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Comment The Story of the Logitech Revue (Score 1) 133

(This was sent to me by a friend who is an ex-Logitech engineer.)

The story of the Logitech Revue


Life Among the Wolverines


A Bitter Ex-Logitech Engineer

The story begins years ago in the webcam group of Logitech, where some guys (by which I mean engineers and a manager of either gender) were assigned to figure out how to get webcams onto televisions in the living room.

Webcams are a profitable business for Logitech, so they were able to spare some expense for this project, and the guys, in the end, came up with a set top box. The webcam could be attached, the box could run teleconferencing software, and everyone would be happy.

However, when the webcam team managers looked at the box these guys had designed, they realized it was too expensive. They could not bundle it with a $79 web cam and make a product that people would buy. Everyone in the company knew about this project, and agreed that it was fundamentally bad and deserved to die.

However, somehow this team, by hook or by crook, appealed to senior management, and were spun off from the webcam group, and sent around to all the divisions of the company, to see if anyone had a use for a set-top-box, which he found cool.

They came to talk to the Squeezebox team about using their device as a server. The Squeezebox uses the user's PC as a server. This works well because it has a big disk to store music, and users can rip their own music to their PC, and they can also use their web browser already on their PC to buy music, which they then download to the PC. The PC has a very nice interface for doing music purchasing, downloading, and organizing. PC and PC and PC. The PC is good for Squeezeboxes. PCs and Squeezeboxes get along. We told the set top box guys 'Good luck, it's not for us.'

After they were gone, I remember having a conversation with one of the Squeezebox EEs. "Really, Logitech is going to make PCs? Because there are an awful lot of companies that make PCs, and they are probably way better at it than Logitech. And way cheaper." Because that's what this box was, a small PC motherboard in a set-top-box is still a PC, any way you look at it.

Things get a little fuzzy after that, but they set-top-box team must have stumbled into some guys who had been talking to Google about GoogleTV. They cooked up a scheme that this would be good for everyone. GoogleTV was going to be a new "ecosystem" that Logitech could sell peripherals for. Users could attach webcams to it and fulfill the dream! It would be the users' music server, just by attaching a USB hard drive. Everyone in Logitech would benefit, especially in this critical time when the PC as a platform was dying, as everyone knows. Also, GOOGLE CAN YOU HEAR ME, GOOGLE WANTS TO DO BUSINESS WITH US! THEY ARE MADE OF MONEY! IT CAN’T FAIL.

A new team was formed with the set-top-box engineers, some business development guys, some random managers, and senior management from the Harmony remote control group. This new crack team had the full backing of the CEO. They did not have to pay attention to Logitech's usual processes and review requirements. They pulled staff from wherever they felt like, especially the useless Squeezebox team which was only doing a paltry $30M/year in business. They were changing the Logitech rules.

In particular, they didn't need to have a margin. They were going to sell the boxes for slightly over cost, knowing that any additional expense (such as a support call or RMA) would mean the company would take a loss. It was okay, every division in Logitech would be making money on GoogleTV peripheral sales!

The company goals were shifted around. Living room, desktop PC, notebook PC, and phone. These were the foci! Especially Living room. GoogleTV! WE ARE PARTNERS WITH GOOGLE!

LOGI was going to make $750M worth of hardware. This was most of the money LOGI had. This hardware would be manufactured outside of the rule-bound Logitech factories. It would be based on a reference design to speed release!

Of course, for the honor of being one of the first few companies to release GoogleTV products, Logitech would take all the risk if anything bad happened. Google could do this, because it was GOOGLE DO YOU HEAR ME, GOOGLE WANTS TO DO A DEAL WITH US!

So, then there were some delays. Google doesn't do hardware, so every software release from Google to Logitech was not tested... on hardware. So lots of bugs were found, and had to be fixed. In the mean time, Sony announced their product, which was a TV already integrated with GoogleTV so you wouldn't need a shitty set top box. But that was okay, because Logitech was investing in the new ecosystem, they would make up the difference in peripheral sales!

Then the networks dropped their bombshell that they didn't like GoogleTV. And so no content for you!

In the mean time, the box based on a reference design was having problems with testers. It had an internal fan, which was too loud. It had a buggy CPU. It had lots of connectors and stuff that there didn't seem to be a use for. The remote control looked dumb, and felt like a toy. A cheap toy. The kind of toy manufactured in China at non-Logitech factories. An effort was started to reduce the cost of the set-top-box, but they couldn't implement anything without delaying the main product launch.

An EE trying to reduce costs said that there were $25 worth of parts on the board that were not needed. They were there to support options in the reference design. Options that had not been selected. $25 in consumer electronics is huge. Enormous. And the only thing that these parts were capable of was breaking and reducing the reliability of the device.

Anyway, so to summarize, a product concept that ought to have been killed, and nearly was, took on a life of its own, and collided with Google's overwhelming reputation, and some good old-fashioned hunger for power and money. Then, dark forces conspired to give Logitech a lobotomy, and now the product is a smoking ruin by the side of the highway.

Sell some peripherals into THAT ecosystem, Jerry.

Honestly, I think the Jerry (the new and now newly-ex CEO) could have made it work. His failures as far as I'm concerned are giving his new magical product manager too much leeway, and putting all of his eggs in one basket. It would not have been hard, I don't think, to avoid those problems.

The new (old) CEO, Guerrino de Luca is a good man, and has always steered Logitech in a direction of stable growth, carefully learning from past lessons. I wish him the best of luck. And I hope that I never hear of Jerry Quindlan ever again.

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