Jul 29, 2013
Google finally just did something really interesting in trying to win the battle of beaming media to TVs: they decided to go mass-market. Chromecast is an absolutely genius move from Google.
Apple could and arguably should have won this already. The Apple TV and AirPlay could have dominated, and for all intents and purposes, has been the winner by default. Samsung’s AllCast has barely made a blip, and Miracast has limited interest so far. But yet, since Apple has taken AirPlay to just be a hobby to this day, there’s been a gap still. And Chromecast could fill it because no death blow has been made yet.
The price has a lot to do with what the Chromecast can do: $35 is budget and impulse-buy friendly. I hardly ‘need’ a Chromecast (though owning one for work purposes is a good idea) and I bought one pretty much instantaneously. That it sold out instantaneously means that there’s definite consumer interest there too, even just as a curiosity. Turn any TV into a smart TV for $35? Sure! And it’s cheaper than most other solutions out there. That’s a scary price, and one that will likely get other streaming services scrambling to get Chromecast-compatible.
But most importantly, Google is focusing on content to start off with. There’s the ability to beam any Chrome page to a TV, quite possibly including video elements. This could serve as a great springboard for the Play video service. And most importantly, they got Netflix, the kahuna of streaming video services, at launch. Without Netflix, this thing is a heap of garbage.
Google used a bit of smoke-and-mirrors to pull off the reveal too. They’ve conveniently not shown the USB power cable that extends out of the Chromecast to power it. They also announced the free 3 months of Netflix that were taken away when they ran out of codes a day later due to high demand. Should they try to reinstate it? Such a move would be clever (and would make it a no-doubter proposition for Netflix subscribers who would end up basically paying $11 for the device), but may not be prudent in the long term.
Oh, and this all works cross-platform. Chromecast will work with seemingly anything built to support it as Google (or hackers) allow it. It’s not just about the edge case of mirroring or streaming, it’s about users being able to get the content they want on their TV easily. And Google’s going to get them to do it cheaply and with Google products.
What Google does with Chromecast over the next year, if they can turn it into the big push-to-TV standard based on price, will be interesting. But they’re off to a big start, because their biggest competitor failed to pin the market when they had the advantage.