Chromecast Shifts Expectations Around TV – Will Media Remote Apps Now Add Social?

August 6, 2013

in Accelerating Innovation

Netflix ChromecastWho will win the SmartTV love affair? What does the remote of the future look like? How is Google Chromecast shaping up against AppleTV? My latest experiments with Chromecast and Philips Hue (Yes the light bulbs) and IFTTT suggest the potential may be shifting quickly into Google’s favor. When you put these three App/platform approaches together you start to ask some new questions. The openness of Google’s approach encompassed in their DIAL standard may payoff very quickly. See this post on Gigaom.  . Before I get to my new “wants” examples…

Highlights – the current debate.

1. Apple Airplay lets you throw content from your iPhone onto the TV screen. This is limited to Apple iOS devices. It also requires an AppleTV. With this combination the user has the option to mirror their phone or use the AppleRemote to instruct the AppleTV to use one of the preinstalled Apps. With Chromecast the big difference is your “remote” is now app by app and you are not always returning to the AppleRemote (which may be slow to reconnect). AirPlay in a few instances does enable games that Chromecast cannot.

2. The chromecast DIAL approach lets you instruct a cloud to send a URL for playing on a  second screen. It’s instructive rather than mirroring.  Chromecast does this very effectively enabling an App to remain the “remote” while a cloud service sends content to the TV. It currently works for Netflix and YouTube on iOS, however the ease with which it works will encourage developers to build it in quickly. Going app by app as a remote overcomes the nasty “Tree” structure that gets you buried in AppleTV (doing “back”, “back” to move up levels).  Chromecast can also very smartly launch the TV. Unfortunately it doesn’t manage volume – at least on my 4 year old TV.

3. Google is providing an SDK and API however it remains in a testing phase. An example of how developers are already working around the “AirPlay” restriction is BubbleUPnP. This sends your file from your phone  via WiFi locally or to the cloud and then on to your Chromecast ready TV. This in inline with Google’s strategy of enabling every app to potentially add a Chromecast second screen.

So what sort of Apps may we want? What could emerge quickly? This post was stimulated as I found myself playing with Philips Hue, Chromecast and the various iOS apps that work with both. I’ve also been looking at IFTTT wondering what it could do with Chromecast (currently nothing)?

My initial thoughts were simple: 

  1. Turn the TV on with hue… and point to new netflix recommendations. This is just the alarm / clock type of approach – done elsewhere.
  2. The opposite. Reset the room lighting by turning on chromecast for tv  when watching after sunset. Note Hue already knows about time.
  3. Enable chromecast to turn on and broadcast breaking news if matches my criteria… With lights and time… if I’m home.
  4. Tie hue to say baseball… I can already do that via IFTTT but not to launch the TV or start playing the Radio of the game only if I am home of course. Perhaps I’d just like the Game starting notification on the phone which would potentially start the TV, set the lights etc.

There’s a lot more….

  • Consider other benefits of having a second screen that is now actively monitoring or providing content – perhaps queued for different types / times of day. Perhaps light cues or even sound queues when certain content arrives. A TV in the office now become Twitter, Facebook etc.
  • Want to switch to Chromecast when a commercial comes up while  watching regular TV and then back to Channel 3 and the cable service? I really like this one! Although the delay could be a problem if not pre-queued.
  • Could chromecast work with google hangouts where the phone remains the camera and microphone.
  • Will we see voice activated app solutions emerge to manage content, skip, find favorites etc. Unfortunately Siri is unlikely to chromecast anytime soon. That’s a shame.
  • Will App Aggregators emerge like TVGuide plus to integrate and help plan my live programming.
  • There are already apps that enable Hue lights to play to music. Tying them in to broadcast content could add additional dimensions.

So how many options are there…

You can develop sender applications for Android, iOS, and Chrome which “cast” their content to a receiver device connected to a large display (television), and you can develop a receiver app that extends the default receiver functionality.  via Google Cast Developer Preview – Google Cast — Google Developers.

Is the real Pocket remote starting to emerge? The answer is a definite yes. 

1. Moving to remotes that are App by App and thus customized to task. The smart phone controls the TV or second screen. This is in-line with expectations. Our phone controls the music in the car, the music at home.

2. Expect remotes to engage Chromecast to also engage the broader Smart Home – light, heat, sound?

3. When apps start screencasting they can simultaneously start managing other things. Example social aspects, or background details, data on who’s watching, assessments on what you think or are feeling, etc. Thus richer experiences – the augmented smart TV. This has big benefits to networks who want to increase engagement.

4. User expectations. If I can do this with Netflix, won’t I want to do it with CNN or other news? When apps capture most of our watching (that may be really soon for those that watch primarily Hulu, Netflix or YouTube) using a remote this way becomes second nature.

As an Apple user using Chromecast the flaws in AppleTV are showing:

1. Open AppleTV to “Screencasting” so developers can use the same type of “send” and “receive” approach. AirPlay isn’t enough. Being able to stay in the app and process additional content or social interaction is a real advancement. Use iCloud to augment this. If you can do more with a Chromecast enabled app then developers will soon propagate their apps with it.

2. Turn iPhones and iPads into “gaming” controllers. Games may be the secret weapon for AppleTV. I suspect that a Chromecast+ is really required to bring gaming to this service. Downloading the “game controller” – app in the App store should automatically add it to any AppleTV when gaming is desired. I’ve always assumed this will happen. It just hasn’t yet and that is hard to understand.

3. Expand the “social” capabilities of any app that is “screen casting” so the remote is part of my experience. Enable dual screen capabilities, including zooming, frame in frame, etc.


Chromecast presents a new model for app developers, networks, and media producers to explore. It makes the digital cable box a joke (it was already) and demonstrates that Internet TV can become a richer media experience compared to cable TV or over the air. Possibly the best thing you can do today to promote the TV of the future is to buy a Chromecast dongle and help to push the cable box under a bus!

So what’s your chromecast strategy? If you aren’t sure spend $35 and at least try it out.

Still skeptical? Conside a few illustrations beyond TV where cloud data could change the experience. What’s an Amazon app look like using chromecast as the shopping screen. How does it change “home shopping”? What about all those shopping networks. How could you change the car buying experience or home buying if you are Zillow or Redfin? As a magazine how could you integrate with big screen experiences? Example – How should Wired use Chromecast? How could the queuing approach be used in a broader public social situation? How does this emergent model affect “advertising”? Advertising on the remote? What about survey tools? What about TV game show participation? Could it be used by Customer Service for product and complaints? What about for learning and training programs? How could it enhance e-learning?  Your turn….





Previous post:

Next post: