Google Announced a set-top box thingy. The idea is interesting, and while it does compete with traditional set-top boxes, it isn’t a traditinal set-top box. The product itself, however? It’s terrible.
This thing is going to have a tough time making money. One of the biggest boons that the Apple TV has going for it is the simple fact that it is backed by iTunes. It’s the same reason that the App Store took off; they already have a gazillion accounts with credit cards locked in, and they have the trust and the library size to be a content distribution giant.
Look at Apple’s marketing page for Apple TV. The content is front and center, where the features and the experience take a back seat. It’s the exact opposite in the case of the Google Nexus Q; they are hocking the experience, the functionality, and (surprisingly) the “aesthetics” of this tiny little orb by showing it off surrounded by beautiful people in a variety of settings ripped right out of last Spring’s issues of Dwell. There’s definitely some attempt at emotional appeal with Google’s marketing, but a set-top box/media appliance doesn’t rely on that sort of bond in the same way that a computer or an iPhone does.
What’s important to connect with in a device like this is the interface; the “remote” and the content delivery. As far as I can tell, you can’t even control this thing without an accompanying Android device. Here’s a support page for what’s in the box, and here’s the support page for what hardware controls are available. So right then and there, Google has eliminated a massive number of potential customers; people who don’t own Android phones. This is either a complete lack of foresight, overwhelming hubris, or a misguided attempt to drive Android sales by making a “lust-worthy” device. None of these are a good thing.
Lastly, the idea that anybody on your local network can futz around with the media is insane. Yes, it’s a neat idea for parties. But I can do that using iTunes DJ or a dedicated app like Anthm1, and in those situations I have to give people permission to do those things.
About the only benefit to this piece of shit is that you can buy one together with a Nexus 7 to solve your remote problems and get yourself in to the tablet game at the same time for around the price of an iPad. Only problem is then you get stuck with two shitty Android devices instead of one.
Anthm is awesome, and my favorite thing about it is that it uses location data instead of your local wifi network so you don’t have to let folks on to your local network to make song requests.↩