend a little more time with it over the holidays and perhaps blog a little more about it later.

Since you made it all the way down here to the bottom, I thought you deserved a little prize. Enjoy.