Apple’s recent launch of a less than push-the-envelope Apple TV has given Google, Roku, Amazon, TiVo and others (including pay TV services) an opportunity to take the lead in NTBs that stream content to TV sets.
Google this week showed two new low-cost streaming devices – one for TV sets and another for remote speakers (that also cut into one of the main uses for an Apple TV). Additionally, it showed a new tablet computer and two new Nexus-brand, Android-based smartphones
Makers of net-top streaming boxes, except TiVo, are enabling a residence where TV sets are used to access streaming and other Internet services. Instead of having channels, they use apps. Google’s uniqueness is that it positions smartphones and tablets as the controllers.
Google’s new devices: no channels but apps that ‘cast’ to a TV screen
Google’s Chromecast allows content to be “cast” from a phone or tablet to a TV set. The new one is the size of a silver dollar and sells for $35 compared to the new Apple TV that sells for $149.
Google did not use the word “4K,” so evidently the new Chromecast, like the new Apple TV, does not support 4K. Amazon, Roku and TiVo have the edge in that.
Apple TV still has a couple of advantages over Chromecast. Apple TV and Apple TV alone can play video and audio content that users have in their iTunes libraries. Apple TV users can access and play anything that Apple has in its iTunes online library – although that advantage has been whittled down by OTT services such as Vudu and others that have apps on the Chromecast.
Mario Queiroz, Google’s VP product management for Chromecast, said, “Your favorite apps, with all of the rich features, they’re already on your phone. You’re already logged in.” And so we believe one really and effective way to bring apps to TV, to bring content through apps to TV, is just to extend the mobile apps on your smartphone.”
The new Chromecast Audio, $35, plugs directly into speakers and into an electrical outlet. It receives music sent from a phone. Unlike the Apple TV, it does not need an intermediary TV set or stereo receiver to connect to remote speakers that have to have speaker wires connecting them to the TV or receiver. Chromecast Audio is also a threat to the pricey Sonos hardware.
Additionally Google now has a deal with Spotify, which is also battling Apple’s Apple Music service.
Queiroz said, “We also believe that the cast model that we’ve come up with, since it’s smartphone-centric, works just as well for sending content to a speaker as it does sending content to a TV.”
Two Smartphones Too
The smaller of the new smartphones is the Nexus 5X, which LG makes. It has an “ultrasensitive” camera that is said to take better indoor pictures, which is what most people do. The entry-level model goes for $379 with no contract. The larger phone is the Nexus 6P, which Huawei makes, is 5.7 inches and starts at $499.
Both use a charging cable, called USB Type-C, that ramps to full power quickly and, a la Apple, has a symmetrical charging port that plugs in either way.
Google said Nexus-brand products have the “purest” form of Android and, other than a few apps, don’t have the bloatware that most cellcos load onto a smartphone that they sell. It said Nexus products have the latest version of Android (sounds like Apple, eh?) and get monthly security updates.
The newest version of Android, called Marshmallow, has a new way to search the world of apps, which Google calls “a ‘TV Guide’ for the apps on your phone.” It can search everything the Chromecast device can stream.
Google said it will soon announce the first branded Google table – the Pixel.
It Ain’t Bragging if It’s Fact
Google also did a bit of bragging, as expected:
– It has sold 20 million Chromecast devices, which are compatible with thousands of apps such as Netflix and HBO Now.
– There are 1.4 billion Android devices in active use, up from one billion a year ago.
Google said it has reached those staggering numbers “by investing in large open ecosystems, which we build with everyone” – very much unlike Apple, which he did not mention.
Google did not address the issue of Apple earning more from the sales of its iPhones than all the makers of Android smartphones combined. Google has become to the smartphone industry what Microsoft is to PCs because it makes far more from the use of Android devices – even though Android is free to equipment makers – than all the companies that make Android-based smartphones.
But give Google its due…
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