In connection with Google’s upcoming hardware announcements on September 30th, there is mention of a new Chromecast that sits alongside the expected Pixel 5, Pixel 4a 5G, and a new smart speaker. It’s reportedly a hybrid Android TV-Chromecast device with a popular TV remote control.
With Android TV and voice assistants, Google is certainly targeting big players like Roku and Fire TV. However, it will take more than that to stand out from the crowd. It’s time for Google to take in-home streaming seriously.
Mix Chromecast and Android TV
Chromecast is popular almost everywhere. Android TV? Not as much.
The upcoming Google streaming device reportedly combines the two, which marks a change in direction for the company’s streaming efforts. We won’t be surprised if Google TV replaces the moniker Android TV and represents not only a rebranding, but also a new approach to the idea of Google of its central media streaming platform.
Despite its remarkable strengths, Android TV still feels dangerously close to becoming yet another forgotten Big G project. The company has largely left it in the hands of OEMs as it does not have its own flagship products. As a result, the platform lacks the focus or investment it takes to make it an industry leader. That has to change if Google TV, or whatever the platform is called, is to compete with Roku and Amazon.
Google has largely left Android TV in the hands of OEMs. This could change soon.
Roku, arguably the biggest player in the field of streaming platforms, offers the largest selection of streaming services and apps. The user interface might not be as sleek, but it has earned the “Just Works” reputation that consumers prefer. Google supports all major streaming services, but when it comes to pure content volume and supporting smaller services, Roku also has the edge.
Google has the ability to make great products, but its lack of commitment to building excellent ecosystems is a constant disappointment. Find out about the latest issues with optimizing Android apps for Chromebooks or the latest status of wearables. Regular updates, new content partners, and improved app experiences are required to bring Google’s streaming efforts to the forefront of the industry. I’m not confident that things will change for the better when Android TV and Chromecast are combined, but there is an example that Google could follow to achieve some level of success.
See also: Best Android TV Devices – What Are Your Choices?
Google is not sailing into unknown territory here. There is already a gold standard streaming device out there – – the Nvidia Shield TV.
The popular Android TV box from Nvidia does everything right. It has a good library of streaming services, supports advanced media codecs, built-in Chromecast support, plays a range of Android games, can host a Plex server with hardware transcoding, and can even stream console-standard games from an Nvidia. Powered PC or via the GeForce Now cloud gaming platform.
The original Nvidia Shield TV is also a great example of the longstanding device support that Google should emulate. Even though Nvidia is five years old, it released its 25th update for the streaming device in August 2020. It has added AI-enhanced 4K upscaling, frame rate adjustment, and the latest security patch.
A cheaper Nvidia shield would be a good option to take on Roku. But this is just the beginning.
Admittedly, many of the functions of Nvidia are more niche functions and cover more than the typical requirements of a home streamer. The resulting higher price tag for all of these extra features and raw performance prevents it from being a Roku or Fire Stick competitor. But Google could certainly strike a suitable middle ground and introduce the first truly mainstream Android TV box from a top brand.
Make Android TV Streaming for the Masses
Content streaming is big business, but Google has only been a small player so far. Chromecasts are great, but access to the more powerful Android TV platform is significantly more limited due to the price. The Nvidia Shield TV mentioned above starts at $ 149.99, and Android TVs tend to be in the mid to premium tiers of the market. Meanwhile, the 4K Roku premiere costs just $ 39.99.
Google doesn’t have a direct non-cast competitor, but that could change with the upcoming Google streaming device that will significantly undercut this barrier to entry.
However, there is more to a successful streaming platform than just price. Roku and Amazon have built a loyal audience through great features, ease of use, and constantly evolving content partnerships. The Google platform needs the same care and attention. If you get that right, the big G could use its own services to get the upper hand.
See also: The best media streaming devices you can buy
As mentioned earlier, a Google service package with Stadia, YouTube Premium, as well as Play Pass and Google One storage would make a compelling and comprehensive package – something that the new Apple One and other streaming packages could take over. This, when combined with a rebranded, retrofitted approach to streaming hardware, could be an instant hit.
Even if we don’t get an all-in-one package, you can expect Google to be putting some tough pressure on its services with this upcoming streaming device. However, we don’t want the upcoming Google streaming device to be used only to sell various subscription services.
The Android TV platform has been on the edge of the Google ecosystem for years. Now it has to become a central part of it. The potential is there, but it’s time to get serious, Google.