Wednesday, November 10, 2010, 9:55 AM ET|Logitech has chosen Irdeto's Cloakware to help secure premium content on its new Google TV-powered Revue device. The Revue offers access to subscription services like Netflix, and also open Internet access to other download-to-own and rental models. Irdeto has had a relationship with Netflix, which Irdeto's David Vogel told me yesterday helped the company understand the key security issues and speed integration. Cloakware helps secure the user authentication process and other digital assets.
Google TV is still a very new product, but it has already run into hiccups gaining access to free content, with most major broadcast TV networks and Hulu blocking their programs. The premise of being able to access paid and free, premium and independent video, all through one box, still remains an exciting prospect however.
What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
Friday, October 8, 2010, 8:47 AM ET|Daisy Whitney and I are pleased to present the 76th edition of the VideoNuze Report podcast, for October 8, 2010.
Today we focus on Google TV and the new Logitech Revue which was introduced on Wed. First I explain some of its key features and benefits, which are detailed more fully in my post from Wed. Then we debate the product's appeal. Daisy is a major skeptic, arguing that it's overpriced, doesn't have a clear value proposition/call to action and most of what it enables can already be done online on a computer.
The $300 price for Revue is admittedly a huge issue. However, if you took price out of the equation for a moment and considered the Revue relative to other connected device options, it is clearly superior. As Daisy suggests, and I agree, a lot of Revue's and Google TV's success will derive from effective marketing and promotion. That's why I've separately suggested that Google should offer the first 1 million Google TV buyers a $150 rebate in order to stimulate sales and stoke word-of-mouth promotion. It would be a financial drop in the bucket for Google and yet would be a significant investment in a highly strategic product.
Click here to listen to the podcast (13 minutes, 58 seconds)
Click here for previous podcasts
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Thursday, October 7, 2010, 6:37 PM ET|Following Logitech's launch of its Revue yesterday, the first Google TV product to hit the market, a consistent theme in many of the reviews has been that the $300 price point is too high. Indeed, I called this out as the first big "con" of the Revue in my review (no pun) yesterday. The price point is surely mandated by the bill of materials (i.e. the Intel Atom processor, 4 GB of memory, etc.) plus Logitech's margin expectations.
However, if Google is seriously committed to Google TV, it should put its money where its mouth is to drive initial adoption. One compelling way to do so would be to offer a $150 rebate on the first 1 million Google TVs purchased, effectively reducing the price of the Revue to $149 (Sony's prices are still not known for sure). A $149 price point is in the ballpark of other connected devices like Roku, Apple TV, boxee, etc and would immediately draw attention.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010, 7:42 PM ET|Logitech debuted its Revue connected device, offering an up-close look at the first implementation of Google TV to hit the market. I attended the press briefing in NYC; here are some of the key highlights, followed by pros and cons as I initially see them:
- Logitech Revue will retail for $299.99, which includes the box itself and a "keyboard controller" which is a lightweight combination QWERTY keyboard with a touchpad and left/right/up/down arrow controller
- Revue is available for pre-order at Amazon, BestBuy.com and Logitech.com. Delivery is expected by end of October.
- Optional accessories include an additional keyboard controller ($99.99), a "mini controller" ($129.99) which offers all the same features in a smaller clamshell form factor and a Logitech TV cam, which is a 720p HD webcam that works with Revue ($149.99).
- Apps for iPhone and Android are available free and effectively turn these devices into a third controller for the Revue.
- A one-touch search bar allows discovery across broadcast TV and online sources, both free and paid (a Google spokesperson said a new optimized content "corpus" with just relevant video is searched, not the entire web; this means you don't have to wade through a lot of typical Google results for any term you enter into the search bar).
- Search will also tap into your DVR recordings for pay-TV operator optimized set-top boxes. The only operator on board so far is Dish Network, which has a short-term exclusive deal to only work with Logitech. Dish will also retail the Revue box and the accessories.
- In addition to search, you can also navigate via menus for websites, channels, apps, most visited, and "Spotlight" which allows surfing. A "queue" feature lets you explore podcasts.
- When using the apps, voice control navigation is also enabled. We saw a neat example of searching for "The Price is Right" simply by speaking the words. You can also share a video discovered on your phone to the Revue device with a couple of clicks. Both very Jetsons-like.
- "Dual view" is a picture in picture mode that allows you to watch video in one window while searching or doing other things in the larger background.
- Flash 10.1 video is supported.
- Netflix has created an app for Google TV that looks a lot like the first version of the Roku app I'm very familiar with. Note that browsing the Watch Instantly catalog isn't yet possible, and also that Revue's search doesn't crawl the Netflix catalog to expose results for searches conducted. This type of true universal search is already available in the TiVo Premiere for example and is really valuable.
- Other apps preloaded include CNBC, Chrome, Napster, NBA Game Time and Pandora, though none of these were demo's. No social media app was demo'd either, though Twitter was mentioned earlier.
- There's a Logitech media player that allows you to access and play media files from other devices on the network
- 720p HD-quality video calling is enabled with the new webcam using the Vid HD app. This can work Revue to Revue, or Revue to PC/Mac. Less than 1 megabit is needed upstream for video calling.
- Revue uses "Harmony Link" with RF connections so that all devices currently recognized by Harmony remotes will be recognized immediately
Monday, October 4, 2010, 12:50 PM ET|Google released further details on Google TV this morning, unveiling a slew of content services and apps that will be available at launch. Chief among them are Netflix and HBO Go (both for subscribers), Amazon VOD and Pandora, plus new apps from NBA ("NBA Game Time"), NBCU ("CNBC Real-Time"), and "optimized" content from Turner Broadcasting, NY Times, USA Today, VEVO, Napster, Twitter and blip.TV. Google didn't specify what optimized means, but I suspect it means appropriate metadata so that programs can be exposed in Google TV searches. Of course, "Leanback," YouTube's 10-foot interface, will also be featured.
Friday, September 17, 2010, 9:32 AM ET|It's Friday and that means once again VideoNuze is featuring 5-6 interesting online/mobile video industry stories that we weren't able to cover this week. Read them now or take them with you for the weekend. Enjoy!
Meet YouTube's Most In-Demand Brand Stars
A fascinating look at how major brands are hiring amateurs who have gained large followings on YouTube to pitch their products. The concept of "celebrity spokesperson" is getting redefined in the online video era.
Logitech Revue with Google TV Coming 9/29 for $299, Dish Network Offering Discounts?
We may be less than 2 weeks away from Logitech's "Revue," the first implementation of Google TV, hitting the market, with Dish Network subscribers possibly getting a deeply discounted $179 offer. The connected device space is increasingly crowded and there's high anticipation to see how Google TV stacks up.
Pre-order a Boxee Box Now
Speaking of connected devices, Boxee announced this week that pre-ordering is available from Amazon for its Boxee Box connected device, manufactured by D-Link. Like Google TV, but unlike Apple TV or Roku, Boxee offers the prospect of browsing the full Internet for video, not just what's been integrated with the device.
Samsung Reveals Tablet Launch Plans
Meanwhile the strongest potential competitor to the iPad, Samsung's "Tab" will begin shipping in just a few weeks, with availability from all 4 major U.S. wireless carriers. The Tab is very focused on mobile video, running Android 2.2 which supports Flash 10.1. That means Hulu and all other Flash-based video should work, significantly expanding the universe of choices beyond what is available on the iPad. No pricing yet, but the Tab looks like a meaningful iPad alternative.
Ivi Seeks to Become an Online Cable System
Can an online service retransmit network TV through the Internet, and charge for it without having any underlying agreements in place with the networks themselves? That's what Ivi, which unveiled its software this week, is attempting to do, pointing to U.S. copyright law as making its offer legit. We'll see; with TV networks gaining no new revenue coming in plus the risk of cannibalization we should expect them to raise vigorous legal challenges.
Friday, May 21, 2010, 10:19 AM ET|Google pulled the curtain back on Google TV ("GTV" for short) yesterday and the debate over whether it will be a game-changer or another in a long line of underwhelming web-TV approaches is already underway. I'm going to plant my stake firmly in the first category - I think GTV looks like a real winner and below I've articulated 5 good reasons why. I'm not saying it's a slam dunk, and there are still some unknowns (starting with price) which will have a huge influence on its adoption. But as I describe below, GTV looks like the right product at the right time.
(Btw, if you need more background on what GTV actually is, see my post from 2 months ago "Here's How Google TV Will Work" and Colin Dixon's guest post below, "Google TV Unites Web and TV in One Experience.")
1. Consumers Want Online Video on Their TVs
The touchstone of a successful new consumer product introduction is simple - does it solve a problem or fill a need? For GTV, the answer is an overwhelming "yes." Consumers want a simple, cost-effective solution for watching online video on their TVs. Millions have already availed themselves of alternative - and often sub-optimal - methods for doing so: connecting their laptops to their TVs, buying a Roku/TiVo/connected Blu-ray player, using their gaming console, etc. There is no question here of "do consumers want online video on their TVs?" They do and there's abundant research supporting the trend already (here, here, here for example). If you need more validation, just ask anyone who's using Netflix streaming.
Moving the online video experience to the TV is the next natural step in the evolution of this exciting new medium. When most online video was short clips and the experience was poor, watching on computers was ok. But now, with HD, full-screen, well-featured experiences gaining prominence alongside the advent of high-quality, long-form programming, the viewing experience wants to move to the living room and the wide-screen HDTV. And it's a virtuous circle - the more the online video experience moves to the living room, the more high-quality content will come online, further reinforcing the value of GTV.
2. It's the Full Internet and It's Open
A main point of skepticism regarding GTV is that other web-to-TV approaches haven't made it big, so why will GTV? It's a very fair question and I think there are 2 very significant differences between past approaches and GTV. The first is that GTV users get the full Internet, not just the bits and pieces that the device provider has made deals with, or those that have invested the time and money to integrate with the device. Fifteen years since the Internet went mainstream, people are conditioned to expect nothing less than full choice and selection. GTV is the first to recognize that a "no boundaries," fully-browsable experience is not a nice-to-have, it's a must-have. The second differentiator is that search is core to the GTV experience, while others have focused mainly on browse. Searching is THE way people are accustomed to finding what they want and the inability to do so simply in other devices and on-screen guides has been a real handicap. GTV blends online expectations into the TV experience; that will feel natural and meaningful for many.
As important as the full Internet is to consumers, GTV's openness is equally important to developers who will build the apps that will make GTV compelling. It's essential to remember the Internet's open standards and development tools have driven its success. With GTV, the full brunt of the Internet's openness is once and for all being brought to the TV, powered by advances in processors that would have been unimaginable until recently. Google's Android OS and Chrome browser help create the platform - at no charge - to make all this happen. Simply put, developers are going to love GTV and the fruit of their imagination is going to astound us.
3. For Content Providers, GTV Should be Love at First Sight
Of course, what good is a new device if there's no good content? This is a problem that all too often plagues new devices (some of you have no doubt heard me mention "Richmond's Law" - that you can't introduce a device AND the content/apps for it simultaneously and expect the device to succeed.) However, in GTV's case, since it's really just leveraging all the great content on the Internet, content shortage won't be a problem. For video providers large and small GTV offers the potential of massive new reach, usage, and importantly new revenue streams, whether from Google ads, their own ads or new paid models. Nothing is required of them, though if they want to optimize for GTV (as with YouTube's new "Lean Back" UI), they can do so very easily.
For cable TV networks in particular GTV is a big-time winner. It doesn't disrupt their traditional model (see reason #5 below for more on that), but does open up all kinds of new interactive content opportunities. Another set of winners are the independent providers that have already attracted audiences online, like blip.tv, Next New Networks and Revision3. Other winners include print publishers like the NY Times, WSJ, Sports Illustrated, etc, who have been avidly building out their video libraries. The independent and print guys were limited mainly to computer-based consumption, but with GTV they get equal on-TV footing for the first time with their cable TV network counterparts. This will make for an exciting new round of content innovation. Lastly, if past is precedent, we can expect Hulu to dig its head further into the sand and block GTV users. That's ok, users will just turn to ABC.com, Fox.com, etc. As GTV and more convergence plays emerge, Hulu's insistence on computer-based viewing only is a self-inflicted bullet to its head (which btw, could be to YouTube's benefit as it seeks to increase its premium content roster).
4. GTV is Part of a Compelling 3-Screen Experience
As important as GTV is to on-TV viewing, it's critical to see its place in the larger context of a 3-screen, converged world. Today "convergence" is more a slogan than anything. But as Google showed in its demos yesterday (flawed though they were by incongruous Bluetooth snafus), the interplay between mobile, online and TV is tantalizing. Seeing an Android smartphone act as a voice-activated GTV remote control is just the tip of the iceberg. Today we are in just the first inning of consumer expectations for how devices interact ("my contact list synchs to my iPhone - whoohoo!"), but increasingly, as the cloud gains more prominence, the consumer technology battle is going to gravitate to integrated 3-screen experiences.
In this respect, GTV must also be seen in the context of Google's epic battle with Apple. GTV is a rare instance of Google actually being ahead of Apple, rather than playing catch-up (as in smartphones, tablets, operating systems, etc.). For now at least, Apple doesn't have a TV of its own, giving Google an opportunity gain an early lead in how 3-screen experiences will work. GTV further exposes key weaknesses of Apple's tightly-controlled, vertically integrated model. While Apple has enjoyed a huge head-start with the iPhone and a smaller one with the iPad, developers are increasingly going to ask themselves whether developing for essentially one company (and to its particular, exacting demands) is better than returning their roots and comfort zone of developing for the open Internet and GTV. As I mentioned last week, Apple vs. Android is looking increasingly like Apple vs. Wintel, and we know how that story ended. While Apple is busy ranting against Flash, Google has been presented with a monster-sized PR opportunity for Android to be positioned as the open, neutral alternative.
5. It's Evolutionary, Not Revolutionary
Possibly the most remarkable thing about GTV is that rather than trying to disrupt the TV ecosystem, Google pragmatically incorporates it and tries to enhance its value. That Google chose to go this route rather than doing something revolutionary that would incent "cord-cutting" is almost miraculous given the company's nearly dogmatic approach to re-inventing everything it touches. While the cable/satellite/telco set-top box sitting alongside GTV may seem like a ridiculous hack to many, serving little purpose but to preserve the entrenched cable business model, for Google, this "friend, not foe" approach means genuine partnership discussions can ensue for Google with Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (MVPDs). That's key to GTV not relying on a risky, retail-only distribution model.
In my initial post on Google TV 2 months ago, I highlighted the fascinating negotiating dynamic about to unfold between Google and the MVPDs. Some will be frightened of Google and its potential Trojan horse incursion into the living room, while others will be compelled by the upside. One thing is for sure: yesterday's news that DISH's set-top box will be optimized for GTV means that GTV's new features are poised to become key messages in DISH's advertising. If you're an MVPD and you don't have an "Internet-on-TV" story you're going to be at a disadvantage. GTV adds value to MVPDs by enhancing both the TV experience and also driving more need for bandwidth on the ISP side. For all of these reasons, I think it's going to be very tempting for many MVPDs to engage with Google.
OK, so those are my arguments why GTV looks like a winner. The main caveats to my enthusiasm are GTV's pricing and seeing GTV actually work (initially with the Logitech box and Sony products). These aren't trivial. If Logitech prices its companion box at $499, then despite the above arguments, GTV will be too expensive and not take off. But say it comes in at $249? Imagine a consumer contemplating buying it (with no monthly fee!) or an iPad, which is $500-800 (plus a $30 monthly fee!). GTV is a hand-down winner in that scenario.
There's a lot to be excited about with GTV, as a whole new chapter in online video's rise is set to begin.
What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).
Thursday, May 20, 2010, 2:54 PM ET|Colin Dixon, senior partner at industry research firm The Diffusion Group, which is a VideoNuze partner, has been attending the Google I/O developer's conference. Following his analysis of the WebM project yesterday, today he offer commentary on Google TV which was unveiled today. Back in late March I had posted on Google TV, based on some back-channel info I had received. I'll have more commentary as well.
Google TV Unites Web and TV in One Experience
by Colin Dixon
This morning, at Google I/O in San Francisco, Google announced a comprehensive push to bring the Internet to TV, an effort dubbed "Google TV." Working with initial partners Intel, Sony, and Logitech, Google is assembling an open ecosystem to deliver web content and applications directly to the TV. As well, rather than ignore traditional TV content, the effort seeks to integrate the Internet and TV into a single seamless experience.
Intel's CE4100 Atom-based SoC will serve as the processor engine for the service. The CE4100 is optimized for TV applications with sophisticated video handling and a 3D graphics engine built in. It also inherits the Atom processor's frugal power consumption capabilities and small footprint. The software stack that will run on the CE4100 is from Google. Android has been ported and optimized for the processor along with Google's Chrome browser. Since Android is the core operating system, many of the applications that have already been written for smartphones should run with little or no modification. Of course, the Android marketplace will also be available to add other applications to the experience.