Logitech is going to be the only “box” provider for Google TV at launch time, and that’s a huge deal for the company. If you want another Google TV experience, Sony will embed Google TV in its new TVs this Fall, but chances are, most Google TV users will try it on the Logitech Google TV Companion instead. As you can see in the photos, the box itself is fairly small and compact. It does not embed any DVR functionality and it will rely on a Set Top Box, DVR or Tivo that you might already have. The box will also work with Harmony – Logitech’s universal remote technology, including Harmony in the form of Android or iPhone apps (over WIFI).
I liked the Remote apps, and although they were not presented in their final form (the user interface [UI] will probably change a lot), it shows the potential for Android, iPhone and iPad users. Logitech will also make the Google TV Companion compatible with its unify technology that connects the Logitech mice and keyboards to computers.
You have guessed it, the peripherals market is really the end-game for Logitech here. Thanks to Flash, tons of casual games will be instantly available and Logitech’s sales team are already salivating over the possibility that each Companion owner might buy one or more devices (keyboard, game controller) to equip the living room.
But that’s not it: Logitech has also announced an HD camera that has been built especially for a “living room” use. That probably means that it will have a directional microphone, tilt and pan, and a narrower (or adjustable) field of view. The idea is that you will be sitting far away from the TV on which the webcam sits. Better yet, when Logitech says “HD”, they mean it and I’ve been told that 720p should work if you have around 1.8Mbps of uplink bandwidth. That’s not for everybody, but many people can benefit from this.
It’s not clear if you can plug any webcam or keyboard in the Companion Box, but I would guess that while keyboard and mice can run with generic drivers, it’s a little less probable (but possible!) for webcams and more complex hardware. Also, because the system is open, Skype (or anyone else) can implement another video solution — we will have to wait and see how this will evolve.
On the hardware side, Intel is providing the Intel CE4100 Atom-based system on a chip. Overall, the system seems beefy enough for its purpose. The connectivity between the boxes and the TV work as follow: Cable Box >> GTV Companion >> TV, all via HDMI.
The GTV Companion will relay the remote commands via an IR Blaster located at the front of the GTV Companion. This means that you will most likely have to put all the elements in the same cabinet where the IR signal can bounce around. Or you will have to get some IR extenders that connect with a wire to the back of the Logitech GTV Box.
We have not played with it long enough to provide an insightful opinion, but, Google and Logitech have caught our eyes and interest. This could be a very interesting replacement to Windows Media Center, at a lower price. Check the complete photo gallery by clicking on the first photo of this post.