When it comes to its ambitions for television, Google’s hoping that the third time’s the charm.
The other day the company unveiled Chromecast. Google’s latest foray into the television is a low-cost stick that plugs into a HDMI input to let a wide swath of smartphones, tablets, and devices using the Chrome browser seamlessly fling what they’re playing onto the TV.
Google argues that it is solving a unique problem, but it really isn’t. In fact, a myriad of devices already exist to do just that. But by coming out with a cheaper, more innovative offering, Google fired its loudest shot across the bow of Apple TV and all of the other streaming TV peripherals with the Chromecast. And at $35, it claims to have a winner.
The television is “the most immersive experience in the house,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s head of Android, Chrome, and apps at the breakfast unveiling Wednesday in San Francisco. He noted more than 200 billion online videos are watched globally by users every month, and Netflix and YouTube combined represent nearly half of peak downstream Internet traffic in North America.
“It’s very difficult to get your online media onto your television in your house,” said Pichai.
True enough. It has been difficult, but largely only for Google.
Apple sold 5.3 million of the $99 Apple TVs in the last year, and it has become the most popular way consumers are employing the AirPlay wireless streaming feature that Chromecast replicates. Roku in April said had it sold 5 million of its boxes since it launched its first player in 2008. It also touted 8 billion streams of video and music and more than 750 channels.
Google may be entering the market late but they could still be able to grab a nice piece of the pie for themselves none the less.
Chromecast does feature clear advantages. At $35, it’s cheaper than the $99 Apple TV and even Roku, which can be had for about $50. It’s compatible with nearly any device without taking up shelf space under the TV.
However, it doesn’t bode well that Google TV has been blocked by outside video services like Hulu and major content providers like ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and Comedy Central in the past.
One thing clearly bodes well for Chromecast’s potential as a blockbuster, despite the questions hovering over it: immediate demand. Within an hour of its unveiling, initial orders of Chromecast in Google’s online store were gone, listed instead as “coming soon.” Amazon lists Chromecast as back ordered up to a month, and Google’s ship time is is next month.
If that means the rest of the world has to wait to buy Chromecast, it will buy Google some time to answer some questions that the rest of the online world and waiting to hear the answers to.
What do you guys think about this? Are you going to be buying Chromecast? Do you have an Apple TV or Roku already to do the job for you? Let us know in the comments below.