The announcement of Google’s Chromebit has been taken by many on the Internet as an April Fool’s joke. Given the time-lag between Internet news announcements and the very self-parodying nature of April Fools this year (such as the Samsung Blade Edge chef’s knife, or Sony’s PlayStation Flow wearable for underwater gaming), you could be forgiven for thinking this might be a gag.
Not a Hoax, there’s Competition in these here Sticks
But that appears to be the domain of the Google ChromeSelfie feature, allowing you to effortlessly emote to all your friends without words. The Chromebit seems real enough for now, and is essentially a USB-based computer. This enables you to turn anything with an HDMI socket into a computer, and joins the Intel Compute Stick in offering a totally flexible computing platform.
These devices will primarily enable media consumption, being tailor made for TVs and home multimedia systems. The service is likely to cannibalise services like the Chromecast, but ultimately allow a much more flexible way to compute. Chromecast is in many ways the more limited younger sibling to these types of devices, which allow for a greater range of applications beyond mere streaming of content (although this is still likely to be the primary use case).
A Toe in the Water for Smarter Appliances
The device could potentially also lead the way to a Google-branded cross-device platform, with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to manage the connections. Android vendors like Samsung and Sony already have their own solutions for platform management, but they are generally turned towards the enterprise market. What the Chromebit offers is a casual nudge to consumers to flexibly compute in a range of ways that could start to acclimatise consumers to the ‘feel’ of smart homes if not the full reality. However, it could founder without tight control and standardisation, furthering the fragmentation which Juniper has identified as a barrier to smart home adoption.