Web TV has held out the promise of explosive sales success since Steve Perlman launched WebTV in 1996, but a succession of products has achieved modest sales or at worst, like Google TV, flopped. The FixYa website has surveyed current owners to find out what sort of problems they face when using the four main products: Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee and Roku. The report excludes the much more popular TV-connected games consoles such as Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360, and also small "home theatre" PCs running Microsoft Windows, XBMC, Myth TV and so on.
FixYa says "consumers are increasingly intrigued by the promises of web TV," but "the market for web TV products continues to be an opaque one, with consumers often confused by the pros and cons of each product." In this case, the "surprising result", according to FixYa boss Yaniv Bensadon, is that "tech giants like Apple and Google provide inferior products compared to competitors like Boxee and Roku."
Bensadon adds: "It's a David vs Goliath story and, in this case, FixYa’s crowd-sourced data shows that Boxee and Roku are winning over consumers by providing a higher quality and less troublesome experience."
The main drawback? "Across the board, those consumers who have jumped on the Web TV train are disappointed that their boxes cannot record content."
FixYa's charts, below, show the top five issues with each device. However, in brief, FixYa says:
Apple TV’s iTunes connectivity is its most appealing feature, but also its most troubling. Google TV is plagued by a lack of content, making it the worst value for consumers. The Boxee Box is the most widely respected web TV device for users looking to take full advantage of web TV services. Consumers rank this as the best choice, overall. Roku’s simplicity, price point, and reliability provide a good option for users new to web TV.
The biggest drawback with Apple TV is that "users have trouble synching their Apple TV to their iTunes account, making it impossible to access content they’ve already purchased. Whether trying to synch two devices or just stream content from their computer to their television, users are generally frustrated,"
FixYa recommends updating both devices to the latest versions of both iTunes and Apple TV, then making sure that each device is logged in to the same wireless network.
The biggest drawback with Google TV is that "big cable and content providers such as CBS, ABC, Viacom, FOX, NBC and Hulu have made the decision to block their content from being accessed by viewers using Google TV to watch streaming web content on their televisions. Unfortunately, this defeats the purpose of Web TV."
FixYa doesn't offer a fix, but says Google's failure to negotiate deals "should put up red ?ags for any potential buyer that is holding out hope before purchasing it."
The Boxee Box "is by far the preferred Web TV box across the competitive landscape due to its feature set, and it has received the most positive feedback from users who troubleshoot the device," says FixYa's report. The major complaint is about ?rmware updates that are distributed via the web.
FixYa suggests downloading updates to a PC, copying them to a USB Flash drive, rebooting the Boxee Box, choosing Recovery Mode and selecting "Update From USB".
The biggest drawback with Roku is some users have problems getting their device to connect to the Internet, "which clearly is an issue considering that is what the device was created to do," says FixYa.
If the router is on the approved list, FixYa suggests "the oldest trick in the book: cycling your modem and router." Turning the power off and on usually works, as should an Ethernet cable.
FixYa's free Web TV report provides more detail about the various fixes, and sometimes, further suggestions.