Think of the streaming devices you can choose from today. While you shouldn’t overlook Google’s offering, the average person won’t ever consider Google’s Chromecast. Their attention is going to the Fire TV, Apple’s set-top box, and whatever comprises Roku’s lineup. Yet it wasn’t always like that. Up until recently, the Chromecast was an obvious pick.
Little about the product has changed, which isn’t a bad thing here. The Chromecast gained traction in home entertainment because, aside from being so cheap, it’s incredibly simple to use. For less than $40, you get a streaming device that requires a TV, Wi-Fi, and your mobile device.
So it’s strange to see Google, who loves making our lives easier, pull away from the Chromecast as a flagship product. The company’s been showing more interest in Android TV. That platform is certainly more robust, but I’m not so sure it’s better than Cast technology.
The war for dominance in the living room has enough space for multiple companies, and Google’s best strategy is pushing the Chromecast rather than Android TV.
Google announced the Chromecast five years ago, and since then the company has sold an enormous amount of units. The last official estimate pegged sales at over 55 million units sold worldwide.
Between its debut in 2013 and now, we haven’t seen many models. The Chromecast was tweaked in 2015 alongside the launch of the Chromecast Audio. In late 2016, the Chromecast Ultra entered into the mix with 4K and HDR support. The recurring theme across all four models is simplicity. If you know how to use the apps on your phone or tablet, you know how to use a Chromecast.
Based on recent announcements, Google doesn’t plan on seriously leveraging the affordability and simplicity of the Chromecast like it did in the past. Android TV appears to be where the company is committed. The platform has built-in Cast technology; however, it’s not the focal point. Most users probably don’t know it’s even there. Android TV relies on apps instead.
Google couldn’t get any momentum behind Android TV before, so I highly doubt its latest efforts will be different. Android TV, despite being around for four years, still doesn’t have a catalog of apps that you should feel comfortable relying on.
If you’re into having the most apps possible, trust another brand. Amazon, Apple, and Roku have worked hard to attract developers and introduce third-party apps. Better yet, get a Chromecast. The apps on your phone or tablet put you a tap away from instant streaming.
Making money off Android TV is also a struggle. Hardware manufacturers don’t pay a penny to use the software, just as they don’t for Android in any other capacity. Google relies solely on ad revenue. The Chromecast was at least able to draw revenue on every unit sold.
Android TV also isn’t stacked with apps. The necessities like Netflix and HBO are available, but many of the channel-based apps are missing. Developers haven’t cared to update what they’ve already released; therefore, don’t assume tweaks for the user interface on Google’s end will change much.
The big picture, though, is that Google wants to have its digital assistant activated on a diverse set of devices. TVs and set-top boxes are standard, but JBL announced the Link Bar at I/O 2018.
As long as Google Assistant appears everywhere and anywhere, the company will be satisfied.
Google is turning its back on a product that made it known for home entertainment. As competitors were assembling set-top boxes and sticks that needed full-blown apps, Google created a standard that required very little of developers. Now it’s turned in a totally different direction that makes Google do what everyone else already did several years ago.
You can’t ask the Chromecast to accomplish much else. The product remains as excellent as it was in the early days. But the problem is that Google Assistant doesn’t have a place on the Chromecast, only with the Chromecast.
With artificial intelligence being so vital to Google’s future, it’s a sad reality that the Chromecast is likely done for.