Will Google TV Marginalize Apple TV?

Most analysts aren't sure people will want Google TV for its price point and lack of TV provider partnerships. One analyst believes Google TV has a leg up on its Apple TV rival.

Google and Logitech each propelled Google TV into the limelight this past week with content and product announcements, but it's hard to find many analysts who believe the service will gain much traction in the market versus the likes of Apple TV and other products.
Google TV aims to blend TV content and Web content in a seamless package, powered by Google's Android operating system and Google's Chrome Web browser, and running on companion box and Internet TVs.
Logitech made a strong case for Google TV with its demonstration of its Revue companion box, keyboard controller and other products in New York City Oct. 6, most analysts were underwhelmed by Google's launch partners.
Though the list included Turner Broadcasting, HBO, NBC Universal, Netflix and Amazon.com, the only TV service provider on board so far is the Dish Network. No Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox or even DirectTV. And no big TV networks, such as CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC, are on board.
Stacking the deck against Google TV is that Logitech's $299 price point for its Revue box and controller may be more than some consumers looking at Apple TV and its $99 price tag are willing to shell out.
Altimeter Group analyst Michael Gartenberg said the price point for Google TV is high and, in thinly-veiled reference to Apple TV, noted that TV watchers can watch Netflix and consume other content elsewhere for less money. Moreover, the DVR integration is limited to the Dish Network.
"It shows that Google is thinking about the TV differently, but it's version 1," Gartenberg told eWEEK. "We'll have to wait and see what happens when they deliver a marketplace and as they get more functionality."
But count IMS Research analyst Paul Erickson among the true believers who believe Google TV may make Apple TV irrelevant to consumers over time despite its recent improvements and lower price point.
Erickson said Apple TV is now squeezed between broad over-the-top video capabilities on game consoles and Blu-ray players, and the search-augmented, integrated television and over-the-top experience of Google TV.
"Google's strategy to deliver the Google TV experience on a platform-agnostic basis, regardless of whether Google's guide, search, applications, and OTT video capabilities are combined with cable, satellite, or terrestrial programming, makes it a product that will have a larger impact than Apple TV," Erickson said.
He noted that gaps in Google TV's content portfolio, such as Hulu, will be remedied over time as the initial product picks up buzz this holiday season. Google confirmed that it is in talks with Hulu, which is currently blocking Google TV over a partnership.
Forrester Research's James McQuivey agreed that Google TV is far more powerful than Apple TV, which he called "a nice Netflix player that can also do a little VOD."
"Even with the added twist of iPad control of the Apple TV, there's little reason to think people will want an Apple TV if they already have a way to watch Netflix on their TVs, as close to 10 million already do," McQuivey told eWEEK.
However, like Gartenberg, McQuivey believes Logitech's effort is expensive and a bit challenging for the non techie to get into.
It also needs to have many more avenues into people's homes, he said, noting that he thinks over the next year Blu-ray players may be the most likely way that Google TV will get into homes.
Count Gartner analyst Van Baker among the other skeptics:
"I have yet to get a hands-on with the Logitech box but I am not very bullish on the prospects for Google TV," Baker said, citing the lack of partnerships with the major networks and TV service providers.
"Google keeps promoting the full Internet on the TV but that has been available for several years from various providers and consumers have not found it compelling. In short I don't see much success for this platform as it stands."
At the end of the day, Google is hoping users find the inclusion of the Chrome browser to Google TV as a key differentiator from Apple, Roku, Boxee and others, added Gartenberg.
Still, Erickson is convinced that without a careful re-imagining of what Apple TV's value proposition will be that Google TV is likely to occupy at the high end, "Apple's "hobby" of Apple TV is likely to remain such."