Much has been said about Google’s miniature entertainment device – Chromecast. Some were positive, some negative, while others consider it a passing phase. But will Google’s efforts to steady home entertainment hardware stand the test of time?
First, props to Google for coming up with a set-top box-like device that’s as small as a USB key and costs way less than what others offer. It sticks into your HDTV via the HDMI port and connects to your home WiFi to stream content directly to your TV. It doesn’t come with a remote as you can use your laptop, tablet or smartphone to control it by flipping through programs. The only downside of this device has always been its severely limited content. At launch Chromecast only offered content from Netflix, YouTube and Google Play. Then it added support for Hulu Plus, Pandora and HBO Go. Still, those are relatively few offerings compared to what Apple and Roku have.
But will Google be throwing in the towel any time soon? Not in your wildest dreams, especially when the horizon is now looking brighter for Chromecast.
Sweetening the Chromecast pot
Though Google has yet to unveil how many Chromecast units it has sold, the fact that the little device is constantly in Amazon’s top three selling devices, one of Walmart’s Best Sellers, and the Chromecast app has been downloaded between one and five million times from Google Play, means people have taken interest with the device despite its limited content offering. Imagine the numbers it could achieve if it offers more enticing content such as exclusive NFL Sunday ticket?
Not Google TV
Many were quick to judge that Chromecast is just an iteration of Google TV, but it’s not. They are two completely different platforms. For one, Google TV relied on other TV manufacturers to use the platform, whereas Chromecast is more open -people can use it with their HDTV no matter what brand it is and control it using their own device. Second, Google TV has achieved what Chromecast achieved in terms of sales and downloads. The reason behind this is the price. In order to get Google TV, you had to buy an HDTV powered by Google TV, and we know how pricey these HDTVs are. While Chromecast is way cheaper at just $35.
“This enabled us to be very nimble,” Google VP of Product Management Mario Queiroz said. Without competing interests and a multitude of possible implementations, Google was able to keep its focus on two things: price and usability. “We really tried to build the simplest possible device that we could.”
Apps, SDK, and world domination
Last week, 10 new apps made their way to the Chromecast. The apps included Plex a service that allows access to local content, online video channels and personal media backed up to the cloud, aVia, RealPlayer Cloud, BeyondPod, the Washington Post’s PostTV, online music service Songza, RedbullTV, Revision3, VEVO and Viki, the international TV platform that is now owned by Japan’s Rakuten.
The apps give Chromecast users access to more content, and we can expect more apps to come in 2014 as a finalized version of Chromecast’s SDK arrives next year. No news yet as to when exactly they plan to release. Chomecast’s SDK at launch is just a preview version which allowed developers to build apps, not distribute them, which is why there are few apps available on Chromecast right now. This will change once the SDK officially goes public.
Along with the public release of the Chromecast SDK, Google also plans on launching the device in international markets by next year. And with its SDK going public, more developers will be encouraged to create local apps for foreign countries.
“We are going to be launching in a number of international markets,” Queiroz said adding that people will be “pleasantly surprised” by the scope of this international expansion.