Hello and welcome to this week’s Espresso of Innovation; the hottest news and strongest stories from the world of creativity and technology filtered into a quick shot of inspiration. This week, we’re getting square eyes.
Google recently launched Chromecast, a HMDI dongle that links laptops, smartphones and tablets to your TV. This media streaming adaptor allows content to be played from a portable device on your TV set as well as creating playlists and queues – pretty much what was available on Google TV but more compact and a third of the price. Google is also undercutting Apple’s Airplay devices and cleverly opened up compatibility to both Android and iOS platforms as it is inevitable they’ll need the iOS user base in order to succeed.
Chromecast’s $35 price tag feels like a bargain, which has contributed to the instant sell-out and weeks of back orders, but initial reviews are quick to point out its flaws. With just six apps, and only Netflix not Google owned, the choice range for content consumers crave is much more limited than Chromecast’s competition. However, Google recognises this and more apps, such as Pandora, are rumoured to be added soon. At this stage of a relatively young market it is perhaps more important to be seen as a primary player offering an inexpensive, reliable device. Refining their product offering iteratively in line with consumer usage habits will help Google stay ahead of the curve.
The main benefit of the new device is that contrary to AirPlay apps, Chromecast’s direct internet connection allows interactions with other apps or games while streaming video. This taps in to our natural digital behaviour by allowing users to multitask. This doesn’t just serve the individual: Ofcom has recently published a report indicating families’ return to the living room. While more than half of participants stated they multitasked while watching TV, a quarter were “media meshers” who used phones and tablets to interact with show content. This ability to watch a suitable programme together, at a convenient time and in comfort is helping bring teenagers out of their bedrooms without disconnecting them from their social circle.
Of course, the development of the product category itself is based on another natural digital behaviour, to binge-watch box set content on demand, coupled with the desirable option of a bigger screen. The popularity of services such as Netflix, and more importantly their high quality original programming, has shown a viable mass-market challenge to big TV networks. This changing consumption habit also shows a route to minimising piracy and so widens advertising revenue channels relating to online streaming. With specific viewing data available and new Netflix profiles, serving relevant ads to consumers will be easier than ever. It will be interesting to see how the generated advertising revenue is split between content owners and Google. Ultimately if Google does not offer content owners and distributors a way to monetise their programmes via Chromecast, partners will pull back and the lack of available apps will turn off consumers.