There is no doubt in my mind that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is about to revolutionize the TV watching experience with the Google TV line of connected TV sets and set-top boxes. By bringing the power of the Internet to your big-screen entertainment center, the idiot box suddenly becomes smart.

Unfortunately, somebody should have told Sony (NYSE: SNE) that Google TV is supposed to be easy to use. Thanks to an ABC Nightline segment shot inside the Googleplex, we know what the remote control looks like for the first wave of Sony's Google TV sets -- and it's not pretty. Quick, hide the children:


This monstrosity brings together all the worst bits of a bad video game controller and a clumsy computer keyboard. Perhaps Sony intends to publish video games through this channel, playable only through this crazy thing? Even so, there is no excuse for bad design like this when your smartphone can provide both a keyboard and complex controls without confusing the cat.

Then again, Sony was never a master of user-friendly operation, right? Surely the other major launch partner can improve on the design -- it is, after all, user interface expert Logitech International (Nasdaq: LOGI). Unfortunately, nobody at Logitech got that usability memo, either. The Logitech Revue remote looks like a wireless keyboard for desktop computers more than anything else, and remains a far cry from the simplicity of your average TV remote -- or the ultra-simple clicker that ships with the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) TV box. If Apple has any advantage over Google in the TV battle, it's the beauty and user-friendly operation of its remote control.

Until someone comes up with a sleeker remote, the best input option for a Google TV setup seems to be your Android phone. Logitech needs to get its A-game on, and unless the whole package absolutely tanks in terms of sales, I hope to see stronger design teams stepping up to fill this obvious gap in the Google TV experience. Phillips (NYSE: PHG) springs to mind, as does Samsung. A cottage industry might erupt around building a better remote for Google TV. In the meantime, Google's partners or Google itself need to poach some designer talent from Apple (hey, cold-calling is A-OK), Bose, or Bang & Olufsen.

This ugly mess is not acceptable if Google is serious about the living-room opportunity. Let the vitriol fly in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Google is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers choice. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Logitech International SA is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended a write covered strangle position on Logitech International SA. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Logitech International SA. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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