Somewhere between a WiFi TV antenna and a smartphone/tablet extender, Google's new Chromecast dongle aims to provide a Web link to non-smart enabled sets and an easy link for Android devices to share content across screens.
A Screenful of Content
Quite the instant purchase at just $35, Google's new Chromecast device can be snapped on from the Google Play store and the likes of Amazon and BestBuy. Announced at the same time as the new Nexus 7 tablet, it provides a cheap way to get HD movies, TV and other web video content off your smartphone or tablet (including Apple's devices) and onto the big screen.
However, unlike Apple TV, it pulls the content from the cloud, allowing you to keep using the device or notebook (with Google's Chrome browser doing the driving) to do other things and act as a remote control. Naturally, there are a lot of comparisons going on with Apple's hobby gadget, but without the Apple lock-in it could have far wider appeal, depending on what services you use and how you use them.
It currently works with Netflix, YouTube and Google's own Play Movies & TV and Play Music services (depending on your region, naturally), with more apps like Pandora promised for the near future. The whole move feels like an effort to brush past the largely overlooked Google TV experiment and to create something that fits in better with users' existing technologies.
Content Owners May Want to Look Away Now
Of course, those running the TV networks, cable services and owning the content may grimace at yet another method of working around their beloved subscriptions and bundled packages. But, this will be yet another device that helps to bang in those last few nails, especially if the open source nature of Android or the use of a browser allows users to start throwing content from any source at the big screen.
For the consumer, it opens up another avenue for content consumption, and while we're already spoilt for choice, that keen price and open access from other devices might see Chromecast become a very popular choice of gift. However, if Apple TV is used to boost Apple's console gaming efforts, I'm not sure how this will support Android's efforts, with its cloud direction. Also, before it gets worshipped as the next-big-thing, note that it needs a power supply to run and we wonder if anyone has any spare power points or HDMI ports on their TV for yet another gadget?
For developers, there's a preview version of the newly-launched Google Cast SDK, technology to help build consistent, intuitive multi-screen experiences across mobile devices and TVs. These apps could where the flair and originality come to build apps around shows or TV events to make for Zeebox-like levels of social commentary and interaction.