Google wants to make your living room devices smarter
Google has already staked out spots in your living room with its Nest thermostat, Chromecast video-streaming device and Android TV software. Now it wants more.
On Tuesday, the Mountain View, California, company is expected to unveil a music-streaming device, akin to its Chromecast video-streaming stick. The gadget will take its name from its older sibling, according to 9to5Google, with the moniker Chromecast Audio.
Chromecast Audio — assuming that’s the name — is said to plug into a sound system’s headphone jack and lets you stream music from your phone by way of a wireless signal.
The device is part of Google’s two-pronged strategy for getting its technology into your home. Some of Google’s gear, such as its Nest thermostat, are on the cutting edge of connected home devices. Others, like Chromecast, turn devices like the television already in your living room or bedroom into smart gadgets.
“Google realizes there are so many dumb devices in people’s homes,” said Sameet Sinha, an analyst at the investment bank B. Riley and Co. “In the interim, you give them these cheaper devices people will get used to.”
At an event on Tuesday, Google is also expected to unveil the latest members of its Nexus family of smartphones, as well as an updated Chromecast stick, a $35 video-streaming device that lets you beam content from services like Netflix to your TV from a mobile device or laptop. The audio stick will likely be an extension of Google’s Chromecast brand.
It’s unclear what the price of the audio-streaming device will be.
As the Internet begins to touch every aspect of consumers’ lives, the biggest companies in technology, including Apple, Amazon and Google, have become enamored with getting more Web-enabled devices into people’s homes. For example, Apple’s Homekit, a software package on iPhones and iPads, lets you turn your living room lights on and off, while its Apple TV lets you call out to your television when you want to watch an episode of “Game of Thrones.” Google and Amazon have offerings with similar functions.
Of course, smart homes are far from mainstream. In 2014, 34 percent of US consumers said they were interested in a digital system to control all the lights in their house, according to Forrester Research, but only 1 percent actually had such systems. Only 2 percent had tried a digitally remote-controlled energy management system. Cost was a big roadblock, Forrester said.
Chromecast’s low price point could help ease that concern.
“For Google, price trumps everything else,” Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, said about the Chromecast. “It’s almost a no-brainer purchase.”
Google isn’t the only company to take this approach. Other companies, like Amazon, have followed Google’s lead and released their own streaming sticks. Motorola unveiled a product similar to the expected audio device last year, which also plugs into speakers through a headphone jack.
Covering the bases
Chromecast isn’t Google’s only beachhead into consumers’ living rooms.
In addition to the Chromecast line, Google’s Nest unit makes Web-enabled thermostats, smoke alarms and security cameras. Google bought the company in February 2014 for more than $3 billion.
Nest will become a separate unit later this year, when Google reorganizes under its new Alphabet holding-company structure.
Google also unveiled the OnHub smart router in August. The device, which can be controlled via a smartphone app, will eventually connect all the smart home devices Google hopes will soon populate your house.
Expanding the Chromecast family of devices is yet another way the company is trying to make sure its software is in your living room.
For now, Google may not care which smart device you buy. It just wants you to roll out the welcome mat.