On Monday, Google unveiled a new hardware initiative that lets users push audio from mobile devices to compatible, dedicated home audio systems. With Google Cast, users can turn on dedicated iOS and Android apps or compatible websites loaded through the Chrome browser, then tap a button to have that respective audio play from a nearby sound bar or other speaker system.
The initiative builds upon the fact that many iOS and Android apps already support casting to Chromecast TV dongles, which means audio apps like Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Pocket Casts are ready now for a line of speakers that doesn't yet exist. The announcement included the names Sony, LG, and Denon, but none of those manufacturers arrived with details or images of their upcoming Google Cast-compatible speaker systems.
We do know that those speakers will be built with enough capabilities to take over during any audio stream, as Google Cast passes the download and processing buck to the speaker system so that mobile users can "freely multitask... without straining the battery." (Better put, you shouldn't expect a Google Cast retrofit in older devices already on the market.) That similar hardware spec will eventually reach "a growing Google Cast" ecosystem of game consoles, Android TVs, and other devices as well.
This is Google's baby step into its own AirPlay-styled ecosystem, but while it opens development to third parties wanting to make Chromecast-compatible devices, it limits them to audio-only products. Google has yet to fully clarify what we can expect from its Android TV initiative, so we'll have to settle for this third-party opening of the audio portion for now.