A year and a half ago, Google announced Google TV, an initiative that, on the surface, looked like it had the potential to finally deliver the television-web convergence that has been envisioned for so long.
Trying to bringing the power of the internet, along with its own Android platform, to the small screen, “might be one of the most important things the company has attempted“, I wrote at the time. And for a short while, it seemed to be off to a promising start.
Of course, we know now that Google TV was not destined for immediate success. One of the earliest problems was the search giant was not able to get television networks to buy into its vision. In fact, in many respects the company failed to even explain it to them.
Fast forward to today. Google TV is in a sort of purgatory: it isn’t dead yet, but it’s not exactly clear how much life it has either.
So it’s not entirely surprise that one of the hardware manufacturers that lined up to make Google hardware is throwing in the towel on the initiative. Calling the launch of its Revue Google TV set-top box “a mistake of implementation of a gigantic nature,” Logitech CEO Guerrino De Luca admitted:
The integration of television and Internet is inevitable. But the idea that it would happen overnight in Christmas 2010 was very misguided and that also cost us dearly. [Logitech] just built a lot because we expected everybody to line up for Christmas and buy these boxes [for] $300. That was a big mistake.
His company’s break-up with Google may not be permanent. Despite the fact that Logitech lost $100m in operating profits due to its Revue blunder, De Luca still believes that Google TV has disruptive potential and may be worth a second look once the market has matured.
Logitech’s high-profile Google TV failure, however, raises an interesting question: if the hardware vendors that invested heavily in getting Google TV into the hands of consumers aren’t willing to double down on their bets, how can Google succeed? For obvious reasons, it’s going to be hard for the company to succeed in this market without strong hardware partners.
Google’s success with Android in the smart phone market, for instance, is almost entirely the result of it successfully wooing handset manufacturers to the platform. When Google tried to do hardware on its own with the Nexus One, and with direct-to-consumer sales, it pretty much failed.
It’s fair to point out that Logitech isn’t the only company that is pushing Google TV-based products, and it probably did have a more challenging path ahead of it with a set-top box (as opposed to a television with Google TV built-in).
If other hardware vendors involved with Google TV don’t see meaningful profits soon, Logitech may not be the last vendor that puts Google TV on ice.