Ben Thompson answers John Gruber’s question on why Google would block the API that allowed android to Comcast streaming – a la Apple’s AirPlay. Ben’s main point is spot on that Google cares more about Chrome than android at this point – after all, it was notably NOT named Androidcast. However his answer that Google is afraid of content providers leave something to be desired.
First, if we are comparing the API with AirPlay we have to note that Apple has not run an end-around nor raised the ire of content providers with its own AirPlay. It is an API, which can be used or ignored. Content providers that are more interested in lock in can ignore it and leave things locked into the device.
But even more concerning is that web to TV streaming is a far larger threat to content provider lockin. Chromecast’s main purpose is to make anything you can watch on Chrome something you can watch on your TV. That puts content providers in a nightmare all-or-nothing bind: to block streaming directly to TV you must also eliminate any normal web streaming. Previously, the web has been “safe” to content providers (with some caveats and protections) because it happens on the computer, and few people will go through the hassle of wiring a desktop into their living room. The big TV screen maintains its dominant position. But if Google has reduced that hassle to $35 and plugging a simple dongle in, the previously “safe” assumption of web streaming evaporates.
Ultimately, Ben’s original explanation holds here: Google stands to win a lot more with Chrome handling all streaming, rather than providing the API. Chrome will get to know URLs, map those back to logged in users, monitor the entire transaction. In essence, it will feed all of the things that matter to Google: tracking and connecting the data that provides stronger search results and targeted advertising. The API simply doesn’t offer as much promise.