Logitech Revue: A Swiss-Army Approach to Internet TV

After I attended Cisco's unveiling of its ūmi telepresence system this morning, I hopped in a cab and went to Logitech's launch event for Revue, its Google TV box. It made for a fascinating comparison.

Cisco's product, like Apple TV and Roku, is about doing one thing. All three devices compete with Revue, because it does many things:

  • Like Roku and Apple TV, it's a way to watch movies and listen to music;
  • It supports not only services Google has partnered with, such as Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand, but just about any video on the Web;
  • It attempts to meld Internet video, live broadcast video, and DVR video into one seamless entertainment extravaganza;
  • It integrates with Dish Network boxes at a deeper level-it can control them and search recorded videos;
  • It lets you browse Web sorts of all sorts using the built-in Chrome browser;
  • It uses Logitech's Harmony technology to let you control all your living-room gizmos;
  • It offers iOS and Android apps that let you use your smartphone as a remote control;
  • If you spend $150 for an optional Webcam, it provides ūmi-like HD videoconferencing (although at 720p rather than Cisco's 1080p);
  • It'll let you download and install Android apps (but not until early 2011, when Google makes its TV Android Market available).

Whew. (I'm probably forgetting a capability or two.) Revue costs $299.99, which is 3X the price of Apple TV and 5X the cost of the cheapest Roku, but it does so many things that I think the price isn't nutty -- if it turns out that the many things it does are things people want to do on their TVs. (That's not a given: In many ways, Revue is a modern take on the idea Microsoft tried to popularize as WebTV a decade and a half ago, and which has fizzled in one form or another ever since. I'm still unclear whether there's a critical mass of real consumers who want to use the Web on their TVs.)

Revue's pricetag is also explained in part by its remote control -- which, from what I've seen so far, is one of my favorite things about the box so far. It's a wireless, notebook-like keyboard with no-compromises QWERTY. After having experienced a couple of gazillion TV devices that force you to enter text using painful on-screen keyboards, I'm really happy to see Logitech give you the input device you really want as part of the package. (It's also selling an optional mini-QWERTY keyboard.)

Logitech is releasing a Swiss Army Knife of a product into a market otherwise mostly populated by less versatile kitchen knives. (In the case of Apple TV, which doesn't yet have a full slate of TV episodes and movies, its sort of a kitchen knife which can only slice cetain kinds of vegetables.) I'm reserving judgment until I get hands-on time with with one, but I like the fact that Revue is so very far from being an Apple TV wannabee -- it's a choice, not an echo, and it's going to be fun to see which type of Internet TV box consumers gravitate towards. (And of course it's still not clear whether teeming masses of them will gravitate towards any TV box at all.)

Logitech and Amazon are taking orders for Revue now; it'll show up in stores in two or three weeks. Check out more details on Google TV, including a peek at the interface, at Google's site.

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