Chromecast and Google TV: Is there room for both?

July 25, 2013
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The new Google Chromecast dongle is pictured on an electronic screen as it is announced during a Google event at Dogpatch Studio in San Francisco Salon

As much as we all love the concept and promise of Chromecast, some questions should be asked. Is this meant to kill off Google TV? There sure hasn’t been much news from the TV division at Google, so maybe they’re scaling their efforts down. After all, a $35 investment is much more approachable than a $100-200 one, and we’ve been anticipating the demise of Google TV almost since inception.

If we take a closer look at the similarities and differences between the two, it’s clear that Chromecast doesn’t yet accomplish what Google TV is capable of. That being said, the fact is that neither is doing what we want of them right now. The difference here is that Chromecast is hours old, while Google TV has been in the game far too long not to have it together by now.

Hardware

For me, this is the line in the sand. I can spend $35 on a simply dongle, or upwards of $200 on a Google TV system. One takes up an HDMI port on my TV, while the other needs space on a mantle or shelf. Chromecast is simply a receiver, while Google TV is meant to be an entire experience.

To my mind, Chromecast is Google hedging their bets on a Google TV failure.

Another great thing about Chromecast is that it takes away the dedicated remote. No more fumbling to find the right remote, or open the proper app. I go on about my normal mobile activity, and when I feel like something should be seen on the big screen, I “fling” it up there. The remote is gone, leaving me with content, which is exactly what I want.

Google TV remotes are almost always complicated, fussy, aggravating sticks we wish we didn’t have to deal with. Even the Google TV remote control app from Google is confusing, which doesn’t make the platform any more approachable. The remote for the Sony Google TV box is double sided, with a keyboard on one and a trackpad with various buttons on the other. That’s not only confusing, it’s not comfortable to use. Just in aesthetics alone, Google TV is a confused mess.

sony google tv nsz-gs8 press

Software

Google TV software is always hotly debated. One UI is different from the next, and none are any good. We lament the amount of apps available, and are befuddled by the lack of partnerships Google has managed with the platform. It crashes, it fails, it gives up on us – a lot. There are updates to download, and nothing seems to fix the problems that persist from one unit to the next.

With Chromecast, there is no software. Aside from a handshake with Netflix, there are no official partners outside of Google’s services like YouTube or Play Store media. That may sound like an epic failure on Google’s part, but they’ve built in a failsafe for Chromecast: the ability to fling web pages to the TV. While my Amazon Prime or HBO GO media may not readily show itself on the big screen from the Android or iOS app, it will in the Chrome browser. With Chromecast, what’s already available has found a new medium. Addition by subtraction, as the case may be.

sundar pichai google android event (5)

What Google Says

Sundar Pichai said yesterday that Google TV isn’t going anywhere, and that he’s eager to announce new partnerships for the platform, which he plans to do at CES 2014. In the meantime, developers will find time to put the Chromecast API into their apps, growing a platform that immediately has everyone excited(something Google TV could never claim). Oddly enough, Pichai noted that Chromecast simply has too much latency for gaming, but the “immersive experience” Google TV provides would be great for that. If I were a betting man, I’d have to say he just hinted at the newest direction Google TV is going.

Pichai, who is notably in charge of both platforms, seems to think there is a common ground both can exist on. The thinking seems to be that both devices suit a need, and don’t encroach on one another. Aside from gaming, I’m not so sure that’s the case.

google chromecast features

The real story

I’d have to disagree with the assertion that both have a place next to one another. To my mind, Chromecast is Google hedging their bets on a Google TV failure. Everything about Chromecast screams trojan horse, and not in a bad way. It’s easy to use, occupies almost no physical space, and has workarounds built in for immediate success and appeal on a huge scale.

Google is a company focussed on services, and Chromecast is really a means to an end for those services. Google TV, however, is a platform that has never worked properly, and continues to flounder.

Google, by their own admission, notes that mobile media consumption far outweighs the same on TV. Pichai noted that the average US household will watch 4.5 hours of TV daily, and that they want to find a way to bridge the gap between TV use and digital content streaming. In saying there is a bridge to gap, Google is effectively saying Google TV is less than adequate, if not nearly useless.

The first question I asked today was whether or not Chromecast was meant to kill of Google TV. The answer, I think, is “no”. I don’t think Chromecast is here to kill off TV, but I also don’t think it’s going to resuscitate it. Google’s new mantra is to get tech out of the way so we can enjoy the things that matter (addition by subtraction, as it were). It was drilled into our heads at I/O, and is a dictum that resonates with the masses. Chromecast is adept at delivering on that focus, while Google TV is simply another platform to manage.

Google is a company focussed on services, and Chromecast is really a means to an end for those services. Google TV, however, is a platform that has never worked properly, and continues to flounder. We hope CES 2014 brings great things for Google TV, but we’re done anticipating what that platform could be, and will instead accept it for what it is.

Perhaps, as is the new thinking in Mountain View, Google TV should just get out of the way so I can enjoy my Chromecast.

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