Intel CEO Paul Otellini has been thinking about the same question. Intel is providing some of the chips that make the magic of Google TV happen, and Otellini talks about the product in a Wall Street Journal interview from Wednesday. Here is his take on the issue:
WSJ: Google TV is giving users access to the full Internet, which seems a lot different from Apple's approach with Apple TV, a device that used to have an Intel chip but has now been simplified.
Mr. Otellini: Historically, open wins. But I don't know much about the new [Apple] product. It seems like he [Apple CEO Steve Jobs] actually took a step backward from the paradigm he had with the first Apple TV, which was much more of a computer. Google TV, as you point out, is a whole different approach. It's the full Internet, integrated seamlessly with live content. I think it's a very powerful model.
But I also believe there are probably households that one will appeal to and the other won't. My mom might use an Apple TV because it's really simplistic. My son is probably going to go buy a Google TV, simply because it's cool. He wants to be able to do his Facebook chat and talk to his friends saying, "Hey, are you watching the game?" in real time. You cannot do that on Apple TV.
I almost feel like I fall somewhere between these two extremes. I'm sure iTV offers too little for me, but I doubt I'd use all the features of Google TV (like the Facebook example, for instance). I'm enough of a geek that I'll just ignore the parts of Google TV I'm not interested in, but I do wonder how many people will feel lost between the two devices. Is there an opportunity there for a third device, and might Boxee be it? Patient people might be tempted to wait to see what Boxee has to offer, but at this point I'm so curious about Google TV that I doubt I'll be able to resist the lure of a Logitech Revue when it ships.
And when is that? Otellini had something to say about that, too. His quote: "Google TV starts shipping this month." Exactly which devices he means isn't clear. Sony TVs and the Logitech Revue will be the first out so if he is referring to a finished consumer project, he's referring to one or the other of those, but as CNET points out, he might be referring to product shipping to retail rather than being on sale to consumers this month. Either way, it looks like you'll be able to have Google TV in your living room by sometime in October at the latest.
The Boxee Box is still due in November and still seems to be in heavy development, given that just this week they announced a switch from Mozilla's Gecko to Webkit for its browser (reported at NewTeeVee). I guess someone has to go last but it's kind of a shame it'll be Boxee. If Google is out there first, and puts marketing muscle behind Google TV (and of course they're including it built into some televisions) it might be hard for Boxee to find its niche. Particularly with that bizarre form factor that won't fit anywhere (yeah, I'm still griping about that sunken cube design). Had Boxee come out first they might've been able to snag some iTV naysayers before Google swept them up.
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this whole set-top box race. Are you interested in any of these technologies and if so, which one?