Is this it? Will Chromecast finally give Google its must-see TV (gadget)? Here’s a look at why or why not — after the flops that were Google TV and the Nexus Q — the third time might be the charm for Google and Internet TV.
Chromecast is a 2-inch dongle (raise your hand if you love that word, too) that allows users to view Internet-based videos such as those from YouTube or Netflix on their big-screen televisions. When Google unveiled the device this week, it threw in a sweet deal: a free three-month subscription to Netflix. But alas, Google told the Los Angeles Times yesterday the promotion has been canceled because of “overwhelming demand.” Score one for the why column?
As the Merc’s Brandon Bailey and Troy Wolverton wrote, Chromecast has limited capabilities. But some analysts are bullish on it, especially because it costs only $35. And unlike Apple TV’s Airplay, Chromecast is platform-agnostic. “I think it’s a brilliant end run around the complexity of other Internet TV solutions,” said Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.
But Brandon and Troy also talked to analysts who were skeptical, and their reasons are similar to those raised by others. There is already a plethora of devices that allow people to watch Internet content on their televisions, including game consoles, Roku, Airplay, and smart TVs themselves.
In addition, Chromecast is still a baby, so it hasn’t had time to play with others yet: Only Netflix has an app for it, but Pandora and others are working on theirs. Roku, another small device that plugs into televisions and streams online content, boasts more than 750 channels, including Hulu and Amazon.
Some have done point-by-point comparisons of Chromecast against Roku and Airplay: Roku wins in content, Chromecast wins in cost and Airplay wins on connectivity, according to the Huffington Post. Marketing Land’s Danny Sullivan likes that users of Chromecast can search for content using the god-given keyboards on laptops or mobile devices, a step up from clunky searches using “dumb” remotes. And here’s another possible advantage Roku has over Chromecast. Roku doesn’t sell content, so it’s in the best interests of those that do to make apps for it. On the other hand, competitors such as Amazon or Hulu might not want to make things so easy for Google’s handy-dandy little dongle.
Photo of Chromecast by Gary Reyes/Mercury News