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With Chromecast, Google reveals Chrome as its strategic big gun

Gregg Keizer | July 30, 2013
The browser is behind Google's play for user data from as many screens as possible

"Google is advertising driven. All its efforts, including Chromecast, are not just about selling more ads, they're about aggregating data about the customer to make those ads more valuable," said Golvin in an interview last week. "The more you can target the ads, the more attractive they are to advertisers, and the more Google's real customers -- advertisers -- are willing to pay."

Thompson dubbed that "maximum user data," but his meaning was the same as Golvin's.

Chromecast is Google's newest blatant example of a Chrome-centric strategy. Not only does it carry the "Chrome" moniker, important in itself as an expression of brand identity, but it heavily leans on the browser for functionality.

Only a handful of dedicated apps support Chromecast out the gate: Google's own YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV and Google Play Music; and the only third-party entry, Netflix. The rest of the lifting is done by Chrome, the browser.

Content on any Chrome tab active on a device within range of a Chromecast-equipped TV can be displayed on the television. During installation on a Windows or OS X personal computer, Chromecast automatically adds the Google Cast add-on to the browser; it can be downloaded separately from the Chrome Web Store, but again, requires Chromecast.

Not only does Chrome's ability to cast ease the early adopter pain of too-few Chromecast-supporting apps, but it circumvents the limitations of accumulating data when third-party apps are used to display content on a television.

Instead, the normal data collection rules -- as Google spells them out in its privacy policy for Chrome -- apply.

Specifically, Google knows what you watch, at least in a general way.

"For Chromecast users, Google may collect system activity, crashes, and other details about how you use Chromecast, including use of apps and domains (but not full URLs) accessed by Chromecast," Google's privacy policy states.

Maximum user data, as Thompson put it.

In fact, argued Thompson, Google has bet its strategic coin on Chrome, not Android, the mobile operating system also launched in 2008, the same year as Chrome. Thompson noted that Android was largely absent from last week's unveiling of Chromecast -- even to the point, if GTVHacker.com was correct, fudging the code foundation of the device's firmware -- as it was earlier this year at Google's I/O developer conference.

That's no coincidence, Thompson said.

"Android ... enables several of those verticals [devices], and keeps Apple honest in phones especially," said Thompson. "However, by virtue of the hardware world it lives in, it's not the best vehicle for reaching all users, and Google is fine with that. Now that Android is good enough on phones, there simply isn't any point in investing in it as heavily as before."

 

 

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