As a multi-platform app developer focused on mobile, tablets, and TV, I can say with experience and authority that the biggest headache among the three has always been the connected TV. Which is why the prospects of Google’s Chromecast device are exciting.
In a nutshell, Chromecast allows users to display websites and streaming video from their Chrome browser on either a Mac or PC to a TV with the device installed. At launch, only streaming video from YouTube, Netflix, and Google Play, are supported. But Google also released an SDK so other developers can optimize their services for equal access.
I can state definitively that my company will be one such developer taking advantage of that SDK, along with services like HBO, Pandora, and Vimeo, which GigaOM reported is also optimizing its services for the Chromecast device. Why? Because it makes connected TV easier.
As an app developer, you don’t really care much how apps get to the TV (or any other device for that matter). Your main focus is that they do get to that device. The work involved to develop apps for over-the-top devices and all the fragmented TV app ecosystems is a headache that, while necessary, is one that I would rather not have. But the idea of creating an app for a more standardized development environment (like mobile or tablets) that can then be extended to the TV through a simple-to-use, affordable, and quality device like the Chromecast is one I can easily get behind.
The problem with connected TV and over-the-top devices is that they try to replace the video app experience with their own experience. It’s about control. But viewers don’t want to jump through multiple experience hoops. They want the experience of their choice. That may be a phone, or a tablet, or a laptop…but it’s their choice. Chromecast allows them to extend that choice to the TV without getting in the way, and that’s a good thing all around.
And a word to advertisers still wrestling with the notion of mobile advertising…Chromecast makes mobile ads more valuable. First, by extending the app’s output to the TV, it makes the app more valuable, which in turn makes ads in that app more valuable. Second, it’s not a transmission-based model (except for the web display option). Chromecast gets the video in the app directly from the web, which is just controlled by the phone/tablet, which means users can do other things with their devices while viewing the app on the TV (perhaps researching the brand behind one of the ads, for instance). And finally, the center of the experience is not the TV, but the device of the user’s choice…where your ad lives. This adds more functionality and interactivity options than any TV-based ad can offer.
Chromecast’s biggest benefit is that it takes the smarts out of the TV and turns it into a dumb terminal again. And with the SDK, it makes the apps we develop for these other devices more valuable by increasing the number of screens on which it can be made available without altering the preferred experience of our target user. That’s good for content creators, app developers, and advertisers alike.
Not bad for $35.