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LG's Google TV looks impressive, but is it enough for Google TV to take off?

May 16, 2012

Remember when Eric Schmidt said that “By the summer of 2012, the majority of the televisions you see in stores will have Google TV embedded in it.”? It doesn’t look like that’s the case so far, and probably won’t be for a while. But LG has just demoed a very impressive TV that runs the Google TV OS, with the help of a dual core processor, that handles 3D as well.

Is Google TV finally ready to take over the market then? I doubt it, and I blame Google for that. While I think Google has learned a lot over the past few years about the consumer market, and they are still learning fast, that doesn’t change the fact that they are still “not there yet”, at least in some regards.

Take Google TV for example. When every set top box on the market was priced from $70 (Roku) to $200 at most (Boxee Box), Google comes out with no experience in this market, almost no content deals, and with software that didn’t look very polished, and wants to sell its first set top box, the Logitech Revue, for $300. Even Apple was selling theirs for $99 (although more limited software wise).

First off, you can’t try selling consumers a product that costs a few hundred dollars with software that isn’t fully ready or doesn’t have enough access to content to justify its price. It’s one thing to pay $300 for something and get access to everything you want, and it’s quite another to pay $300 to get access to Youtube on that device (and granted, a few more channels and Amazon’s video service). The point remains that the value just wasn’t there.

But why did this product cost so much? I still ultimately blame Google for the cost, because they were the ones launching the initial product, and they most definitely had a say in how it works and what specs it has. But other than that, the two biggest factors were Logitech and Intel.

Logitech was at fault because I believe they tried the same old “early adopter pricing” tactic, so, in a way, they tried to rip-off the early adopters with high prices, by being the first one in the market with Google TV. The second one was Intel with its Atom CE CPU, that definitely took the biggest chunk out of the pricing of the components, which of course influenced the final retail price in a major way.

LG’s Google TV might change the game

I think Google has finally put some pieces of the puzzle together though. For instance, the new Google TV from LG has a much better remote, with a keyboard on the back. The new gizmo provides a much better experience than the clunky full keyboard from Logitech, or the weird keyboard from Sony that looked like something from the 80’s. It’s still not perfect, though, and I don’t understand why there has to be a “mouse pointer” on a TV. That doesn’t make sense to me – it’s a waste of effort to move the pointer around, when there’s already a much simpler way to interact with the UI.

But other than the user experience (which I think has been greatly improved), and the fact that the new TVs and set top boxes might finally use ARM chips, the Google TV doesn’t do anything so great that it feels like a revolution.

I’ve been hoping that Google will start promoting Google TV as a gaming platform, so that it revolutionizes the console market, through cheap $100 ARM-powered consoles/set top boxes. Or they could just come built-in with all new TVs (although that means that you’d be stuck with the same chip for 5-10 years). But I still see no hint from Google that it’s going to actively promote it’s TV business like that. It’s more of an afterthought for them right now.

Video-chatting is also something they’ve never really tried to promote with Google TV, and I’m sure Apple will promote it heavily with their upcoming TVs. Expect the emotional ads with family members that interact with each other from the couch, and so on. I’ll be very disappointed if Apple’s TV will become a lot more popular than the Google TV, even though Google TV will have had a 2 year head-start over Apple.

But maybe that’s what both Google and its partners need in order to wake up and do it right, and, hopefully, before the Apple TV becomes too popular.