Google ain’t scared of no ghosts!
The Logitech Revue, once heralded as the flagship Google TV product — Google’s vanguard into your living room — is dead. Very, very dead. Logitech killed it off more than six months ago after the poor-performing set-top box cost contributed significantly to a $100 million loss and cost the company’s former CEO his job.
Logitech’s new CEO even went so far as to call the Revue “a mistake of implementation of a gigantic nature” and said that only a “grandchild of Google TV” — something far, far down the line — could ever succeed.
That, folks, is a disaster. One that didn’t faze Google.
Three new pieces of Google-powered, TV-focused hardware launched this week: the Nexus Q, the Vizio Co-Star, and the Sony NSZ-GS7. All three will crash just as hard as the Revue, for a multitude of reasons.
Sorry to break it to you, Google TV: You suck
Let’s talk about the two set-top boxes before we get to the oh-so-interesting Nexus Q.
I want to like Google TV. I really, really do. The concept of integrating video-on-demand and on-air television into a single glorious, unified interface holds a tremendous amount of appeal. I’m already thoroughly invested in the Google ecosystem. I should be an easy sell, right?
Unfortunately, Google TV is less than glorious and far from consumer friendly. The software’s buggy, setting it up can be a pain in the butt, icons go missing and apps open slowly. All-in-all, Google TV makes watching the boob tube a chore rather than a release. My mother would never wade through all that crap just to watch HGTV, or whatever it is she watches now that Oprah is done.
No Google TV box will be successful until Google TV is successful, plain and simple.
Of the new GTV set-top boxes, Sony’s NSZ-GS7 should crash the hardest. For one thing, it continues with the stupid random alphanumeric naming structure that hardware manufacturers love for some odd reason, and the mainstream doesn’t buy what it can’t pronounce. Plus, it’s basically just an updated version of the disastrous Revue, bringing little new to the table other than a minor hardware bump and a better controller. Oh, and it costs $200 — twice that of a Roku or an Apple TV.
The $100 Vizio Co-Star is a much more enticing deal; it’s priced competitively and adds OnLive video game streaming capabilities to the usual Google TV mix. Too bad Google TV still sucks.
Nexus Q? More like Nexus WTF
Then there’s the new Nexus Q, the so-called “social streaming media player.” You can’t quite call it a set-top box; it’s more of an orb that looks like a glowing Sentinel bot from the Matrix movies once you attach cords to the thing. It’s actually very attractive.
There are already adoring Nexus Q posts popping up all around the Net, like this one at Popular Science, in which Dan Nosowitz says he’s jazzed about the streamer’s unusual design, collaborative abilities, NFC support and built-in 25W amp.
You know what? Those are cool features — to tech dorks like Dan and myself. Average folks might think the Nexus Q looks interesting and want to dabble with its group playlist feature, but techy selling points aren’t strong enough to compensate for the fact that the Nexus Q is utterly useless to most people.
Google crippled the Nexus Q by designing it to work only within the confines of the Android ecosystem. You can’t even control the thing without an Android phone or tablet! The media streamer has no native controls other than volume controls hidden away in the hardware itself. Way to limit your sales base and alienate the masses of iOS users, not to mention anybody who doesn’t have a mobile device.
Aside from YouTube, the only way to watch videos or listen to music through the Nexus Q is via Google apps that nobody use. Want to listen to music? You have to stream it from your Google Music account. Likewise, you can only watch video content that you’ve purchased through the Play Store. The Nexus Q can’t stream content from other sources or even from computers on your home network. The Play Store only started offering video content the day of the Nexus Q’s launch, by the way, so it’s not like anybody has a large collection of Google-bought videos just waiting to be watched by a group.
Plenty of folks have hundreds, if not thousands of dollars invested into iTunes content, however. Apple’s e-store accounts for over 60 percent of the revenue pushed through the video-on-demand market. All those videos can’t be watched on the Nexus Q, and those music tracks can’t be played unless you upload your iTunes collection to Google Music, first. Have you ever tried uploading a large number of tunes to Google Music? It takes forever.
Tell me again why you would buy a $300 Nexus Q rather than a $100 Apple TV or Roku Box?
You won’t. The Nexus Q might’ve had a better chance if it was $200 cheaper, had its own controller and integrated Google TV’s more advanced multi-source content capabilities, except for the fact that Google TV still sucks. Oh, and one more thing…
The battle for your living room is already won, kinda
First off, as popular as streaming content has become, it’s still far from mainstream. Only one in four people would buy a television specifically for Smart TV capabilities; only 2.5 million Roku boxes sold last year; and despite bringing iTunes, AirPlay, Netflix and top streaming sports options to the mix, Apple only sold 2.8 million Apple TVs last year.
Those tides are a-changing, but big names have already established themselves in your entertainment center, leaving little room for Google’s half-baked streaming offerings.
Microsoft flat-out rules living rooms right now. It isn’t even a contest. The Xbox 360 is rapidly approaching 70 million users and the company has said in the past that there’s more content streamed than games played on the console. Microsoft’s doubling down on the Xbox 360′s role as a media hub, introducing new streaming content apps almost weekly, as well as that nifty Smart Glass app. Plus, the 360 lets you stream content from PCs on your network — something the Nexus Q doesn’t do.
And make no mistake; if Apple ever truly does roll out a TV of its own — one with Siri, AirPlay and iOS and iTunes support — it will absolutely crush the streaming competition, including the Xbox. Mainstream users won’t go out and buy a stand-alone Apple TV set-top box, but if you add iTunes support to a sleek and beautiful Apple-made set, the company’s massive user base will buy it in droves. I might, too.
Wave the white flag, Google
Google can’t win here. Google can’t even break even here, not with the lackluster Google TV software and a horribly crippled Nexus Q.
Yes, streaming content is big and only getting bigger. Yes, the line between computers, phones and TVs is blurring. But I implore you, Sergey: Take a long, hard look at the broken remains of Logitech, then ponder the already entrenched might of Microsoft and Apple. Can you really compete here with what you’re offering now?
Someone far smarter than I once said that you’re condemned to repeating mistakes if you forget the ghosts in your past.