SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The first GoogleTV device—the $300 Logitech Revue—is getting mixed reviews after debuting here Wednesday. It will be difficult to show consumers the benefits of the relatively expensive set top and keyboard in market quickly getting crowded, analysts said.
The product gets kudos for integrating broadcast and Web video on any HDMI-capable HDTV and supporting playback of personal media and 720-progressive video conferencing. However, its $300 price tag—plus another $149 for an HDTV camera—will dampen sales.
Logitech built into Revue the functionality of its Harmony Remote universal A/V controllers that cost as much as $200. Those remotes control multiple A/V devices but are not widely used.
Meanwhile, Roku and Apple are selling set-tops that bring Web content to the TV for as little as $99. The Revue will also compete with a growing array of TVs, game consoles and Blu-ray players that bring Web content to the TV.
"If Logitech sells a million of these, they will be doing very well," said Colin Dixon, senior partner at market watcher The Diffusion Group (Frisco, Texas) which predicts "steady but not spectacular growth" for the category of Web TV set tops.
The Revue is a compelling alternative to the Cisco Systems Umi also launched Wednesday. The $599 Umi delivers on an HDTV video conferencing at 1080-progressive resolution using an Intel Canmore processor and other dedicated hardware.
"It will be hard for Cisco to compete with the Revue," said Dixon. "Logitech's video quality is clearly not as good as the Umi but it is good enough," he added.
Several top TV makers showed TVs using Skype Chat software to deliver video conferencing at last year's Consumer Electronics Show. "I expect to see a lot of consumer video conferencing systems at this year's CES," said Ben Bajarin of market watcher Creative Strategies (Cupertino, Calif.).
The Logitech Revue uses the more recent Intel CE4100 Sodaville processor that will also be used in an upcoming Sony TV that integrates the GoogleTV software. The code which enables searches across broadcast TV and Web content requires at least a Gbyte of DRAM and 4 Gbytes NAND flash.
Dish Network, so far the only service provider supporting GoogleTV, helped create a special protocol letting users search content stored on a Dish digital video recorder and schedule recording. APIs for the protocol will be made available when a Google Android Web site for GoogleTV apps goes live early next year.
Dish will sell the Revue set-top and keyboard for $179 plus a $4/month activation fee to new and existing customers. Revue can access electronic program guide data from any cable or satellite service, but it will not provide interactive services such as searching or automating recording on the DVRs from other service providers.
The Logitech keyboard uses the company's 2.4 GHz wireless technology running on two AA batteries to link to the Revue set top. The company also designed a smartphone-sized remote controller as a $129 option.
Logitech's $149 TV cam is its first excursion outside PC Web cams where it has sold more than 78 million devices. It will also sell indoor and outdoor security cameras that can be controlled using GoogleTV for $299 and $349.
The conferencing service requires Logitech's VidHD program which is pre-installed in Revue along with a Logitech application for playing personal music, video and pictures. It can stream any content not controlled by digital rights management.
Like other Web TV set tops, the Revue bundles in access to a number of Web services including Picassa, YouTube, Netflix, Napster and Amazon.com's video service. It uses HDMI to link to a service provider set top and a TV.
The company has also designed remote control applications for iPhones, iPads and Android phones. All the new Logitech products are available for order now and will ship at the end of October.
Logitech chief executive Gerald Quindlen said the Revue is the first of many products in the works for GoogleTV. But the company's focus will continue to be on keyboards, remotes and other peripherals—not set-top boxes, he added.
"Today is just the beginning of this platform and what we intend to do around it," Quindlen said. "We are already at work on a host of peripherals and other devices around this platform," he said.
"This is a box that will get better every day and is the beginning of a transition taking place in television," said Rishi Chandra, Google's lead product manager for GoogleTV.
"Long term we are very bullish on Google TV," said Dixon of The Diffusion Group.
This FCC photo showing the inside of the Revue hit the Web before the device was launched.