The streaming media marketplace is hardly lacking for competition. Major players such as Roku and Apple have staked their claim, offering devices that allow consumers to watch movies, surf the Web and play games on their televisions. In April, mega retailer Amazon entered the market with the release of Fire TV, a product that offers tight integration with the company’s popular ecosystem and a strong focus on gaming. Google, too, has a foothold in the market with its popular Chromecast device, which allows users to perform computer functions on a television screen.
Given the above, why is Google moving ahead with yet another media streamer in the form of Android TV? It’s a question many observers are asking, especially given the fact that the company’s last attempt at a similar product, Google TV, was a spectacular failure.
“Chromecast is a successful product,” said Jason Hope, tech expert. “It’s inexpensive, works well and has proven popular in the market. But if Google wants to dominate this market it needs more than Chromecast. It needs a full featured device capable of going head to head with Roku, Apple and Amazon. Roku is following the same multi-device strategy, and it’s a savvy one. It allows both companies to serve two market niches.”
Let’s take a look at what we know about Android TV and how it might stack up against its competitors.
Yet another streaming device?
Media reports about the impending release of Android TV hit the Internet in early April. According to documents published by The Verge, Android TV will look and function much like its competitors from Apple, Amazon and Roku offering users a set top experience stuffed with games, movies, apps and Web browsing. The difference is the Android platform, although in the case of Fire TV, it may not be much of a difference, as Fire TV already runs on a modified version of the Android operating system. Google has yet to discuss Android TV, so it’s impossible to do more than speculate about the device’s features relative to its competition. For those who are deeply embedded into the Google ecosystem, however, any Google-related set top streamer will likely be an attractive option.
Why not stick with Chromecast?
Many Chromecast owners may feel disinclined to upgrade to Android TV. After all, the $35 device performs most of the functions of its $100 competitors and performs them well. But there are a couple of reasons why a switch might make sense for some consumers. First, Google’s Chromecast lacks a remote control, so users must have a smartphone, laptop or other secondary device to operate the Chromecast. While this may not seem like a big deal to some, it’s a deal breaker to a considerable portion of the buying public.
Chromecast also doesn’t offer the same kind of all-in-one set top experience that Roku, Apple or Amazon products do. Allowing users to access an app and content marketplace directly on-screen is a key feature for two reasons: users like the ability to easily scroll through choices in one dedicated area, and companies want to encourage users to spend money on content while browsing their set top marketplace. If Google is going to compete with Apple’s App Store and Fire TV on content sales, it needs its own content front and center in living rooms across the world.
Finally, Android TV sets Google up nicely for the future. As inexpensive and compelling as Chromecast may be, it doesn’t necessarily square with the future of smart television. Google needs a powerful device capable of handling the demands of modern viewers, especially if it wants to lock those viewers into its own profitable ecosystem. “Without a device like Android TV, the company seems ill-prepared to do battle with its rivals in the smart TV wars, says Mr. Hope (https://medium.com/@jasonhope). Chromecast, while a nice device for what it does and what it costs, simply isn’t powerful enough on its own.
Consumers have more possibilities than ever when looking for a streaming media device. The introduction of Android TV will only add to those options. Paired with its popular Chromecast device, Google will be in a strong position to capitalize on the shift toward streaming content.
About the Author
Amy Taylor is a business and technology writer. Amy began her career as a small business owner in Phoenix, AZ. She enjoys writing about business technology trends. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking with her Alaskan Malamute, Sam.
Photo credit: Robert S. Donovan, Exo Level LLC.
Additional note: ANDROID TV™ is a trademark of Exo Level LLC. Federal trademark registration pending. ± Exo Level is not associated with Google, Inc. in any way.