New streaming dongle goes on sale today at $50
A new Google Chromecast was unveiled today that uses “Google TV” software aimed at taking the pain away from searching through streaming apps.
The new $50 streaming device was announced today during Google’s virtual “Launch Night In” hardware event.
It’s available for order at retail stores such as Best Buy, Home Depot and Walmart today in the U.S. and goes on sale in other countries later this year.
The unveiling came after months of online leaks about the 4K HDR streaming device. For the first time, Chromecast has a remote control that includes voice search capabilities through Google Assistant.
The new Google TV software was described as a merging of the company’s powerful search engine with its Android TV software.
“Google makes it so easy for anyone to enter something they’re looking for and find results right away,” Shalini Govil-Pai, general manager of Google TV said. “That’s the same experience we want to recreate on Google TV, a whole new approach whose aim is to deliver an entertaining and personal experience and a discovery paradigm made just for you.”
The latest Chomecast can still cast apps from a smartphone or tablet, but takes a completely different approach to streaming.
Google TV aggregates shows and movies from different streaming apps and subscriptions into a single menu.
The palm-sized remote control has dedicated buttons for YouTube, Netflix and Google Assistant. The new Google Chromecast works with Nest security cameras and doorbells, and can still cast photo albums from a smartphone to a TV.
Casting apps from a smartphone or tablet was the only way to use prior generations of Chromecast. That essentially made your smartphone or device you were casting Netflix from a de-facto remote control.
This latest Chromecast runs on Android TV which also runs on Smart TVs, NVIDIA Shield and Xiaomi Mi Box.
“We will be bringing the Google TV experience to many more streaming devices in the Android TV ecosystem,” Govil-Pai said, without naming specific hardware.
Google TV appears to be the company’s approach to taking away the pain of searching from one streaming app to the next to find something to watch.
Predictions: Winners and losers with Google TV
I have yet to test out the new Google Chromecast, but I plan on buying one today so I can put it through its paces for an upcoming review.
Considering recent events, trends and competing devices, Google could be in a good position for an aggressive push into the streaming television market.
Google’s success in becoming a leading device maker would depend on producing an affordable streaming device that would be easy to use for any age demographic.
Taking a neutral approach to streaming platforms — including its own YouTube TV service — could also give it an edge. People want flexibility with streaming devices. They don’t want to be shoehorned.
Chomecast’s re-imagined interface could also be bad news for some hardware-makers that are selling streaming devices at the same $50 price point; namely, the Xiaomi Mi Box S, and the new TiVo Stream 4K.
Can Google Chromecast compete?
Whether the new Google Chromecast can gain enough traction to compete with Roku and Amazon Fire TV remains to be seen.
Roku still dominated the streaming device market as of Q2 of 2020 with an estimated 43 million active user accounts. Amazon Fire TV is estimated to be close behind. And even if the new Chromecast is intuitive to use as a Roku or Amazon Fire TV, those two companies shouldn’t start worrying yet.
Google is among the few companies that could create a streaming device to compete with Roku and Amazon. (The Apple TV 4K currently retails for $179.99.)
Google has widespread name recognition, plenty of capital and obviously a willingness to compete on price with Roku and Amazon.
Roku and Amazon have not exactly won over consumers with its contractual disputes to carry apps for HBO Max and Peacock. Roku recently worked out a deal with NBCUniversal’s Peacock, but still doesn’t have HBO Max.
Amazon is still in talks with parent companies for the two streaming platforms.
The lack of one or two streaming services is not enough to prompt a mass exodus from Roku or Amazon Fire TV. But it’s the kind of opening that a company like Google could exploit if it had the desire to do so.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble