Google's Sundar Pichai confirmed with CNET on Wednesday that the introduction of Chromecast doesn't mean development of Google TV is winding down. In fact, both platforms will co-exist together despite little news regarding Google's TV-focused OS surfacing since several solutions were showcased during CES 2013 in January. Both products address two different consumer needs.
"Google TV is moving forward in a major way," he said after Wednesday's press event. "You'll see more partners [that were] announced at CES ."
HDTV maker LG said during Google I/O in May that its Android-powered Google TV platform would be updated to v4.2.2 "Jelly Bean" by the third quarter of 2013. Based on Google's own product page, LG is the only manufacturer developing HDTVs with the platform. Other gadget makers are selling set-top boxes such as Netgear, VIZIO, Hisense and Asus. LG said its GA7900 and GA6400 2013 models, and the G2 2012 model would receive the Jelly Bean update.
"In addition to boosting overall performance, the latest Jelly Bean update supports the Android Native Development Kit (NDK), so LG Google TV owners can have the widest, most diverse selection of apps to choose from," LG said. "Smartphone apps designed using the NDK will run on LG Google TV with little to no modifications. With NDK compatibility, users can now play more games on the bigger LG Google TV screen. This level of compatibility makes it easier for developers to enter the burgeoning Smart TV app market."
With so few supporters for Google TV, it's not surprising that Google is trying to seize the HDTV market with the new Chromecast device. It's a $35 solution that for now streams whatever the user loads up in a limited number of apps and within the Chrome browser. What Google failed to mention is that this 2 inch dongle requires power that's not supplied by the TV's HDMI port. It comes packed with its own USB-based power adapter, and it's currently unknown if the device has a rechargeable battery, or requires this power adapter to be plugged in at all times. We're betting the former option.
In the overall picture, Chromecast may be a cheaper alternative to Google TV, especially when users already have most of the media apps on their phones and tablets that's offered on the Google TV platform. As an example, VIZIO's $100 Co-Star supports Netflix, YouTube, Chrome, VuDu, M-GO, iHeartRadio and a number of others. It will only be a matter of time before all these apps will support the Chromecast device as well. However many applications like OnLive will likely never make it to the Google dongle.
Pichai made no mention of Google TV during his presentation on Wednesday, but did acknowledge that Google wanted to seize the one screen it hasn't conquered: the HDTV. There's a good chance Google TV will get a dose of Android 4.3 instead this fall, allowing for multiuser accounts and restrictions that could keep kids off inappropriate content and apps. Maybe that will spark a new interest in a next generation of Google TV-themed HDTVs and set-top boxes.
The question now is where does Google's streaming TV plan fall: solely on Chromecast, on Google TV, or both? The dongle seemingly paves the way for Google's rumored plan, but it's unclear whether cable companies like Time Warner would sign on. Time Warner Cable already has an Android app that allows subscribers to stream live TV, access VOD content and manage a Time Warner DVR, but not all networks are available.