Rumors are swirling right now that Google is set to launch Android TV, a new set top box that may challenge Amazon’s Fire TV and the Apple TV. While many people are excited about the possibility of buying the Android TV set top box, it has also left us with an important question: What will happen to Google’s Chromecast streaming media player? USA Today has a very negative view of Android TV and its possible effects on the Chromecast.
As if launching a redundant device wasn’t bad enough, introducing a second media-center model will likely confuse many customers who will conflate Android TV with the Chromecast device and — most regrettably — Google TV. Developers will be forced to design for two interfaces, splitting the time they could be designing for the already-popular Chromecast; failure to do so will grant the Android TV the same disastrous fate as Google TV and threaten the growing support for Chromecast.
The conceit behind Google’s obsession with the Google TV model is still a mystery, and it’s even more mysterious why it would potentially squander the lightning-in-the-bottle success it has seen with the Chromecast. The point is, the Android TV leaks fail to show any reason why it should exist, and it’s not Apple TV, Roku, or Amazon Fire TV that are under threat.
The only thing in jeopardy is Chromecast.
Image credit: Amazon
Android TV or the Chromecast?
When I first heard about Android TV I also wondered why Google was bothering with it given how successful the Chromecast seems to have been with consumers. It seemed quite odd to me that Google would suddenly decide to take on Amazon and Apple when it already had a very popular TV product.
But I think if you take another look at this it actually makes some sense. The Android TV device will most likely sell for around the same price as the Apple TV and the Amazon Fire TV: $99. So it will be competing at a slightly higher spot in the market than the Chromecast, which sells for about $35.
Also, as good as the Chromecast is there are certain things that it’s just not made to do like playing games. Amazon’s Fire TV already offers a selection of games, as well as an external controller. I’m sure that Google is very aware of this and also wants to be in the set top box gaming market with the Android TV. So it makes sense for the company to offer something more than just the Chromecast.
And it won’t just be games that are available on the Android TV. Google will most likely offer other apps as well. An app store is just not something that can happen with the Chromecast and Google is well aware of this. Remember that Google makes its money by getting people to use its services, so being able to offer its services via apps on the Android TV is a very important part of its business model. The more people that use Google’s services, the more money the company makes by showing them advertising.
If Google did not come out with the Android TV then it would essentially be ceding the apps and games set top box marketplace to Amazon and Apple (recent rumors seem to indicate that Apple is coming out with a revised Apple TV that offers games and apps). Google knows that it can’t depend on Amazon or Apple to promote its money-making services, so it has to do it itself via the Android TV.
But not everyone wants to play games or use apps. Some people just want to stream TV shows, movies, etc. and that is where the Chromecast comes in. It appeals to a very different segment of the market in its simplicity and ease of use. And it also costs significantly less than any set top box, as I noted above. Those who don’t care about apps or games will skip the Android TV and opt for the Chromecast instead.
And the Chromecast has one thing that no set top box ever will be able to offer: portability. You can unplug it and stick it in your pocket, and take it with you whenever you want. Try that with an Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV or Android TV. Yeah, you can unplug a set top box and carry it somewhere, but good luck getting it to fit in your pocket.
Developers, developers, developers
As far as developers go, I think they will be quite happy to develop for both devices. Most developers know how to manage UI design for multiple devices, so I don’t think that Android TV is going to throw them off the Chromecast at all. If there’s money to be made by creating apps and games for both devices then you can bet that developers will be delighted to do so. They’ll do whatever work is necessary to turn a good profit by selling their apps, games and services on the Android TV and Chromecast.
So I think the naysayers are quite wrong about the Android TV somehow becoming a replacement for the Chromecast. They are two very different products that are aimed at different consumers. I don’t see the Chromecast going away at all, I think Google knows exactly what it has with the Chromecast and it will take great care to protect that product’s success in the marketplace.
In the end, I think it’s really just a case of apples and oranges with the Chromecast and Android TV.
What’s your take on this? Tell me in the comments below.