Will it be third time lucky for Google TV with Chromecast?



Google’s recent Chromecast announcement sent flutters across the net as it drew the battle line with rivals like Apple and Netflix. Although Chromecast is compatible with iOS and also broadcasts Netflix, it promotes Google’s own services like Google Music, Movies and TV too. Recent headlines indicated that Netflix and YouTube account for half of America’s internet traffic in the first half of 2013; with the former accounting for 32.3% according to Sandvine. That’s a lot of time that people aren’t searching on Google, and the less people search on Google, the less clicks happen on Google’s core revenue product: Adwords.

On the flipside, apps like Amazon Instant, HBO Go, MLB.TV, Spotify, and Rdio aren’t supported which sounds a further call to battle with Amazon (who Google are already taking on in the ecommerce space with their Product Listing Ads) and Spotify, which is closely aligned to Facebook. It also doesn’t support personal media on your device, bar a rather cumbersome hack, so all you Piratebay fans can hold off — for now.

This announcement follows on the heels of the seemingly failed Logitech Revue set-top box which supported Google TV and retailed at US$73.99. The problem with this was a case of a half-baked product: the software was still largely “beta” — something synonymous with Google and it shipped with a clunky keyboard and trackpad which made navigating the whole system quite tricky. Samsung didn’t do anyone any favours either by shipping its Google TV products with a large calculator-like remote. The timing of the Logitech Revue launch in 2010 was also mistimed as the adoption of internet video watching hadn’t reached the zenith previously mentioned. That mistake in product and timing reportedly cost Logitech upwards of US$100-million.

Google also released the Nexus Q, but this was nowhere to be found and many of the networks blocked it from having access to their content. This problem has largely plagued Google especially with regards to YouTube: traditional networks and content providers have been hesitant to strike deals that might lead to the dilution of their revenue and the distinctly different business model of advertising that Google presents.

Where Google has learnt from these mistakes is that the Chromecast costs US$35, which is hardly the US$74 odd dent that the Revue left in the consumer’s pocket. This pricing suggests that far more users are going to be able to afford Chromecast and this, in turn, spreads the net wider for potential ad sales further down the line. It also means that traditional network apps like HGO Go, WatchESPN and Hulu Plus are going to want a piece of the action. Conversely, what it also does is open up the product to users who regularly pirate media and who want to view said media on their TVs. So watch out for better personal media hacks for Chromecast in the future.

It also doesn’t ship with any clunky remotes but rather runs off of an interface on your mobile device. The downside to this, however, is that your mobile device needs to be relatively close to the Chromecast. But hey, it’s a mobile device – they’re supposed to move. There’s also a catch in that the Chromecast requires constant power, which means another cable running behind your TV. With that said, Google has done its homework and has made the device incredibly streamlined in terms of its design so that it’s grippable and slim — which means it can fit in the back along with any other peripherals you may have.

Still, some pundits aren’t sold: recent news has shown that the free three-month Netflix deal that came with the Chromecast is now sold out — this was touted as a possible solution to the content networks problem highlighted earlier and that’s one enticing feature of the deal that no longer exists.

Others are concerned that Chromecast is just another avenue for Google to sell ads and I’m not surprised by that, at all.



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