It has been 7 years of a rather interesting existence for the Google Chromecast, in its various iterations. And the latest update to the Chromecast hardware is its single biggest update since the first iteration rolled out all those years ago. Now, the Chromecast has a remote control, complete with a Netflix button, and for once has an interface of its own. That interface is called Google TV. You may be wondering why Google needs a new Google TV platform when it already has the very capable Android TV running on smart TVs made by multiple brands as well as media players? It turns out that Google TV and Android TV will remain in existence in parallel, at least till the beginning of the year 2021. At that point, Google TV is expected to take forward the Android TV’s legacy while the latter takes the slow walk into the sunset.
The Google TV platform does give the new Chromecast, priced at $49.99 at this time, the ability to run apps without the need to cast from a phone. It has its own beautiful interface with all the apps, streaming services and content laid out nicely. Much like how it happens on the Amazon Fire TV Stick that runs the Fire OS or the Apple TV that runs tvOS. In one fine swoop, Google has upgraded the Chromecast as being something very dependent on a phone to work, to a full-fledged media player. Add the new remote as well to navigate the interface, and the experience is complete. Quite interesting, the new Google Chromecast remote also has a Netflix button.
At this time, Google TV supports all the apps and content that Android TV does. That means apps including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, YouTube and Google Play Movies (which is being rebranded to the Google TV app—more confusion!), to name a few, will be available on Google TV as well. That means, as many as 6,500 apps. And the complete integration of Google Search with voice, to let you find content across apps. Therein lies the complication—Google TV and Android TV are exactly the same in the way they work. Google is perhaps right when they say that Google TV will replace Android TV in the near future. “Starting in 2021, Google TV will also be available on televisions from Sony and other Android TV OS partners,” says Shalini Govilpai, Senior Director, Google TV, in an official statement.
The new Chromecast remains as discreet as ever—it simply plugs into the HDMI port of your TV and stays hidden. It will also be able to control compatible connected smart home devices and you’ll also be able to use the Watchlist from Google Search to bookmark content that you search for on your phone or tablet or laptop and have that ready to view on the TV when you get home.
We aren’t exactly sure how the parallel existence of Android TV and Google TV will pan out. What does it mean in terms of support from Google, particularly once Android TV gets formally succeeded by Google TV? How much will TV makers, for instance, focus on the older Android TV devices when they have the shiny new Google TV TVs and media players to focus on? There is hope for app updates though, because the same apps will work across both platforms.