Google announces Chromecast, $35 HDMI dongle to stream supported services to TV

Google announces Chromecast, $35 HDMI dongle to stream supported services to TV

Google has just finished their big breakfast event and one of the highlights for Apple users is Chromecast, a $35 HDMI dongle that turns any TV into a receiver for YouTube, Netflix, and potentially other services that adopt the API. It seems like Apple's AirPlay, but has some benefits and drawbacks all its own. Here's what Phil Nickinson from Android Central had to say:

YouTube, Google Play Music — all available through Chromecast and accessed through your phone. You can set up a queue of videos to play while still use your phone for other tasks. Browse, take phonecalls, check e-mail — whatever you need to do. Streaming is handled from the Chromecast — not from your phone. And Netflix? No problem.

As for those drawbacks, first, it's "cross-platform" as in "works with iOS and Android, and the [in this case Chrome] browser". Other desktop browsers, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone, so far, need not apply. That's increasingly the case with Google, which makes me kinda wish they'd find a new, more honest word for it like "select-platforms". Apple and AirPlay only work with iOS and OS X, of course, which is worse from a supported platform perspective, but you absolutely know that going in.

Second, whenever someone talks about device independence, it means they're selling service dependence. It's the same old yarn from Flash, where it can run everywhere, but you become locked into Adobe's ecosystem. Likewise, Chromecast looks like it'll support a wide range of devices, but you'll be locked into Google API for doing so. No such thing as a free-as-in-speech or free-as-in-beer lunch.

Third, even though it streams from the cloud all on its own, Chromecast requires a secondary smart device to control it (iOS, Android, or Chrome-browser), and that introduces a point of failure. Even if my iPhone is dead, or left at another location, I can pick up the rinky-dink Apple TV IR remote and have at it. Not so with Chromecast.

All that aside, the price is killer, and you use iOS or Chrome on OS X, and the services you care most about are YouTube, Netflix, and other Google and partner offerings, Chromecast might be a great option for you.

If you're Apple-only, AirPlay, especially with AirPlay mirroring, and an Apple TV look like they're still a far better option (especially considering Apple TV has built-in, native YouTube and Netflix channels.)

I'll be getting one, though. Anyone else?

Source: Google Play via Android Central

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Google announces Chromecast, $35 HDMI dongle to stream supported services to TV

21 Comments

That's true. No word on Canada yet either. I believe Apple TV had a better international presence at launch, if memory serves.

As long as I'm using an iPhone and iPad, just going to stick with my AppleTV. If I start using an Android device, I'd definitely get one. Another exception would be if I wanted to use services like this on another TV in my house and don't want to buy another Apple TV or get tired of always having to move my current one from one room to the next.

It's good the AC article was linked because comparing the two articles makes you wonder if each author was watching the same announcement. It's odd that Rene thinks "cross-platform" he normally it will work on all devices and all operating systems (e.g. Apple advertises that "iTunes works everywhere", yet I see no commentary on how users aren't knowing the real truth going in). Only an Apple blogger could argue that support for OSX, Windows, Android and iOS is considered a drawback. I also think it's ironic that he pans the device for service lock-in yet has no issue with the Apple alternative (with a similar lock-in).

You're a better author than this Rene. Leave the platform zealotry to loonies like Gruber and such.

1) I've written about the lack of cross-platform support from Apple a lot, especially recently, and specifically about iTunes and iMessage.

2) Google's positioning Chromecast as working with every device. I have two BB10 devices, and I'm about to get a Windows Phone, and it won't work with those. How's that "every" device?

3) I was pointing out that increasingly, and not just by Google, BlackBerry and Windows Phone are facing the Linux on the desktop problem - they're not even considered.

4) Personally attacking me is nowhere nearly as impressive as factually challenging what I wrote (especially when so spectacularly wrong ;) )

I can play youtube videos on any one of my 3 Apple TV's WITHOUT google ads.....I wouldn't pay even $35 dollars to go backwards in that regard as i'm sure those ads play with Chromecast.

Maybe when they get some more services i'll consider one though.

Rene you know cross-platform does not mean all-platforms.

I think the potential of Chromecast is much higher than Apple TV, in their current state, simply based on Chromecast enabling developers to do what they wish vs trickling a new channel here/there. Hopefully Apple changes their stance and opens it up at some point in the future.

Google said "any device". What they should have said was "select devices". If you listen to this week's Android Central podcast, I point this out and Phil, Jerry, and the guys hadn't even realized it didn't support BB10 and Windows Phone. That's poor messaging.

AppleTV requires Apple products. And frankly when I use it to mirror, it can be a bit laggy from my Iphone 4S. Roku is great for it's ease of use, and ability to play local media from my Plex server.

What the Chromecast has is a few things.
HDMI-CEC: Now when you decide to push something, it will automatically change inputs and even turn on your TV. That is great for my 4 year old who just learned to put it on the right input for watching our Roku.
Platform independant: My wife has a Windows PC and an Iphone. Doesn't matter the device now, she can push stuff to the TV.
Price: For $35 the average consumer is going to look at all the set-top boxes at Best Buy and take this one. Because 95% of them just want Netflix and maybe Amazon or Vudu.

And how long until this is integrated into TV sets? If Google can get this built into TVs, it will be awesome. They already have the connections from their deals with GoogleTV. I will be buying these for our Office TVs in our conference rooms for sure, probably along with AppleTVs.

What Apple CAN'T do now is open up their App store for AppleTV and charge us a 3rd time for apps. I already paid two times for some things for my Iphone and Ipad. I hope that this forces Apple to push the boundaries and price points with their upcoming products.

my only concerns are power and the setup. Says it requires included usb cable for power (not shown). I don't have usb ports on my devices. My parents have year old super expensive Sharp tv and i know for a fact is has USB ports that are unpowered. It can read off a hard drive and when i tried to i had to find a usb splitter and run one cable to a laptop usb just to get the drive to power on because running it just into the tv usb didn't power it on. As for me, my tv is like 6 years old too so i don't have a free HDMI port which stinks.

Other thing is no remote. I'd hope they'd add one as everybody isn't gonna have a phone, like children. Seems strange that if you have one phone you're always gonna have to give it to someone to work this. What happens when you go to the grocery store while someone's home watching chromecast? I guess they can't hit pause cause i'm taking my phone.

It also comes with a power adapter (so you can plug it into your wall). You can buy an HDMI switch for <$20 but since that is over half the price of the device maybe that wouldn't be a great idea. I believe you can use your mac/pc as a remote.

Derrick4Real: Why would you need a remote. I think it would be useless as there isn't any sort of "homepage". This just *slings* things to your TV and then takes over the stream. I can't imagine that a home doesn't have a smart phone, tablet, or laptop able to run Chrome. If you have none of those, then this device is not for you, and a Roku is your best option.

I'd need a remote to pause, netflix, fast forward, rewind, select a new video, to navigate menues. If it hooks into google music i got 19k songs, i'd need a remote to move though menus, to select playlists, to que up songs. The same reason i have a remote for the other streaming devices i have, same reason i have a remote for my xbox and cable box. My nieces and nephews don't have phones or tablets. I have a iphone but i use my phone. I can't exactly give it to them while i'm doing stuff. And what happens when i leave and they are still in my house? They just can't watch netflix? They can't change the music? Now you may have all those devices sitting around by my family doesn't have all those tech gadgets around. And they surely don't travel with a tablet. You go places and just go to friends house. Normally you have a remote so anyone will easily know how to work the tv. Roku is ok, wdtv is much better. Plays way more formats. I've got almost 2 terabytes of movies, tv, home movies and music and the video comes in several formats and audio codec combos. The WDTV plays damn near everything imaginable. Regardless, i'm aware there are other things. My comments still are focused on this google device. it has it's limits. I use my phone all day for various tasks so unless i'm the one using this device it may be hard for guests to use it. When i leave my neice here with the baby sitter i'd hope the baby sitter had an android phone and bothered to install the app cause my own phone is going with me.

you are not listening man, it slings content from your device to it. This means there are no menus to navigate. You select what you would like to watch from your phone, tablet or computer be it from youtube, play music or Netflix. You do not navigate through your library from it but from the source. What the video on how it works and you will understand it. You are making it out to not work for you which it may not but it is a great service for the price. For the person who wants this service in multi rooms or to travel with. I can potentially take this to a hotel with me and I have all my content with me, to a friends or family's house as well. So like started before, you push content from your phone to it and then the cloud takes over the rest, it is not coming from your phone.

Ok, I can see your issues with the remote. But, I don't think you will see a remote come out for this.

The demo did show that if the primary smart phone leaves the premises that another device can take over for it. But that would require you to have something like a tablet, or iPod touch as well.

And I agree that the Chromecast has it's limitations. I use my Roku to stream all my local media from my Plex box. It transcodes it and then I watch it on the TV or my Ipad. But if the Chromecast can bypass the Plex, then I might be moving away from that box.

What I find fascinating about chromecast is that it seems to indicate that google is now being run by lovers of business plans rather than lovers of technology. In my opinion this is the beginning of the end of Google as we know it. I say this because it would have been much simpler and more straightforward to release a product that simply mirrored the video and/or audio of your pc or smartphone and released the spec/API so that any developer could write an app or utility to use it. Instead it is clear they are using this device as a fishing lure to catch more advertising dollars by limiting which apps can use it. This sort of thing makes my stomach turn. Only a business school graduate would hobble a piece of technology like this.

At our company we struggled to find affordable wireless projectors for our conference rooms. We realized the AppleTV was solution. We added an AppleTV to all our projectors and got aiparrot for those with PCs. No more fumbling around with cables and monitor setting when you want to present. Problem solved. We'll stick with this solution for now.