Google may have just won the battle for the living room.
With the launch of a small streaming stick called Chromecast, Google is ready to turn any HD television set into a smart TV. The device, which plugs into a TV's HDMI port, retails for US$35 and will sync nearly any content from a Chrome browser on a PC or mobile device (Android or iOS) to the HD screen.
Chromecast also works with mobile apps that take advantage of the Google Cast software developer kit (SDK). Apps supported at launch include ones from Netflix Inc. and YouTube Inc., as well as Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Music.
In one swift move, Google has (metaphorically) rewired the living room. Suddenly, almost anything consumers want to watch on the web is available on the TV. There's no walled garden, and Chromecast isn't limited to a handful of connected devices, or even to a single desktop or mobile operating system. With a single $35 purchase, consumers have virtually the entire Web available on a television set.
Google's strategy is to get its platform embedded in the TV ecosystem. And while it's strictly designed for online content (unlike the RDK software bundle), it's also dirt cheap and instantly available to almost anyone.
Chromecast also turns a PC or mobile device into a remote control and even lets users continue multitasking with other apps while streaming media wirelessly to the TV. The Chromecast technology only comes in the form of an HDMI stick today, but Google says it will be embedded in new hardware (presumably TVs and set-tops) in the future.
Google still has to prove that Chromecast works as advertised. But if it does, then the game has changed.
Ironically, the cable industry was petrified when Google briefly controlled Motorola's set-top business. But if Chromecast takes off the way it should, cable companies could still be faced with having to put their content on Google devices ... in addition to boxes from Roku Inc., the Xbox from Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc.'s Apple TV. (See Is Apple TV the New Cable Channel.)
Cable apps for Chromecast, anyone?
— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable