Logitech is taking a beating for throwing early support behind Google TV. The company announced that it will cut the price of its Logitech Revue Google TV box to $99, which means each unit will be sold at a loss. And just in case there was any question of whether Google TV was a flop, Logitech offered an embarrassing statistic: The Revue saw more returns than sales last quarter.
This isn’t the end of Google TV. Google plans to revamp the software this summer with an interface based on Android Honeycomb, with access to the Android Market. But to make Google TV a living room powerhouse, Google and its hardware partners need to learn a few lessons from the first generation’s flop:
Google TV set-top boxes must be $100 or less
Google can argue all it wants that the services Google TV offers are worth a premium price, but the reality is that Apple TV costs $99 and Roku starts at $59. A $99 Google TV box may be unsustainable for Logitech, but anything significantly costlier will have a hard time proving its worth to consumers who want to augment their existing TV experience.
Google TV software needs to be complete
Tech companies, and especially Google, have a tendency to ship incomplete hardware these days. While that may fly on the new frontiers of phones and tablets, TV watchers are accustomed to getting their content without much trouble. At launch, Google TV was buggy, it lacked support for Android remote controls and its Netflix app could only stream from users’ instant queues. Whatever features Google promises next time around need to be available right away without serious hiccups.
Google needs to make nice with TV networks
Soon after Google TV launched, one of its big value propositions—access to the full web in all of its streaming video glory—fell apart. All the major networks blocked Google TV, as did Viacom, for obvious reasons: Google TV circumvented paid television while threatening to become a presence in TV advertising. If Google wants to have a full range of video options on its TV software, it needs to reconcile with networks, even if the best outcome is getting Hulu Plus on the next wave of set-top boxes.
Google TV needs a marketing hook
Most important of all, Google and its hardware partners need to clearly communicate why someone should buy a Google TV instead of an Apple TV or Roku. The promise of using a search box to find TV content obviously wasn’t enough, and the promise of the full web didn’t hold water (see above). I’m no marketing expert, but Google may do well to play up the Android angle, given how many people now own Android smartphones and may wish to access their content on the big screen.