At an event in San Francisco last Wednesday 24 July, Google announced a number of new products which saw immediate release. The new Nexus 7 tablet hogged most of the limelight, with its high powered internals and low price, which will no doubt give Apple a run for their money until they release an update to the iPad Mini next year. The real star of the show however wasn’t the new Nexus 7, or the release of Android 4.3, but a small 2-inch dongle that intends to change how we watch television.
Google have for years been trying to stage an entrance into the living room, but have so far struggled. Google TV was disappointing and lacked support from developers; the Nexus Q did not even make the cut, and was shelved by Google before ever being released; YouTube has introduced original channels, but have yet to set the world alight and has seen little interest from consumers. Google could hardly be seen as a threat by companies invested in the living room space, until now that is.
The Chromecast is a small $35 dongle you plug into an HDMI port on your television through which you can stream internet video. Support is currently somewhat limited, and the device looks little bigger than a USB flash drive, but there is more to Google’s latest product release than initial impressions suggest. The Chromecast is a message of intent from Google, signalling the technology giant’s desire to take over the living room space. Most importantly, with it Google hope to succeed where previously they failed.
Through the device and a supported PC, tablet, or smartphone (the Chromecast is compatible with both iOS and Android devices), users can “Cast” videos found on Netflix, YouTube, or their internet browser to their television set with relative ease. The name of the game is simplicity; Google expect you to be sat down on your couch on your tablet or smartphone, and are giving you the opportunity to quickly and effortlessly display what you are looking at on your television instead of the small screen supplied with your portable device.
As it currently stands, the Chromecast offers many of the same features already found on competitor’s devices – you will be hard pressed to find a television box which doesn’t already support YouTube or Netflix access. What is the big deal then? Although only a small selection of Apps support the dongle at launch, developers can add Chromecast support to their Apps with relative ease. Other platforms require a separate, dedicated application to be developed – this was Google TV’s Achilles heel, and no doubt resulted in its downfall – but any App found on iOS or Android can easily be made compatible with the device.
With the Apple App Store and Google Play Store at Google’s fingertips, the Chromecast will no doubt enjoy support from a wide range of applications that consumers won’t see be made available on competing devices, including Apple TV, or Roku. With there also indications that Google are considering an entrance into the Internet TV market, offering live TV broadcasts to consumers, the device could also be set to compete with television services supplied by the likes of Sky, Comcast, and traditional cable suppliers. Paid television suppliers will have to remain on their toes; should Google supply a quality service to customers, cable and satellite television suppliers will be forced to react as a result of Chromecast’s low-price and simple set-up.
Furthermore, available for only $35 it is a steal, significantly undercutting competitor’s offerings – Apple TV and Roku are both priced at $99. Granted, these devices are already established products with widespread support; Roku already supplies over 750 “channels”, far more than the 4 found on Google’s offering at launch. Chromecast’s low price, and ability to stream any video available on a browser is what sets it apart however, and as developers add support for the device any gaps will soon close. The world is your oyster, and Chromecast is the key.
The device has already seen sales north of over 250,000, and is sold out on the Google Play store despite only being available since Wednesday. As a result of the overwhelming demand for the device, Google have discontinued the free 3-month Netflix promotion which came bundled with the device.
Initially the device may seem a pointless investment to those who already own set top boxes, or even use an Xbox or PlayStation for media purposes, but as developers add support for the device this argument will soon become nullified. Should Google open up the system as promised, and developer jump on board, the Chromecast could soon enough become as important to TV aficionados as the television the device is used with. Users could one day use the Chromecast for more than just video streaming, but as a gateway to applications already available on smartphones; imagine playing your smartphone games through your TV, with your smartphone/tablet as the remote. The possibilities are endless.
It is still early days yet, but considering the overwhelming demand for the device, and its low price point, it is difficult to see Chromecast not gaining the developer support it needs in order to succeed over its rivals. Google has made its intentions clear however, and with its low $35 price – which borders on impulse purchase – the Chromecast is set to be a disruptive force in the Television Industry.