Google TVLike most households, ours has a TV routine in which we watch certain programs.  The other day, we wanted to see what else was on and because we have Google TV, we also get the Web and online video on our TV.  Our version of Google TV is on a Logitech Revue, which was one of Google TV’s two device partners at launch, along with Sony.  Google’s other launch partners were DISH Network, Adobe and Best Buy.

We were excited when we hooked our system up more than two years ago (has it been that long?), and we enjoyed the experience until we changed over to a DISH Hopper whole-home DVR.  The Revue is integrated with the DISH Network ViP722 set-top box, so a Google TV search would yield not only Internet results, but also, upcoming TV shows from the DISH Network EPG and programs DVR-recorded on the 722.  DISH continues to support this setup.

We still have the Revue, so when we want to watch streaming video on our TV, that’s what we use.  The Google TV main menu pops up along the bottom edge of the TV screen, with the icons of several apps, access to a grid view of all the apps installed on the device, and alerts that usually are about new versions of apps.  Last week, there was an alert.   An update to one of the TV apps was available, and we were prompted to go to Google TV’s Google Play store to download it.

Once we were there, however, we couldn’t install the update until we updated the Google Play app.  Which we tried to do.  But we were informed that the version of Google Play on the device was no longer supported.

I backed out of this screen and repeated the process just to make sure: same screen.  Google has not updated Android on the Logitech Revue, a first-generation Google TV device, prior to version 3.1.  After some further research, a November 14, 2012, posting on the Google TV blog announcing enhancements to Google TV said that the latest enhancements applied only to second generation Google TV hardware – with a link back to the announcement of these second generation devices .  It was immediately clear that our Logitech Revue had reached its half-life.

Yes, the November press release did indicate that first-generation devices would still receive updates to YouTube and PrimeTime for Google TV – Google’s online electronic program guide and recommendation engine.  And yes, the Revue still works fine: we can watch videos from YouTube, Amazon, NBA, Netflix and CNBC programming.  Pandora and Napster are still there.  The DISH integration still works.  But our device will no longer be able to obtain new apps from the Google Play store.  The beginning of the end.

The retail link
Google and its launch partners did a poor job of positioning and launching the product back in 2010, right from the start (with the exception of DISH, which did a pretty good job).  Google’s retailer partner, Best Buy, gave the Revue and Google TV prominent end-cap positioning in its stores.  The Sony Style stores also had Sony’s own Google TV devices in corner displays.

When I took a research expedition to Sony’s Seattle store in the fall of 2010, the salesperson told me that he happened to be the designated “go-to” person for Google TV.  So I thought: “Great, you don’t see that too often anymore! I got the right guy.”  So I confidently picked up the remote and searched for a popular movie. When I asked whether a Google TV search result would include TV programs and movies, he said “yes.” What a let-down when the only search results were the movie’s Web site, a Wikipedia entry, and some trailer videos on YouTube.  But not the actual movie, which I knew was on pay TV at the time.

Both Best Buy and Sony’s stores were set up with service from DirecTV, which hadn’t done the Google TV integration.  Because consumer electronics have short life-cycles, one can’t expect retail sales people to be subject matter experts, so it was no surprise that they hadn’t been trained on Google TV. Nobody seemed to know how it worked.

In retrospect, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Time and technological advances march on.  Today’s streaming video boxes will someday be as quaint as the 1984-vintage Macintosh was in 1989’s Back To The Future II (which was set in 2015).  Few people shed any tears when Microsoft shelved the Zune.  Nobody remembers the Commodore PET.  Why I became indignant about my Logitech Revue was not logical at all. After all, it was the Logitech Revue and Google TV that prompted me (finally) to upgrade to an HDTV set in 2010, long after just about everyone else; and only because the Revue had no analog outputs.  At least Google TV is surviving as a technology.

We all replace our mobile phones and computers every few years, not to mention our cars and many other high-ticket items in our lives.  But TVs are different.  They’re supposed to last for ten or twenty years, aren’t they?