Wednesday, Google announced on it's company blog a new streaming device to bring all your favorite web and video content to your TV; Chromecast.
Chromecast has several key features that will make it highly competitive even with competitors already on the market. It's cheaper with a highly affordable price point of $35, it is compatible with phones, tablets, and laptops, it can work with Netflix, Youtube, Google Play with more apps promised to come soon and developers have already been outreached to.
The ability to use Apple products along with Windows products has been cited as competitive advantage, however Apple TV is PC compatible — though alternative smart phones are not cross compatible as they are with Chromecast. With 44% of Americans using tablets, and 84% of tablet web usage on iPads it is much more important for Google to be mobile and tablet compatible with Apple than the reverse.
Apple TV allows mirroring your computer screen so you can view on your laptop screen the same thing you're seeing on your TV that Chromecast doesn't allow. Meanwhile, Chromecast allows multitasking so while you can use your phone as a remote control you're also able to continue tweeting, sending emails or whatever else you'd like without it interfering with your streaming content. The lack of a direct mirror feature with the benefit of multi-tasking makes for an expected trade off with Apple having a more controlled user experience and Google offering the more typical PC user experience of greater customization.
Additionally, Chromecast has announced a beta feature to allow you to use a tab within your Chrome browser to directly stream to your TV. While Apple TV allows users to use iPhoto or Picasa, if Chrome works well — that opens the door directly to all sorts of web content already available. Unlike the Apple TV model, which still users the Apple Store, partner organizations and programs as a gatekeeper on content. This more open ecosystem could prove attractive to those more interested in web-series, niche content, etc. as opposed to the mainstream TV content Apple has already partnered with. (ESPN, NBA, MLB, Sky News etc...) For example Al Jazeera has a live stream one could use this feature to view even though that content isn't available to many U.S. TV watchers.
The Chromecast device is already available for $35 on Google Play, Amazon.com and BestBuy.com and it will soon be in Best Buy stores across the U.S. In a promotion almost worth the cost of the device (two-thirds the cost actually...) 3 months of Netflix (Valued at $23.97) is included.
Comparatively the most popular streaming devices currently are Apple TV and Roku. Apple TV costs $99, and Roku devices cost between $49.99 and $99.99 depending on the model.
Given I personally don't own a TV and already use streaming content on a desktop, laptop, tablet and phone for entertainment, I'm probably not going to be in the market for any of these devices (though my parents do own a Roku box). However, I look forward to seeing how this device challenges Apple along with the reaction of mainstream content providers to compete with the freedom of web based flexible viewing especially given the increasing rise of Netflix as a source of original content.