Want to show the video of your family's latest trip to the zoo on your HDTV instead of having people huddle around your tiny smartphone? Now you can stream the video right from your computer.
Google has introduced its new Chromecast, a $35 accessory that plugs into a television set. It lets users stream video, play music and share tabs from the Google Chrome browser from devices like Lenovo laptops, including the Ultrabook and IdeaPad Z400 Touch, as well as Android tablets and iPhones.
The major selling point is that Chromecast lets users share or stream while the device can perform other tasks. The small Chromecast device plugs into a TV's HDMI port and enables a viewer to multitask on the laptop, tablet or smartphone without interrupting what's showing on the television set. Chromecast is a 2.83-inch dongle device. It can play audio/video content on a high-definition television by streaming it via Wi-Fi from the Internet or local network. Similar products include Sony's Smart Stick and Apple's AirPlay.
Chromecast comes with built-in support for Google devices, as well as its Chrome browser and Apple's iPhone, allowing almost all TVs to acquire a Google upgrade. It's easy for developers to add Chromecast to their apps. That's a win for Chromecast, which could receive more content and make apps on Google Play more unique.
The device does not offer the same things as a receiving device, such as Roku or Apple TV, but you can stream local videos to the Chromecast if the Chrome browser on your computer supports the file type. You can also display your entire desktop screen and your files on the television screen.
Chromecast is a simplified form of Google's previous foray into the living room, Google TV. For example, pay TV offerings won't be integrated into Chromecast, and there are no complicated remote controls to confuse the user. Instead, searching for and finding videos takes place on the laptop or mobile device. Chromecast simply streams media from the cloud. The user can turn on the TV by starting video playback on a tablet, for instance. The simplicity of the device makes it easy to use and reliable. The easy set up and small mobility is also a plus for most dongle devices.
Google's Chromecast syncs media playback across multiple devices. The user can launch playback of a Netflix movie using a smartphone. The phone then can be turned off, and the app can be launched on an iPad to pause the film.
Chromecast can be compared with Apple TV and its AirPlay, the model for Chromecast. A total of 12 million Apple TVs have been sold, which accounts for 56 percent of the worldwide market share. While you can find receivers to adapt an AirPlay device to other platforms, AirPlay is designed to primarily work with Apple products which, although are popular, are not owned by everybody. AirPlay also doesn't come with some advanced multi-screen Chromecast features, such as the multiple-playback feature across several devices.
Chromecast does have a few hurdles. For instance, programmers might be unwilling to give up on bundles. Cable companies, too, might block new competition from entering the market. These hurdles could mean the consumer might have to wait awhile before Chromecast is offered.
Google's main focus for the Chromecast device is an aggressively competitive price and simplicity. However, this limits a lot of the dongle's ability and opportunities to offer more services and features. Sony's Bravia Smart Stick has not yet been released, but CIO-Today.com reports it may be partnering with Viacom, a company behind many popular cable channels including Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, and BET. This would give the Sony device a score against the competition because of the partnership with major television stations. Time will tell if it can hold up against Chromecast's price and user-friendly design.
Is the TV industry willing to accept Chromecast? Direct relations with consumers could be the key. However, Google isn't motivated by money. James McQuivey, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, Inc., told The Washington Post that Google cares more about software and gathering information on consumer habits.
But, for the consumer, multitasking on a laptop while watching what's streaming on the TV probably will be the most important feature.