A week ago, a Chromecast Preview Firmware changed all references of the companion Google Cast app to Google Home. The reasoning for that change seemed simple at the time: presumably you would control Google Home and your Chromecasts from the same app. But a recent report from Variety sheds light on Google Cast's role in Google's smart home ecosystem.
It's no secret that adoption of Google Cast in WiFi speakers has grown exponentially. Cast is a huge step up from Bluetooth speakers in terms of usability (no finicky pairing), and unlike Apple's AirPlay technology, is platform-agnostic. Thanks to the rapid adoption of Google Cast, Google has relationships with numerous companies in the audio industry - relationships it hopes to use for Google Home.
Variety reports that Google conducted a meeting in June with around 50 of the "biggest names of home audio" to discuss Google Home. Unfortunately, Google outright banned manufacturers from adding other digital assistants (namely Amazon's Alexa) to their products if they want to continue using Google Cast. This undoubtedly placed vendors in a tough spot, and resulted in at least one major manufacturer dropping out of talks.
Google's talks with OEMs were at least partially successful, reportedly some of the companies in attendance will be ready to unveil their own smart speakers as soon as Summer 2017. But it remains to be seen if Google's exclusivity terms will cement Google's dominance over the smart home industry, or if Alexa will emerge triumphant.