Chromecast, Google’s venerable media streamer that seems to support just about every major video and music service under the sun, may be coming to your next TV … if that TV happens to be a Vizio. Variety reports that Google has entered into an agreement with the Irvine, California-based company that’ll see Chromecast functionality built into a few of its future products.
From a user perspective, the implementation sounds perfectly straightforward. You’ll connect the Chromecast-enabled TV to your router, grab a smartphone or tablet, and, much as with the current crop of Chromecast devices, cast content to it from any one of the myriad of services that support it: Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, and even games like Just Dance.
Buyers who lack the aforementioned smartphone or tablet needn’t fret, though. Vizio’s entertaining the notion of bundling with some TV models an Android tablet that’ll serve as both a dedicated remote control and programming guide. It’ll feature shortcuts to streaming services, Variety says, plus personalized movie and TV show recommendations.
The casting feature’s meant to replace Vizio’s current crop of built-in smart apps, a hodgepodge mix of streaming video apps like Amazon and Vudu, and oddities like Yahoo Weather and Facebook. It’s partly a matter of pragmatism: Yahoo’s Connected TV platform, the service upon which the apps are built, is shutting down in the coming months as part of the company’s restructuring plan. (Publicly, Vizio has announced intentions to migrate to Opera’s smart TV platform.)
Vizio’s Chromecast-enabled TVs are purportedly set to launch this spring. They may have competition: according to Variety, Google’s in talks with at least one other TV manufacturer about adding similar casting features.
The partnerships represent a shift in strategy for Google, which has long insisted that TV and set-top box manufacturers rely on its Android TV software to deliver Chromecast-like features. Unlike Chromecast, Android TV, a branch of Google’s Android operating system optimized for televisions and other large displays, offers a more traditional streaming platform experience — menus navigable via a remote and an ecosystem of downloadable apps. TV sets from Sony, Sharp, and others ship with Android TV, as does Google’s own Nexus Player.
But Android TV, much like the beleaguered Google TV platform that preceded it, has struggled to generate much market traction. Google and its hardware partners have so far declined to provide sales figures, but sources tell Variety uptake has been “modest by most accounts.” In contrast, the first-generation, $35 Chromecast dongle sold more than 20 million units.
Google’s got a long way to go if it hopes to compete with more established players in the streaming space — according to some analysts, Chromecast usage trails behind Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV, and Roku devices — but an agreement with TV makers may give it a leg up.
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