For July 24th, major tech media were invited by Google to just a
“breakfast” with Android chief Sundar Pichai, but most of them correctly
surmised–due to various leaks–that a new Nexus 7 tablet and the latest
version of Android (4.3) were going to be part of the event. And they
were right: Google announced a new Nexus 7 with gorgeous high-density
display as well as Android 4.3, both of which sport newish features such
as restricted user accounts and support for latest versions of OpenGL 3D
graphics and Bluetooth, which would give technophiles much joy.
But the surprise of the event–and likely the year–was a small dongle
like device, not much bigger than a USB flash drive: the Chromecast
device. Google had apparently sidestepped the leak-savvy tech press in
introducing a portal to the television and caught the world unawares of
the latest device that it needs to use as a foray into the living room.
And in the days that followed, it was clear that Chromecast looks to be
the tech launch of the year. Within hours it was sold out on all three
online stores that it was launched on: Google Play, Best Buy and
Amazon.com. It eventually came back on sale, first at Google Play, and
then later at Best Buy and Amazon.com. But when it came back on for
sale, Google had to nix one of the promotional packages that came with
the launch: a three-month free subscription to Netflix.
At $35 a pop, Google appears to have priced the Chromecast just right.
Demand hasn’t slowed since the launch, and devices appear to have been flying off the shelves, virtual or physical as they may be.
But for Google, the Chromecast may have been its Hail Mary pass to get
into the coveted living room, where it has fallen behind competitors
like Apple, Roku and Boxee.
Foray Into the Living Room
Ah, the coveted living room. The prima donna of the apartment. The place
where families and individuals spend prime time — and where
broadcasters attempt to optimize shows to rake in the advertising
That, and the fact that Google–for all its technology and
coolness–still primary makes its revenue from advertising, may explain
why Google is so desparate to get its foot into the living room. Its
previous attempts at getting in there through Google TV have mostly
fallen by the wayside, as customers failed to adopt first the Logitech
Google TV, and then the later versions launched by Asus, Sony and other
Priced initially at $299, and later at $99 (for Logitech) and $150
(for the Asus box), Google TV, which got decent reviews, failed to make
inroads. In the meantime, Apple TV was carving out a fairly
insignificant portion of the market space for TV add-ons, with Roku,
Boxee and others fighting for that space.
It was clear that Google needed a winner, and a Hail Mary pass at that,
to come out on top in what is now a crowded battlefield for the living
room. And it appears that in Chromecast, the search giant may have found its winner.
At $35, its almost an impulse buy. And the Chromecast lets you stream
Netflix and Youtube for now from any device, be it an Android or Apple
smartphone or tablet, or any laptop or desktop with the Chrome browser
installed on it.
The initial Chromecast, which came with three months of Netflix for
free, worked out to virtually only $11 – once you subtract the $24 in
cost savings from a free three month subscription to Netflix. No wonder
Google had to pull the plug on that part of the promotion after just the
first day of launch.
Nevertheless, the Chromecast appears to be on its way to be the sleeper
tech hit of this year. And it finally gives Google one more chance to
battle its way to the hearts of users in what could be the most coveted
battleground for everyday entertainment (and ad dollars): the living room.