Innovating in the internet-connected TV space is hard. Finding the right way to market this technology to consumers may, however, be even harder.
Case in point: Google has been phasing put the ‘Google Cast’ branding for TVs and internet-connected loudspeakers that are compatible with Google’s own Chromecast streaming adapters. Instead, the company and its partners have switched to describing these products as having “Chromecast built-in.”
A Google spokesperson confirmed the move a day after this story was originally published, sending Variety the following statement:
“First, nothing about the technology has changed. We’re rebranding Google Cast to “Chromecast built-in” to help users identify the technology that they’ve come to enjoy and appreciate. The new branding officially starts in 2017, which is why you’ll see it slowly rolling out in the meantime.”
The changes have been happening quietly in recent weeks, and likely coincided with the introduction of Google Home, the company’s answer to Amazon’s Echo that is closely integrated with Chromecast. Hardware partners like Vizio, Toshiba and Philips all have started to advertise their cast-enabled TVs with the new language, and Vizio has even removed previous mentions of “Google Cast” from its website.
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And on Tuesday, Google officially renamed its Google Cast Twitter account to @chromecast.
Google’s own websites have started to catch up with the change, with Google.com/Cast now declaring that Google Cast is “also known as Chromecast built-in.” The Google Home website doesn’t use “Google Cast” at all anymore, but Google’s Android TV website still calls the technology by its old name.
Google Cast is still expected to live on as a name for a set of developer technologies aimed at helping publishers make their apps cast-compatible.
Ditching the “Google Cast” consumer branding is a bit of a turnabout for Google. The company first introduced casting technology, which allows consumers to launch the playback of online videos on their TVs from their mobile phones, with the launch of its Chromecast streaming dongle in 2013.
Google then unveiled Google Cast as a consumer-facing brand for partner devices incorporating this technology when it unveiled its Android TV platform a year later to give consumer electronics manufacturers a way to signal that their devices are compatible with Chromecast-ready apps.
Google subsequently partnered with audio equipment manufacturers for cast-capable internet-connected speakers. And earlier this year, Vizio was the first TV manufacturer to ditch smart TV apps and instead add casting technology directly to its new TVs. Since then, both Toshiba and Philips have released their own cast-capable TV sets.
Rebranding these partner products as having “Chromecast built-in” does make sense as a way to simplify things for consumers. However, it’s also a sign of Google’s growing hardware ambitions, and the way the company’s relationship to other hardware manufacturers is changing as a result.
Google used to view its own hardware products as a way to set an example, with the hope that other companies would look at products like the company’s niche-targeted Nexus phones and incorporate some of their features into their own mass market products.
Now, Google is trying to build mass-market hardware of its own — and Chromecast has arguably been the company’s first such success story, with Google selling more than 30 million units in three years. With the name change, Google now seems ready to cement this status, signaling to partners and consumers alike that its own hardware is leading the charge.
Update: 11/23: This post was updated with an official confirmation from Google.