This guest post was contributed by Juha DeGraw.
Google has just released what could be another game changer with its new Chromecast (Amazon). PC Magazine says it is the cheapest option for HDTV streaming out there. Google has designed a small dongle that plugs into the HDMI port on your TV and allows you to stream YouTube and Netflix, and hopefully many more services in the future. How much impact the Chromecast will have, though, will depend largely on how many streaming services embrace it.
A simple design
The Chromecast is remarkably compact when compared to competitors like Apple TV and Roku, and this small design is reflective of Google’s entire approach with the device. Not much larger than a thumb drive, the Chromecast centers the entire user experience on a device of their choosing. The actual dongle is little more than a receiver, says The Register, something that makes it incredibly versatile.
After you plug the Chromecast into your television, you essentially forget it. You then use your computer or mobile device to watch your shows, either on Netflix or YouTube. You can also watch any video tabs you open in your Chrome browser. All of this is done on your device instead of the television.
The Chromecast retails for only $35. That is significantly less than the $99 price tag for Apple TV or even the cheapest device from Roku at $50. However, this is not necessarily comparing apples to apples, either. Apple TV and Roku are designed to be complete streaming solutions when combined with a television. Chromecast needs you to have a computer or mobile device to function.
Apple TV and Roku also come with quite a bit more out of the box. They work with all major streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu and HBO Go. Chromecast, in comparison, only lets you use Netflix and Youtube thus far.
Satellite television providers like SatelliteTV.net now offer streaming solutions for subscribers. It is unclear whether such providers will chose to program their apps for the Chromecast, but they probably should. With its cheap price tag, it is likely to become increasingly popular.
Chromecast is special in part because it allows you to do more than one thing at a time. With other streaming devices, once you commit to watching a show, you do not have the option of doing other things on your device. With Chromecast, you can start a show on your tablet and TV, and then surf the web while your chosen show continues playback on your television.
Chromecast works through apps. Right now, there are not very many on offer. However, the company claims that the number of apps is growing, and that the device will update with those apps automatically.
It is difficult to imagine a streaming service that would not want to be on board with the Chromecast. This should give early adopters comfort — it is probably only a matter of time before you can watch anything on a Chromecast.
Heading the other direction
Google has chosen to design and release a product that flies in the face of current standards. While things like Apple TV work to be the ultimate viewing solution, Chromecast instead chooses to be the affordable solution for anyone. How many people begin using it, and how many companies choose to create apps for those users, will probably be a significant factor in the future of the device.
About the Author
Juha moved to the U.S. from Finland to study mobile gaming technology. When he is not tooling around with SMS platforms, he is writing about the changing tech landscape in the U.S.