Introducing Chromecast, Google’s Inexpensive Streaming… Thing

on Wednesday, Jul. 24th

Here's one thing that has to be admitted: the new Chromecast, um, thing from Google looks pretty slick.

The small device plugs into the HDMI port on any HDTV and allows for streaming from mobile devices and laptops. According to Google this will mean any mobile device, and any laptop running the Chrome browser.

Anyone who has an Apple TV and an iPad or iPhone knows just how neat it is to toss a video from a mobile device to the big screen. Apple TV boxes, however, cost $99. The Chromecast just $35. Granted, the Apple TV does a lot more than the Chromecast, but between the price and the portability Google's new–I guess we can call it a dongle–presents itself almost as an impulse purchase.

The portability is the niftiest bit. Any set-top box that can stream Netflix, be it the Apple TV or a Roku, is usually best left plugged in next to the TV. Sure, you can take the hockey puck sized devices with you, but why do that when you can just carry this little device in your pocket?

Well, that and it's power cord.

Uh, oh.

That super-slick looking key isn't self-powered, after all. What Google isn't picturing in the set up is the power cord that will ribbon off the device and into the snaky lair of the AV system of your choice. Which is maybe an teeny bit disingenuous of them as a cordless streaming dongle is way more aesthetically pleasing than a fob of plastic with a wire sticking out of it.

These are nits I'm picking here, obviously. For $35 consumers will get a easily portable wi-fi streaming device that has Netflix, YouTube and Google Play built in. That can paste Chrome browser tabs up onto the television, and turn mobile devices into video remotes for the content.

The Big G is also backing this new product up with its own SDK, Google Cast:

To ensure a great Chromecast experience over time, we've built Google Cast, a technology that enables developers to build consistent, intuitive multi-screen experiences across mobile devices and TVs. Today, we’re launching a preview version of Google Cast with more information for developers on our Google Developers blog. A handful of early developers are already working on enabling Google Cast technology in their apps, so more supported apps are coming soon. And while the Chromecast device is the first instantiation of Google Cast, we expect the technology to be embedded in a range of hardware from our partners in the future.

Much of the entertainment industry is trying to crack the multi-screen nut, and a Google-driven software solution to this issue must stir up a combination of a relief and abject terror. Relief that a company with heavy engineering skills is on the case, and terror that a company with an insatiable appetite for all things is entering a ket market battleground.

There's a vision underlying this new device: a platform agnostic, web services-centric view of what home entertainment is becoming. Of all the attempts to "webify" TV, this vision appears to me to most accurately reflect how people are actually approaching entertainment.

This little dongle could turn out to be a really big deal.

Follow Noah Nelson on Twitter (@noahjnelson)


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