In 2017, Google is finally ready for your living room

Android dudes
Android dudes (Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

We imagine any new tech thing takes a lot of planning, a lot of money, and a lot of time. The push to get Google into the living room certainly did. Ideas to expand Android and use new technology in your home were being kicked around out loud in front of groups of developers as far back as 2011. We've discussed Google's plans for living room domination almost as far back as that on our podcast. It was never a secret, but in 2017 it might actually happen.

A lot of people have written some really smart words about Google's movement into places where you and your family and friends hang out and relax. I've spent the majority of the year in anticipation, afraid to jinx it by writing anything of my own. I was afraid that Google wouldn't be able to do the most important thing they needed to do to get into those places: nail the experience. They have to get that right to have any chance of success with a unified push for everything Google where you work and play.

More: With Google Home and Google Wifi, we're finally getting a proper smart home foundation

Getting it right doesn't mean getting it perfect. It means showing everyone who uses it that it's a foundation for something that not only does what we need but makes it easy and fun. And Google did nail it.

Google Cast, Google Home, and Google Wifi feel like they belong together when you use them. You could add Nest and Android TV to that list and enthusiasts would agree. None of the devices or services are perfect, and even Google Cast has its quirks and can be stubbornly stupid sometimes. But you really do feel as if these products were made for each other in a way that no other Google products have. Articles and debate about what they do wrong or how they match up to the competition are important to have but often overlook the bigger picture that these are great products that everyone only expects to become better. They don't need to be fixed or redone, they need to be refined and more great features need to be added on top of the great features already there. Nothing is broken.

Google Hardware

We didn't arrive here overnight. Chromecast started as a small idea with a goofy name and has taken some time to get where it is today. Google spent a year learning what people wanted from a router. And they've been trying to be smart and build something you want to talk to for at least a couple years. These past products were all good in their own right, but mostly lacked the broad consumer appeal needed to be successful in the homes of folks who weren't waiting for the next thing from Google they could buy and just wanted cool stuff. This year, they finally reached that "just cool stuff" status for everyone.

Google's current crop of hardware products are all better versions of things we have been using for a while.

That makes 2017 an important year for Google in a new way. With the products and technology ready to convince the consumer at large that it's time to buy them and increased presence in advertisement and stores, the cost of doing things wrong has skyrocketed. Each decision and each change in the way Home, Wifi and Cast work or even feel when using them has to be great and make everything better to carry this momentum to more cash registers and more coffee tables. A major gaffe or fundamental change to the way things work — things we've seen from everyone a time or two — could tank the living room initiative.

I'm not particularly worried for 2017, though. This is a new Google. They do things we don't like but they also seem to have become focused on the user experience more than the past. There's still a way to go, but they are steadily moving in the right direction.

I can't hide the fact that Google Home, the whole Google Cast ecosystem, and Google Wifi have wowed me and I'm not going to try. Even when they don't or can't do what I want the way I want it, they are still great products that do a lot of other great things. They're fun to use and I never thought I'd have a microphone listen to my life voluntarily, even if it is confined to my office behind a shut door. They're even fun after they've malfunctioned at the beginning of an important company online meeting and started playing music and announcing loudly to everyone that they were sorry but couldn't do ... something. I'm not surprised that I'm excited about a router but am surprised that so many other people are. It tells me Google is ready for the living room and 2017 might not be another year where we're all left wanting.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and season's greetings everyone. Love each other.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • I'm thinking of going all in 100% full throttle with Google.
  • Might want to wait to see what they offer with Pixel 2 and AW 2.0 before jumping on that.
  • Why not wait for Pixel 3 and AW 3.0? Or Pixel 4 and AW 4.0? Eventually you just have to make the move.
  • Or not, if it sucks.
  • They are finally making a cohesive brand experience. It took some trial and error, but it's nice to finally have things that work well, and work well together.
  • Yup. Looking back, I think this was their plan all along. Enthusiasts will buy anything, and we'll help them make the next ones better. Then they go after the regular joes.
  • My favorite part of Google Home is having my three-year-old walk up to it and say "Otay Dhoodhle, turn de lights red." He succeeds about 1/4 of the time. Chromecast has been amazing. We cast so many shows over it that it exceeds our Blu-ray use now.
  • I've still never owned a Blu-ray player, and own less than 20 DVDs, I went from broke student who couldn't afford into a streaming environment. My TV is over 5 years old and I still haven't hooked TV broadcast or Blu-ray too it. It went from a PC streaming screen to a Miracast screen.
  • My kids use Google Home more than I do. :-)
  • Merry Christmas Jerry !! Here's to a 2017 full of tech! Can it possibly beat the hype and Full on Nicholas Cage Note 7 Moments!!!
  • Merry Christmas Jerry! Great Article! Google Home is already pretty impressive this early on!
  • Merry Christmas to all of the Android Central staff. It's been an exciting year and I've enjoyed the articles and the podcasts from everyone. The more diversified staff you have - the better I think the 'news' is... That turtle though.... I was thinking of having turtle soup....

  • To me, Google Assistant is key to making everything self perpetuating. The more use it gets, the better it will become. The better it becomes, the more people will use it. I really hope that Google has hit on something that really learns.
  • I really like my google home, but it only seems to have a 2/3rds success rate when I am speaking about 2-3 feet from it. It sinks to around 1/2 if I move to around 5 feet away or if my TV is playing at the same time.
    I mean I've had to yell at the thing like 5 times to get it to register.
    Does this match anyone's experience?
  • Yea I had that problem and then I moved it away from the TV problem solved
  • Merry Christmas Jerry and your family. 2017 will the year of Google!
  • Decided (aka convinced the wife) that the whole smart home thing was a good idea. A SmartThings hub, several smart switches, a smart lock, two Chromecasts and a pair of Homes later I think she honestly thinks this was a good idea. It's been nice having things automated around the house. And having the Homes always listening, be it to play music or queue up a Netflix show to watch has been fun. Yes there is a premium to pay for everything we got, and individually I don't know if one piece is completely worth it. But the entire package, when everything is working makes it seem more than worth it. My only complaint so far that is something I can't fix, not being able to use my Nexus Player as a casting target for the Home. Like others have said, my TV diminishes the effectiveness of the initial pickup of the Home, but that's a location issue I can rectify. And there's the learning curve about some of the commands for Home, but it's been fun trying things and being surprised what actually did work.
  • Merry Christmas Jerry. Question, has Google found a way to know what you're saying OK Google to? If I say OK Google I don't want Google Home, my phone, and my tablet responding to me at the same time.
  • Got an OnHub (thanks to an excellent recommendation from Jerry) and my Google Home came on the 23rd. I've had OnHub for 15 days and I have yet to loose a connection or see signal strength waiver. I won't comment on download speeds because that is on Comcast and its mood. Google Home (Assistant) is smarter than Google Now. I give weird names to my GPM playlists. Now can never launch them. Home has missed just once. It even understood "play my Absolute B'siznatch playlist" (listening to it try to say "B'siznatch" was amusing). The bass response on this tiny speaker is surprising. I still need something in the Sonos vein but I'm ecstatic to have a non-BT wireless speaker in the house. The over arching thing Google Home has brought to mind is how few things I have for it to connect to. I doubt I'm alone. I suspect sales of Philips Hue bulbs and Nest thermostats and smoke detectors will rise in tandem to Google Home units. Happy Holidays all!
  • Google took over my living room when i purchased the Shield TV and other locations when i purchased a few chromecast audio's for my home. Google wifi is something i see in the near future for my family as my routers will be replaced sometime soon. I just wish they had more ports on them because some things are better wired.
  • So true Jerry. Google has probably the best ecosystem for the home at the moment. It is very cohesive, for the most part. Sure it needs some work but they have most of the parts in place.
  • Google was ready for my living room three years ago when they came out with Chromecast. Hopefully in 2017 they'll be ready for my kitchen, my bedroom, my...
  • Yes! And Google TV will be on the majority of new TVs by summer!
  • Purchased the Echo when it launched and now had the Google Home for four weeks. Basically the Echo you use commands where you talk to the Google Home naturally. The Echo will handle some fuzziness but fundamentally they are variations to commands instead of fundamentally understanding what you are saying. So with the Echo you might do a quick Google search with a lyric to get a song name and then ask the Echo to play. With the Google Home you skip the Google search step. I am starting to learn a shorter english as the inference is so incredible with the Google Home. So say "hey google play sting gwen bottle on tv". Google figures out that I want to watch a video of Gwen Stefani and Sting singing message in a bottle on my TV. It then turns the TV on, sets the proper input, and the video starts playing. Our brains inference capabilities allow us to communicate with one another in a compressed manner. Information can be inferred versus being said. This is what Google is doing and for some (many?) things they can do better than a human.
    Maybe it is because I have an engineering background but the Google Home from a technology standpoint and what Google is doing just blows me away. The demo that most blows people away is the Google Photos with the Google Home. A bunch of people over for the holiday and someone asks how was your trip? You just say would you like to see a few pics? You just say "hey google show my photos of kenny in Maui". The TV turns itself on, input set, and photos of my son Kenny playing on the beach in Maui displays". Someone asks did you guys snorkel? I simply ask Google to show photos of Molokini and then photos of us snorkeling at Molokini and unfortunately pics of where I forced the kids to Kayak to Molokini from the hotel. Wind changed, almost died, fantastic Coast Guard picked us up and took us back to the hotel where we were yelled at because suppose to check in once an hour. Just what happens when wife does not join me and the kids on vacation. Then my oldest said I remember snorkeling there. Then you just say show Tommy snorkeling at Molokini. My wife had scanned and loaded 1000s of photos into Google Photos and to the shock of my oldest son photos both above and underwater display of him at Molokini. This is simply off the charts incredible from a technology standpoint. Might be a bias for me but simply wow!
    Basically one shutter click and nothing else and three months later you are in your family room without touching a single thing showing the photos. There is no more friction that can be removed.