And, finally, there's the price. Apple TV and Roku are both priced to move with their newest models starting at $99. Chromecast costs $35.
That lower price, McQuivey said, draws a sharp line between Google and competitors such as Apple and Microsoft and shows that the company has a different vision for how to make money off the television. Apple, he explained, aims for profit from the sale of its popular devices and won't take a run at a new product unless it believes it can make money off the sales of that hardware. Microsoft is splitting the difference by packaging multimedia entertainment in a dedicated device of its own, the Xbox One.
But for Google — which hasn't made much inroad with its own TV devices — the motivations are now completely different.
"Google doesn't care about making any money on the device," McQuivey said. "The future is about software."
This new strategy doesn't even focus so much on selling the content, he noted. It's aimed more at gathering information on consumer habits — data that Google could combine with search and other data from its services to expand its user profiles.
"This is a deep, deep relationship built with you," he said. "It opens potential for them to do much more for you than they could before."
The Chromecast is now available on Google Play, Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, and will be available in U.S. Best Buy stores starting Sunday.