Google TV Is Finally Real, but Does Google Understand What It Has Done?

Search Ads Next to Your Program Guide Could Truly Disrupt TV's $70 Billion Ad Market

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James McQuivey
James McQuivey
Call it love at first flick. There I was, standing in a stylish, jam-packed SoHo loft, when a product manager at Logitech offered a seductive little flick that allowed him to push a YouTube video playing on an Android phone to a large-screen TV next to him. That's when I first wanted one, a Loigitech Revue, a $299 device that brings Google TV to the theoretical masses.

Yes, Google TV is finally here. As of yesterday, you can preorder Logitech's version of this experience, one through which you route your cable box and receiver on the way to the TV screen. This ensures that no matter what channel you are watching, you have Google TV as an intelligent overlay, allowing you to search for other shows on TV, find web-based content, find related videos on YouTube, or eventually pull up an app that can enhance the show you're already watching.

True to its roots, Logitech's implementation of Google TV sports a small keyboard with built in touchpad to help you navigate the web pages Google TV's search interface may lead you to. Additionally, Logitech offers an HD camera that can mount on your TV and give you high-quality video calling to other Logitech Revue owners as well as users of PCs or Macs running the Logitech calling software. Though the keyboard comes standard, you can also download apps to your iPhone or Android phone and control your Revue from the couch over WiFi. It was this setup that enabled the seductive flick I mentioned earlier. Oh, and you can use voice commands to your phone to enter search terms. For some of these features, seeing really is believing. Call me a believer.

It's not surprising that Logitech would be the first manufacturer out of the gates with its Google TV offering. This way it makes sure it doesn't get drowned out by Sony's Google TV announcement that is likely to come later this month. But the bigger questions about the viability of Google TV will largely overshadow Logitech's efforts to direct the coverage of the announcement. Because there are still so many questions about Google's plans and intentions, not the least of which is the question of when Google will release the SDK so Android developers can repurpose their Android code to make their apps TV-ready.

For me, I'm stuck on two important issues: First, even though we now know what Logitech is charging for its setup, we don't yet know what Sony and other rumored manufacturers will charge for their versions. Will they expect a $199 or $299 premium? Any higher than that and people will opt for lower powered connected TVs that are already filling up the market (without revolutionizing it, sadly). Not only will they never know what TV delights they could have had, but their absence will fail to inspire developers to do the crazy and inventive things that they would do if vying for a large base of Google TV users.

Second, I am forced to report that there is still no evidence that Google understands just how disruptive Google TV could be to the $70 billion TV advertising business. Think about it -- by riding on top of your cable or satellite system's user interface, Google TV can supplant the program guide. That means any time you search for something on TV, Google can insert search ads next to your results. Those ads could become very lucrative if major advertisers realize they can now unofficially sponsor a TV show that people are searching for. There are big bucks riding on this eventual decision and if Google realizes this, they are keeping mum on the topic.

So while I definitely want some kind of Google TV experience for Christmas -- possibly even Logitech's Revue -- I still have to wait and see on the question of whether Google TV is actually the future of TV or just a big leap (flick?) in the right direction.

James McQuivey is a VP-principal analyst at Forrester Research, where he tracks the many faces of the media business from the devices, services, providers and programmers eager to feed consumers' need for content products. He blogs at
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