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Google declares new rival to Roku, Amazon Fireplace TV

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Google TV software running on a Chromecast.

Google

Google just kicked off its annual hardware event, where it’s expected to announce several new gadgets. This is Google’s chance to show off its latest products ahead of the holiday shopping season. Its event follows a similar one from Amazon just last week, where Amazon revealed new speakers, Fire TV products, a flying security drone and more. It also follows an event earlier this month where Apple announced a new Apple Watch, iPads and subscription services; Apple is expected to have a separate event in October to announce the next version of the iPhone.

At Wednesday’s event, we expect to see Google’s new Pixel 5 and a new 5G version of the Pixel 4a, which was released earlier this year. Google’s Pixel phones don’t have a huge market the way Apple iPhones or Samsung’s devices do, but it’s a way for Google to attract customers to its Android mobile platform by offering relatively affordable phones that provide the best integration with Google apps and a camera that rivals more expensive phones. It’s expected to continue that trend with a newer lower-cost Pixel this year.

Here’s what’s been announced so far.

Nest Audio

Google announced a new connected home speaker that will compete with Amazon Echo and Sonos products. It will cost $99 and connects with other Nest speakers (previously called Google Home) to create whole-home audio.

Like earlier speakers, it lets you speak with Google Assistant. So, you can ask it the weather, what’s on your calendar, to call someone or to play music from several music services, such as YouTube Music, Spotify and others.

It’ll compete most directly with Amazon’s new Echo, which costs the same but provides access to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant instead of Google’s. 

Chromecast with Google TV

The Chromecast with Google TV is a little dongle that plugs into the back of your TV, similar to a Roku or Amazon’s Fire TV products, and gives you access to more than 6,500 apps like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Peloton, YouTube and more.

It’s Google’s latest effort to take market share away from Roku and Amazon, which have the lion’s share of the streaming TV market. 

Google TV software running on a Chromecast.

Google

This is the first Chromecast from Google to ship with software and a remote to control it. Previously, a Chromecast would allow you to pick movies and videos to watch on your phone, but there wasn’t an on-screen menu of apps, TV shows and movies to choose from. Google hopes this helps people discover more content to watch, and ultimately spend more time using it. The latest Chromecast runs new Google TV software, a totally redesigned version of Android TV that was previously only available on third-party devices from companies like Nvidia.

Chromecast with Google TV

Google

Google TV shows you recommendations for movies and TV shows to watch, and lets you dive right into the app they’re available in. So, it might recommend shows from Hulu, Netflix or any other service you pay for, similar to how Roku, Amazon and Apple TV integrate other services.

The remote has a Google Assistant button, so you can search for anything by voice, or ask Google TV to pull up your Nest camera to keep an eye on the front door. It also includes quick-launch buttons for YouTube and Netflix and dedicated volume keys.

The new Chromecast supports up to 4K video and HDR if you have a TV that offers that, and Dolby Atmos sound if you have speakers that support it. Oddly, it does not yet support Google Stadia, the company’s new game-streaming service, although Google Nest’s director of product management Gerardo Capiel told CNBC that’s a priority and will be available in the first half of next year.

The Chromecast with Google TV launches on Sept. 30 in the U.S. for $49.99. It’ll be available in other countries by the end of the year.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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Katherine Clark