Google and Its Chromecast
As the content / television industry rapidly evolves with the emergence of new internet streaming technologies, Google and its Chromecast are here to win our hearts (and help us cut the cord with traditional cable and satellite packages).
This past week in class we discussed the evolution of Samsung’s hardware product amidst the current television, multi-device revolution.
But what is “television” these days, the class asked? While the industry has historically viewed a “television” as that big box in our living room, perhaps that definition is changing. We now “watch television” on our mobile phones, on our laptops and tablets. When we refer to “great television”, we refer to a True Detective (first season only) or a Breaking Bad — not the actual hardware. Perhaps, then, “television” is no longer the device itself, but actually the content we consume.
What is perhaps even more important, though, is that while television programming used to consist solely of network programming via cable or satellite companies, the internet has created the space for new kinds of content on brand new platforms (think: YouTube, Netflix). These channels have become integral to our content consumption behaviors and are disrupting the traditional model. As content consumers, we are now in power; we can choose what we want to watch, when we want to watch it, and where.
Many companies and organizations have adapted to this change. Comcast xfinity, for example, enabled both on-demand and live online streaming. Dish Network created Sling TV earlier this year, which allows users to sign-up for online television streaming for just $20. Meanwhile, tons of new complementary devices and technologies — i.e. Roku — have emerged to further serve and enable this new consumer power and choice.
And then there’s Google. King of the internet. A true digital innovator. As we saw with its acquisition of Nest technology, or the development of the Google Car, Google is a digital leader.
Enter the Google Chromecast, which I believe is far and away one of the best streaming technologies out there right now. At only $35 a pop, the portable device fits nicely in the palm of your hand, or in your pocket. You can take it anywhere and plug it into a television HDMI input. Hook it up to a wifi network, install the Chromecast extension on your preferred device (mobile phone, laptop, tablet), and cast anything you could watch on a Chrome browser (pretty much anything) to a larger screen.
While other devices come with pre-programmed channels or content packages, the Google Chromecast can turn any large screen with an HDMI into your own, customized Smart TV. In other words, with the help of the Chromecast, consumers now have the capability to design their own personalized streaming content packages. Anything available for streaming on the internet is eligible. I, for example, personally cut the cord with the traditional cable package long ago; I now use my Chromecast to watch YouTube, Hulu, Amazon, Netflix (via a family account), Comcast (also via a family account)…the list goes in.
Of course, the Chromecast is great for consumers. But it’s great for Google, too. Given the low price-point, it’s unlikely that Google is looking to make money off the device itself. The Chromecast, however, is deeply entrenched in the Google ecosystem and therefore incentivizes further use / adoption of other Google products: Chrome, YouTube, Google Play — to name a few. With yet another product, Google is one step closer to ruling our digital lives…
…Should we care? Maybe. But for the time being, I don’t / won’t. Because tonight I get to binge-watch old episodes of 30 Rock on my beautiful large screen and the easy, high quality experience will barely cost me anything.
Student comments on Google and Its Chromecast
I have a Google Chromecast too, and I love it. My main driver for picking Chromecast instead of Roku or Apple TV (I have an iPhone) was value i.e. which one will give me the best bang for my buck. At $35, Chromecast covers 90% of my app needs, so it was the winner. Critics have downed Chromecast for not having an onscreen user interface. However, following up our Samsung case and the future of TVs, it makes more sense for a phone or tablet to be the control center, because actual TV screens may be on the way out.
You bring up a great point about the current definition of “television.” It seems like today, what’s happening with the visual media revolution is reminiscent of the shift that happened with the music revolution; where the content was no longer locked by the hardware (CDs, tapes, etc.) but divorced to live between devices (iPod, Desktop…). Makes sense that something like the Chromecast then would allow that fluidity of interface that we crave so much, and allow us to bounce content between different interfaces. So I think Google is right in eliminating the separate, clunky, on-screen menu interfaces that other streaming devices utilize. And the screen responsiveness is on point with that. But, what bugs me about Chromecast is its inability to be completely interoperable. Right now it’s locked into the specific apps that support it, and isn’t utilizing the opportunity to be the fluid interface for screens we need.
I did my blog post on this market as well. Going to be quite the war in this space… but the Chromecast has a long way to go as far as functionality. It lags significantly behind the other 3 IMO.
One thing I think that differentiates Chromecast from other dongles/boxes that augment TVs is the openness of the solution. Multiple people in a room can each cast things to the device, and in doing so, create a “queue” of content to watch around the TV. I think this difference is absolutely critical going forward. I think many different types of technologies are trying to make their experiences more “social”. Wii obviously did a great job with this by making the living room a far more interactive place. In the same way, a group of people all with different types of content can more easily share and consume together.
Great post, this is definitely an interesting space. I was just looking at how Amazon is trying to compete with the Fire Stick, it offers the same capabilities as google chrome-cast except it is the only one of this “cheap solutions” that is compatible with Sling TV. Sling TV is the only streaming provider that is competing head to head with cable when it comes to sports live TV (a huge reason why most people are still paying for cable). Sling TV is offering ESPN watch allowing you to stream live games, I wonder given this, how many people going forward will chose to pay for the Fire Stick rather than chromecast.
I think Google has absolutely killed it with their implementation here, and their standard has the potential to be the sleeping dragon of web-connected TV’s. Using the phone as a “remote” is the true innovation, whereby (with no pairing required) any device regardless of platform can easily send content to a TV device. And rather than having the content streamed from the cloud to the phone and to the phone to the television, the Chromecast communicates directly with the cloud and thereby saves phone battery life, frees up the device to complete other tasks (unlike AirPlay) and allows for multiple users to queue up selections (think being at a party and multiple people adding songs to an on-demand playlist). As additional apps build in Cast support, Chromecast could soon deliver on the long-standing promise of a true best-in-class TV-Everywhere device.