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Apple TV challenge from Google falls flat in 2010


Logitech has reportedly halted shipments of its Revue Google TV boxes through January while waiting for Google to update its software on the poorly selling units.

According to a report by DigiTimes, Logitech's supplier, Gigabyte Technology, is reportedly noting a hit on its revenues from the suspension. The report also stated that Taiwanese component suppliers anticipate Google to release its forthcoming update to the Android OS in late February or March "at the earliest," allowing suppliers to resume shipments at some point after that.

Within two months of its launch, Sony slashed the price of its own Google TV product, signaling that sales were not going as well as expected amid less than charitable reviews. Last week, Google was reported to be telling its other licensees not to show their existing Google TV-based set top boxes and televisions at next month's CES.

The delay was intended to let Google "refine the software, which has received a lukewarm reception," according to a report by the New York Times. The Android-based Google TV was unveiled in May and launched in early October on devices from Sony and Logitech. Other licensees, including Toshiba, LG and Sharp, were planning to release Google TV products at CES, including televisions incorporating the software. The report noted that Google's "late request caught some of the manufacturers off guard."

Google's track record in delivering new software products has been less than stellar, with 2009's big announcement of Wave being abandoned in a year, the expected release of Chrome OS being delayed an entire year, a focus on Flash playback on Android delivering poor results, Twitter-competitor Google Buzz failing to find lots of interest alongside the company's Knol Wikipedia-killer, and big news concerning the company's rival VP8-based WebM video codec petering out as H.264 continued to gain major traction.

The Google TV initiative ran into trouble with broadcasters before even launching, and many have subsequently blocked the boxes from displaying their content aimed at web users, one of the primary features Google TV was intended to deliver.

Jobs on Google TV

Creating a set top box is not easy, Apple's Steve Jobs has acknowledged, long calling his own company's Apple TV a hobby rather than a major business. In June, Jobs said in an interview that the cable operators "give everybody a step top box for free, or for $10 per month. That pretty much squashes any opportunity for innovation, because nobody's willing to buy a set top box."

Jobs took a shot at Google's recently unveiled TV ambitions, saying "Ask Tivo, ask Replay TV, ask Roku, ask Vudu, ask us… ask Google in a few months.

"The only way that's ever going to change," Jobs said, "is if you can really go back to square one, tear up the set top box, redesign it from scratch with a consistent UI across all these different functions, and get it to consumers in a way that they're willing to pay for it. And right now there's no way to do that."

Jobs later launched a new version of Apple TV based on iOS, and offered the new device for just $99. The new version has proven to be far more popular, selling around a million devices in less than a quarter and earning positive reviews, including placement in Time magazine's top ten gadgets of the year.

The new box skirts around the "go to market" problem Jobs outlined for general purpose, TV-centric devices like Microsoft's Windows Media Center and Google TV, which both aim to provide DVR playback of live TV, programming listings, and similar features that compete with cable boxes. Apple TV targets movie rentals and playback of other iTunes content, with the newly released ability to stream pictures, TV, movies and music from mobile devices including the iPhone and iPad.