The launch of Google’s Chromecast aggressively opens a new avenue for the brand towards a presence in the consumer’s living room. At $35, the HDMI dongle allows users to cheaply stream content from Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, the Chrome browser and photos albums to their TVs utilizing the Chrome Operating system. Unlike SMART TV interfaces or connected devices which feature remotes and onscreen menus, Chromecast uses a consumer’s existing devices as a second screen to control it, meaning content can be streamed and controlled from Android phones and tablets, iPhones, iPads and Chrome for Mac and Windows. The ability to stream content to a Chromecast device happens within a second screen app, indicating Google is relying on developers to add functionality to existing apps over attempting to create native versions on their device. Google has positioned Chromecast as a light weight, straightforward and affordable solution to making any TV ‘smart’.
By launching Chromecast, Google has entered into competition across sectors including: SMART TVs with streaming technology, video game consoles with entertainment apps and entertainment/streaming devices like Roku and Apple TV. Though the marketplace is crowded, Chromecast is positioned to answer many of the challenges posed by competitors. The device’s low price point helps it to compete against SMART TVs and other entertainment devices. The wide compatibility across mobiles, tablets and computer helps it in comparison to Apple TV and Airplay streaming, which is a more established technology but limited to the brand’s own products.
Chromecast’s biggest competitive challenge comes from proving its value against the most popular of connected devices, video game consoles. The expansion of consoles from gaming devices to full entertainment platforms has helped subtly scale streaming enabled devices and historically posed problems for competitors such as SMART TVs. To compete, Chromecast must deliver unique content to differentiate against and answer the most likely device already within the home.
One answer comes from Chromecast’s model of embedding functionality in second screen applications, which could allow for faster content catalogue growth than traditionally found in the sector. If content owners and developers find an ease of use with Google’s development model, it could begin to not only meet the content offerings of other devices, but also outpace them for new opportunities in the future. An additional benefit for the brand is the ability to stream video content from the Chrome browser, which could act as an accelerator in building a content catalogue quickly amongst streaming sites and web based applications.
The scale of Chromecast’s success depends on the ability to identify viable audiences for the device. Chromecast can focus on becoming a second device for current connected TV owners with comparable content, capture those already warm to the market with its price or even grow the category of connected entertainment devices by positioning itself as the simple streaming solution. Success in the latter allows Google to take advantage of the proliferation and refinement of streaming content to become a default choice for those late to a first ‘smart’ TV experience.
Chromecast not only represents an opportunity for Google, but wider implications for related hardware and streaming content. Its focus on interface devices already utilized as ‘second screen’ highlights how manufacturers can tap into existing platforms to make a smarter, cleaner interface that makes the primary screen just about viewing. Leveraging the strength of existing devices also allows for a lighter device footprint and possible efficiencies in product development. Its content development model speaks to bringing control to where it is best housed, in the existing apps used by the consumer across a variety of devices. Finally, the price point shows that while Google hasn’t made something entirely original, it has packaged some of the best bits of streaming devices in an approachable and thoughtful way.
The device’s simplicity, price and content could combine with the increasing prominence of streaming services such as Netflix and the continued growth of tablets amongst less ‘early adopter’ segments to bring connected viewing into living rooms that previously hadn’t considered it.