Chromecast: Has Google stolen the living room from Apple and Microsoft?
Yesterday Google released the new version of Android (still called Jelly Bean, but the version number moved to 4.3) – sticking to the twice a year upgrade cycle. Just like the last year it is Nexus 7 which introduced the 4.3 experience to the world. Nexus 7 is already one of the hottest selling gadgets around and the latest hardware makes it one of the best tablets in that form factor.
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Nexus or Android are not the big stories of the day, the biggest story of the day is a mere $35 HDMI dongle called Chromecast. This tiny device can crash the wet living room dreams of both Microsoft and Apple. Chromecast may change the way we consume rich media on the TV as it turns the HDTV into a streaming device without needing any set-top box or cable bundle. It could also be the beginning of a TV revolution, cutting out the middle man who sits between the content creators and their audience.
How it works?
Chromecast is a tiny, (size of your thumb) Wi-Fi enabled HDMI dongle which can be plugged into any HD TV or monitor with a HDMI port. Once connected and configured a user can ‘cast’ any content offered by the supported apps or web sites to the TV. Currently Chromecast allows videos from YouTube, Google Play and other online videos that can be played on a chrome browser; it can also stream music from Google Music. Google is also working on a feature where a user will be able to ‘cast’ any tab from her Chrome browser. So, if you are reading a news story on your iPhone or Galaxy S4 you can immediatly cast it on your TV to share with everyone else in the room.
Google has also announced the Google Cast SDK which enables developers to cast their mobile and web content to the TV. It also means that developes don’t have to write new apps to bring their content to their users.
It’s not going to stop here, soon games and other content (apps) will be able to be streamed to the HDTV via Chromecast, so you will be able to play Modern Warfare on a 32″ HDTV.
Clear edge over Apple TV
Chromecast has a clear edge over Apple TV as it’s a thumb-sized device which can be carried in pocket. So if you are traveling just bring the device with you, connect to the HD TV in your hotel room and enjoy the content. It’s so cheap that you can get more than one (in fact 3 at the cost of one Apple TV). Since the device, like many other Google services, is platform agnostic you can use with what ever device you have – whether it be an iPhone, iPad, Mac or a PC.
The device doesn’t steam content from your tablet, phone or laptop – it streams the content directly from the web to the connected TV so you are free to do anything else on your device while the content continues to play on the TV.
With Chromecast, Google has once again taken the lead from Apple which is now trying to catch up with unstoppable innovation in the Android sphere – whether it be software from Google or hardware from companies like Samsung, Sony, LG and ASUS.
Apple TV’s limitations (vendor lock) make Chromecast a much better device, suited for everyone’s living room – it really doesn’t matter if you are an Mac, iOS, Windows or Android user.
It’s all about cross-platform ecosystem
That’s what both Apple and Microsoft fail to understand – the future is not as much about platforms and devices as it is about services. Google is going to shake the industry with this cheap and tiny device. It will reduce the influence of the non-progressive middleman – the cable or the cellular companies – and bring content directly from creators to the audience. Chromecast is the evolution of TV which it deserved. It is going to threaten many traditional models, including the cable and cellular companies and they may, instead of finding better solutions, fight back by either throttling speed or by charging for the bandwidth.
You get 3 months subscription of Netflix for free with Chromecast purchase
That’s where YouTube comes in picture. Both Apple and Microsoft lack any content creation or distribution platform like YouTube, which is now also bringing paid content to users – including the latest movies. Chromecast may give Hollywood the solution to the problem the movie industry is facing currently. Why would someone want to pirate a bad-quality movie when she can watch it on her high definition TV as soon as it is released? The more people use Chromecast the more Google will know what you are watching (which is good as well as bad) thus creating a better advertising experience. Which advertiser won’t want a targeted access to the living room?
Fixing Nexus Q and Google TV
Google has finally fixed the problem with Nexus Q and Google TV at a much lower price (for a buyer). Google has’t made any mistake lately and has gracefully (without throwing any dirt) taken over the innovative lead from Apple (and market from Microsoft) by not only introducing better hardware, but also better software (Android, and Chrome OS). It’s now brining new business and content delivery models.
No surprises that Google started laying its own optical fibre cable to reach out to its audience so as to eliminate any threat cable companies may pose.
Android is not important, ecosystem and Chrome are
Google is getting the game – it’s all about services and ecosystem spread across the platform and this is not the model used by Apple and Microsoft. These companies create services to secure the cash cow platform (in case of Microsoft it’s software and in case of Apple it’s hardware). So, when we look at the grand scheme of things Android is not the ‘core’ Google product, it’s really not that imporatant – Google’s core product is the web, it’s the content; it’s Chrome.
Chromecast gives Apple and Microsoft a lot of reasons to worry. Let’s see how Apple responds to the competition; I am not much optimistic about Microsoft, though.
That said, we do need some healthy competition in the market to keep the good ‘ol Google on its toes.