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Dear Google, you should make a Chromecast for music

Dear Google,

I’ve been meaning to write you for a long time. You see, every now and then I have ideas for things you should make, or maybe ways to make existing things better. Sometimes, you actually surprise me by making something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. When this happens, like with Chromecast, it feels like the Google genie has magically read my mind (or at least interpreted the big data that is my collective online self) and delivered my wish. Other times, as was the case with Nexus Q, it seems your genie got his signals crossed, and I’m just left feeling confused, wanting, and disappointed.

In an attempt to avert the latter, I’m going to start to throw my ideas into the aether, in the hopes that your genie will again make good on new product wishes.

The Idea

Make a Chromecast-like device just for audio that can simply connect to speakers. Basically: bring back the essence of Nexus Q, but make it suck less. Make it super small and simple like Chromecast, keep it at a low price point, and market the two Chromecast devices side-by-side so consumers start to understand what a suite of these devices could do to transform their consumption of media at home.

If you need a little help understanding exactly what I want, look no further than the late Orb Music—and take their idea. (You can probably do this easily because they are shutting down support for Orb after their sale to Qualcomm.) I own an Orb Music, which does exactly what your new “Chromecast Music” (see, I even named it for you) should do, albeit poorly with bugs.

Here are the basic requirements: you should be able to plug any pair of powered speakers into it, or an existing audio system. You should be able to stream music to it from a home server or the cloud (in the form of your current Google Play Music library). Now, I realize you can already do this from the current iteration of Chromecast, but then your TV has to be on, and that defeats the purpose. What I really want is a simple device that I can plug a simple audio jack into, and stream music to. Period.

If you sold this tomorrow, at the same price point at Chromecast, I’d buy ten of them. One for every room of the house, one for the office; hell, even one for my parent’s house and one to take with me on the road.

The Business Plan

I don’t know if you actually profit from selling Chromecasts at a price point of $35—but you do still do it. This leads me to believe that you can’t be loosing money on the devices themselves, and the business incentive here is that Google is in the living room to deliver more media, presumably purchased from Google. Guess what? It worked. I find myself renting more movies from the Google Play store because it’s so easy.

This leads me to believe that you can extend your Google Play music and  “All Access” sales by bundling with a device akin to the one I’m suggesting. And I’d probably start to pay you for extra storage space for my own music library too.

(Plus, imagine how you can use the simple thought of being able to control music in every room of your house to sell Android phones and forthcoming Android Wear watches. I would love to have the music follow me from room to room because I’m wearing an Android Wear watch. Yep… you sold me two devices.)

The Competition

There’s a big market for wireless music these days, but nobody has it nailed because everybody’s system is too proprietary. People seem to like Sonos, Bose has some options, and there are a bunch of smaller players in the market today. But I don’t want to buy new speakers. I already have really great sounding speakers. I just want a wireless method to transmit music to these speakers.

That’s why I was drawn to Orb in the first place—you could use Android and iOS devices to control the playback. Orb could have killed it if their marketing department knew what they were doing and their software wasn’t riddled with problems. Lucky for you—you can do the software thing, and it seems like your marketing genie is getting better every day. The key here is that Orb was open and the alternatives on the market are all more or less proprietary.

I must mention the other big elephant in the room: Apple’s AirPlay. Apple could easily dominate this need, but they don’t seem to care to promote it. Most people I ask don’t know that they can use Apple’s AirPlay feature between iTunes and iOS devices (even though they own and use them), much less to remotely stream to an AirPort Express, which can also plug into speakers (and extends your wifi signals). Apple can totally corner the entire home entertainment market, and for Apply fanboys, they sort of already have. But you know what still sucks about AirPlay? Everything is proprietary.

So, keep it open.

You know what you did right with Chromecast? Release it on Android and iOS. That’s huge. Open, interoperable ecosystems are going to be the way of the future. They have to be. You should probably capitalize on that while you can—it’s worked so far with Android and Chrome.

(Perhaps I should mention that I use a Mac, and I own Apple devices. Still, I prefer not being stuck in a proprietary trap, and I prefer Android phones. I guess I’m the odd man out on the internet these days—a moderate voice stuck between the Apple and Google ecosystems.)

Along the lines of open ecosystems, you should probably make this work with something like Plex so people with existing libraries at home can use it. The reality is that they’re a small portion of the market of potential users, but they’re a powerful portion—the tech trend setters that influence other buyer’s purchase decisions. Make something truly open and flexible and you just may be rewarded with a loyal following. (That should probably be the topic of a devoted post, come to think of it.)

As a matter of fact, there are lots of options for listening to audio online, and over some home stereo devices today… what if you provided the hub to truly connect all of these in the home? (Must be worth something…)

The Bottom Line

Just imagine a “Chromecast Music” that can stream audio from your Google Play library, a Plex library on your home network, a satellite radio station, Pandora, Grooveshark, Spotify and Soundcloud. All together. All streaming music from the web to your home without worrying about a computer connection. That is audio nirvana (the state of being, not the band).

Nexus Q was a great idea, but it was over-priced and overly complex. Re-release “Chromecast Music” as a cheaper alternative and you just might be able to control the home entertainment space you’re looking for.