Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) recently surprised investors when it released its $35 digital media streaming adapter, Chromecast. Chromecast is a unique product compared to the full-featured smart televisions that some of its industry peers have produced, and has been met with mixed reviews. Can Chromecast finally help Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) take over the elusive television market, or will it fade away, as previous attempts have before it?
Not everyone needs a smart television
Chromecast isn’t really a new idea, since Roku streaming video players, which start at $50, were already developed from the idea that not everyone needs an Internet-enabled television. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)‘s Apple TV set-top box, which became a lot smaller in its latest revision, costs $99 and shares the same idea.
Both devices allow users to stream digital content, such as YouTube and Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX), from the Internet. They also allow users to share photos, music and video from computers across their home networks. Although Chromecast doesn’t bring anything new to the table, it is the smallest. The device resembles a USB flash drive and has the easiest setup routine, according to online reviews. Chromecast is also cheaper than Roku and Apple TV, but does not include a remote control, which is standard with the other two products.
It’s all about the content
Roku has the largest amount of content of the three, with access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) Instant, HBO Go, Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P) and others via third party apps. Roku also offers additional exclusive streaming content for its users. However, Roku notably lacks a YouTube channel. Apple TV has most of the same third-party content as Roku, has a YouTube channel, and uses iTunes to access TV shows, movies, and podcasts. Chromecast has the least dedicated content, and is limited to Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX), YouTube and the Google Play store.
However, Chromecast and Apple TV both support mirroring — the technology that allows a computer or tablet’s video output to be streamed onto the television. This means that although Chromecast lacks native support for HBO GO and Hulu Plus, the content can be played on the PC and mirrored onto the television.
An increasingly saturated market
According to a survey from Parks Associates, 37% of homes with streaming media devices in the U.S. currently use Roku, compared to 24% using Apple TV. Since 2011, the number of households using an Internet streaming device rose 14%, with much of that growth attributed to video streaming sites like YouTube and Netflix.