Chromecast is officially a thing. What started out as a simple streaming stick two years ago has now become a product that Google can boast about, with 20 million devices sold since launch. And today, we saw not one but two new versions of Chromecast, a video-streaming stick that supports modern Wi-Fi standards and another that now turns home speakers into Wi-Fi-connected, cast-enabled audio devices. Google has kept it at an accessible price — $35 per dongle — and the intent is clear: we're going to be in your living room, one way or another.
But despite how simple the Chromecast is to use, the question still remains: why is Google making Chromecast and forging ahead with Android TV? Sure, the use cases are different right now; one is a platform with its own interface, the other is interface-free (unless you count the Chromecast mobile app) and works with the apps that already exist on your phone or tablet. But at some point, you have to wonder whether these two efforts will merge.
Then again, during a fall launch season when the features of new OTT boxes and sticks are almost indistinguishable — Voice control! Casual games! Streaming sports! Fast-loading content! — what ultimately will matter is the software ecosystem and experience. Which means Google may be wise to come at the TV screen from at least two different software directions.
We had the chance to sit down with Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management at Google, and ask him some of his thoughts on the future of these video-and-audio streaming devices. Queiroz says he sees the two different platforms as complementary, not competitive; but ultimately, he believes the way people are going to be consuming media is "starting from their smartphones."