Chromecast: The Latest Entry in the Fragmented Video Streaming Game

Google has a new entry in the home streaming content market with its Chromecast HDTV attachment. At US$35 it looks enticing, and it also drives home the fact that the Internet-based home entertainment market is seriously fragmented.

Google unveiled Chromecast during a media event on Wednesday, calling the little device "the easiest way to enjoy online video and music on your TV." The device is an HDMI dongle that connects directly to your television so you can stream content from Google Play, Netflix, and YouTube. It's designed to work with Android tablets and smartphones, Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, the Chromebook Pixel, and Mac and Windows computers.

Chromecast joins an already fragmented home streaming marketChromecast joins an already fragmented home streaming market

Just like other streaming content devices designed to connect to your television, Chromecast looks like a great way to get all of your online video in one easy package. The problem is that just like every other streaming content device, you're really getting access to just a subset of your shows and movies.

Netflix support is nearly ubiquitous. Apple TV and Roku both support Netflix Streaming, as does TiVo, Xbox, and most Internet-connected televisions and Blu-ray players. Hulu and YouTube are available on many of these devices, too, adding to the idea that one device will take care of all our streaming needs.

That idea falls apart, however, when you start buying or renting TV shows and movies online. If you stick with just Google Play your new Chromecast will work fine, but if you want iTunes Store content you'll need an Apple TV, and for Amazon Instant Video it's Roku, and for Microsoft's content you need an Xbox.

Instead of giving us a way to get all of our online content in one place, we've been handed several devices we need to add to our televisions, or stick with a limited choice for content providers. The content selection through Chromecast, Apple TV, or Roku is always growing, so one device may serve most people's needs, but it's always nice to have options.

The home streaming market seems to be shaping up as a multi-player game with Apple TV taking a sizable part followed by Roku. The rest of the market is fairly volatile, and that could be good or bad news for Google.

Assuming Chromecast takes off, there's a nice piece of the home streaming market it can snap up. If not, then Google fans will have yet again bought into a failed product -- and Google's previous attempts at taking over our televisions haven't worked out at all.

If you have an iTunes Store account and you're also an Amazon Prime customer, it would be really nice to have a single box for streaming your TV shows, movies and music. The players in this game don't seem interested in making that happen, so we're stuck with adding more set top boxes to our televisions instead of fewer, pulling us farther away from the dream of a single device to really manage all of our online content.

Someday, maybe someday, we'll have the OneBox to rule them all.