• 07.25.13

Roku CEO On Google’s Chromecast: Who Wants Their Phone To Be A Remote Control?

The phone-as-remote model doesn’t work for mainstream customers, argues Anthony Wood.

Roku CEO On Google’s Chromecast: Who Wants Their Phone To Be A Remote Control?

Chromecast may be a fresh take on television streaming, but Roku isn’t worried that it will take over the market.


“There are many of these dongles out in the market but they are not gaining consumer adoption because they don’t provide a good experience,” says Anthony Wood, the CEO of Roku.

Google’s $35 gadget, which the company announced Wednesday, plugs into a television’s HDMI port and allows users to “cast” Internet content from their smartphones to its screen. Instead of creating a new interface on the television, as Roku and Apple TV do, it’s controlled from within apps already installed on your smartphone. Users don’t need to download new content or learn a new interface: Their phones are already loaded.

Wood points out two problems with this approach. First, he argues, people want to use the remote. “Being forced to use a phone exclusively as the controller doesn’t work for most mainstream customers,” he told Fast Company via email.

Second, Chromecast only works with apps that install the feature–a list that is currently restricted to Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Music. “For just $15 more, or $49 for a Roku LT, consumers can get a Roku player which offers…nearly 1,000 video and music channels,” he says.

It’s a fair point, but it’s also true that Google already has an app store with more than 1 million apps. If anyone is going to lasso the developer relationships it would take to expand available content, it’s Google. Or Apple, but they’re not playing this game (yet?).

Still, says Wood, why wait for Google to stock up when other players are already offering HBO? “We have iOS and Android apps for those that want it,” he says.

About the author

Sarah Kessler is a senior writer at Fast Company, where she writes about the on-demand/gig/sharing "economies" and the future of work.