One reads lots of b***shit these days, every time any company announces something that it is considered “a menace to Apple” as most of the media and bloggers like to think of it… Forgetting that today’s Apple predominance was simply built on consumer satisfaction and brilliant retail marketing and that the existing hardware and iOS/OS X ecosystem will not be menaced by single-sided initiatives like the tried-and-failed-many-times ones by competitors, such as Google, Microsoft or Samsung. One has to wonder nevertheless why is it that great product announcements by Apple are mostly received by the media in general with cold indifference while any other announcement of whatever is considered to be an “Apple-killer” is greeted as though it is the greatest thing in the world (probably to do with the many millions of dollars of Samsung and Android related advertising spending, compared to Apple’s zero dollar spending on advertising in that media?)
The most recent announcement by Google – apart from giving us another two plastic tablets manufactured by a PC maker with version 103 of the Android fragmented OS – has to do, interestingly with Apple’s hobby called Apple TV.
There is no doubt that Apple has a clear strategy towards merging it’s ecosystem with the television market, both in terms of content market (iTunes), hardware (large multiple screens) and software (convergence of iOS and Mac OS) and even though the whole world is talking about an Apple entry in that domain, the reality is they are already the leaders in that segment with their existing Apple TV box used by millions of satisfied customers worldwide (>13 million according to Apple’s figures in March 2013).
And long before the Apple TV box was even considered as a “success”, Microsoft had spent billions trying to dominate that concept with many different strategies and Google had announced already several initiatives in several editions of the CES show in Las Vegas, the most notable of which was called Google TV, together with Motorola, Sony and other consumer electronics companies who finally regretted getting involved…
Fast-forward to July 2013 and we now have Google’s admission of failure of the Google TV strategy and the announcement of an USB/HDMI stick called Chromecast offering approximately 20% of the functionalities of an Apple TV box in terms of streaming services and, most important of all, introducing (copying) concepts and technologies to connect tablet/smartphones and the Google Chrome OS/browser with television sets. Technologies which are basically a copy of something called AirPlay which Apple pioneered successfully years ago, allowing remote control, streaming of content and screen sharing from mobile devices / computers to the TV via Wi-Fi (and most importantly, AirPlay is supported by thousands of iOS apps and hardware devices).
Interestingly as well, Google opted to implement the device on a cheap $35 plastic dongle with an external transformer and USB power supply and no other interfaces, while Apple TV’s offers external storage connection options, high quality digital audio output and Ethernet connectivity, apart from supporting the most advanced Wi-Fi standards in 2,4 and 5 GHz. (no surprise there, since Apple has invested strongly on R&D in this area, for years, while everyone was sleeping… much like they did with the iPhone, iPad and everything else)
No wonder though that after receiving the “magical” Chromecast for review, the media in general greeted it with disappointment, after finding about the physical connections, the limited content options and functionalities (Chromecast is limited to 2,4 GHz Wi-Fi so you will need a very good coverage where your TV is…), screen-mirroring limited to a few Android apps (not the device itself), no physical remote control options (for the moment you need a smartphone or tablet to do it), way behind Apple TV, Roku and a plethora of Chinese Android STBs available worldwide.
In fact, when you look in detail on what is offered by Google’s Chromecast for the 35 USD, you will quickly realize that it is exactly the same (or less) of the functionalities of the connected TV’s (Smart TV’s for some), propelled in the last 3 editions of the CES as “a revolution” and which no one cares actually.
So, here we have to wonder who really will be affected by this announcement. Much like Google’s own Android devices or Microsoft Surface tablet, which where basically clear attempts at stabbing your ecosystem partners in the back by trying to circumvent the middle market to the consumer (then presented as “reference designs” when they failed…), Google’s Chromecast can be a real menace to the Smart/Connected TV concepts as well as any further attempt to revitalize “interactive TV” experiences like the recently revitalized Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) standard. In fact Chromecast is a practical demonstration that eventually, OTT will no longer mean another revenue source for TV distribution/aggregators and IPTV/Quad-play telecom operators and that the consumer will basically will access content directly from the web. (And we all know this means eventually an explosion on the piracy of content if it depends of Google – as if they cared…)
Is this anything new? No…
Is it relevant? Yes. For Google, since they can finally experiment a direct connection for their own content services (like Youtube) and the consumers in another very important platform, competing with Apple, who understood that connection long ago.
But it’s mainly a clear lesson to the consumer electronics and the IT/hardware industry that they SHOULD NOT TRUST GOOGLE and they should stop wasting billions of dollars designing hardware solutions that consistently fail to get consumers satisfaction because they are depending on a compromised and fragmented software like Android OS.