It’s widely known Google (s GOOG) TV hasn’t exactly been a success story. Early CE partner Logitech (s LOGI) lost millions on the device, and consumer feedback was mostly negative after the first devices reached the market in late 2010. But how many of Logitech’s Revue boxes and Sony’s (s SNE) Google TV devices are actually being used by consumers? The answer is less than a million, according information hidden in Google’s own data. Also interesting: Logitech’s Revue set-top box makes up more than half of those devices.
Google and its partners have never said how many Google TV devices were bought by consumers since the platform’s debut, but the company said in the past that device activations have doubled since the Google TV 2.0 software update late last year. A Google spokesperson declined to comment on any numbers for this story. However, there are some very useful clues hidden within Google’s Android Market statistics: Google publishes ballpark numbers about each and every app’s active install base — the number of devices an app is installed on right now — as part of its Market app pages.
Google TV comes with a number of pre-installed apps, which are also listed on the Android Market. One example of this is the TV and Movies app, which is basically Google TV’s programming guide — an essential part of the Google TV experience that most users wouldn’t dare to delete from their machines. The active install base for this app, according to Google’s Android Market, currently is 500,000 to 1 million. The same is true for all the other apps that come pre-installed with Google TV, which suggests that the number of Google TV devices that are currently being used by consumers is less than 1 million.
This data is supported by findings from Xyologic, which recently estimated that the install base for various preinstalled apps ranges from around 600,000 to 900,000 devices. I asked Xyologic co-founder Matthäus Krzykowski how the company gathers its data, and he told me that it estimates the install base of apps based on a number of data points, and usually only sees error margins of a few percentage points.
It’s worth pointing out that the number of active devices doesn’t necessarily translate into sales numbers. People could have bought Google TV devices and never turned them on. Devices that haven’t received the Google TV 2.0 update, which was rolled out last fall, also aren’t part of any Android Market data.
Still, Android Market data does offer some interesting insights into Google TV’s usage. App developers can, for example, see on their internal Market dashboard which devices their apps are installed on. I asked a few developers to share these data points with me, and the results show that Logitech’s Google TV fire sale apparently worked: the Logitech Revue set-top box accounts for 50 to 70 percent of all Google TV devices used to install various third-party apps, depending on who you ask.
That’s actually good news for Google, which is about to roll out a second generation of devices with CE partners like Vizio, Sony and LG. The new devices are based on ARM (s ARMH) chips as opposed to Intel(s INTC), which should bring the price down considerably. Logitech ended up selling its Revue set-top box for $99, which may just be the pricing sweet spot for a Google TV box.
Still, the numbers clearly show that Google has some work to do. Even if you take into account that active devices don’t equal sold devices, it’s obvious that others have been doing far better. Apple (s AAPL) has sold 4.2 million Apple TV units, and Roku — despite missing its own sales goals — was able to sell 2.5 million boxes by the end of last year.