Making the Apple case for Google's Chromecast

The case for Google's Chromecast

My Twitter stream is currently divided fairly equally between my Android/Google friends who fell instantly in love with the new Chromecast streaming video dongle, and my Apple friends who fell instantly in love with mocking it. At their nexus is Erica Sadun, a longtime Apple writer and coder extraordinaire, with more than a passing familiarity with video streaming. She seemed downright excited by the Chromecast, as is typically her wont. And she spared no time getting into the whys and wherefores on TUAW:

So where do I expect Chromecast to succeed? For travel -- both business and personal.

Sadun makes an interesting case, and wonders out-loud whether or not Apple might ever consider a similar Apple TV Express-type dongle for the same niche. Sadun wouldn't be Sadun, however, without immediately jumping into the Chromecast SDK and poking around for potential. Check out her Dev Juice column, also on TUAW.

Personally, I think my Android/Google friends have been overly positive, and my Apple friends way too negative about the Chromecast. Like most things, the value seems to lie in the middle. Every device is a compromise, and every choice comes with an opportunity cost. Chromecast solves one problem - getting internet video easily and inexpensively onto the TV - and it does it in a small package that's, for good for for ill, utterly dependent on the possession of a larger, smarter, controller device. That'll either make it the iPod shuffle of TV streamers, or the buttonless iPod shuffle of TV streamers.

If the size, either disappearing into your home theater setup or your pocket on a road trip, or the low, low price appeal to you, and you don't need an Apple TV (or another Apple TV), Chromecast might be the former. If you're looking for a more complete product, likely the latter. Same is true with the Apple TV if you really want and need an Xbox One.

Lots of choices, and more all the time. So check out what Sadun's been up to, and let me know what you think.

Source: TUAW, TUAW

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Making the Apple case for Google's Chromecast


I just got my Chromecast yesterday and only use iOS devices now, but the experience is surprisingly comfortable. I was able to control YouTube and Netflix through the iOS apps seamlessly, and didn't have to do any extra setup on my device. The only thing we don't get right out of the box is Play Music integration, but I would assume when iOS gets the Play Music app (which Sundar hinted to at I/O), that would include casting integration.

I also got mine yesterday (still no Netlfix codes from Amazon) and have been happy with it. I've streamed a local blu-ray rip and watched the Giants lose to the Cubs on it with no issues.

On Android Central, they said the free Netflix was cancelled, but they didn't elaborate.
Was the blu-ray rip on your device or on your network? How did you stream it?

A great move by google as this seems like a good "proof of concept" device that will allow them to finally get started in the living room. Can't imagine they are making money in this little guy. I might get one but I think this is better for my parents or sisters who are on android devices and do not have a smart tv. The mirroring from chrome sounds interesting too. Hope to many people don't bash the device as this is as I said before, a proof of concept device for google and a first generation device.

I'm a apple user but the competition in this area (living room) is going to mean we are going to see a lot of cool ideas and advancements.

If only I could get HBO a la carte...

Sent from the iMore App

I picked up one of these yesterday at the Best Buy near my house and I got the Netflix promotional code. This was an unexpected surprise but I'll take it! They had two left. I live in a Apple house and simply wanted a way to inexpensively play Netflix on my large screen TV and it does that perfectly and I can continue using my devices for other things at the same time. I tried tab casting from my iMac and that worked pretty well too although any kind of video (like HBO GO) wasn't quite as good as the native applications but it is watchable. Dragging local files into the chrome browser on my iMac also worked well enough to watch.

The only real downside I've seen is that it doesn't always automatically switch inputs for me when I start casting like it seems to for others. It does turn my TV on all the time when I start casting but doesn't always switch the input. Maybe it's because my LG HDTV is too old? No biggie though.

One of the things I really like about this approach is that I'm not forced to use the "10 foot interfaces" of set top boxes like the Apple TV and Roku. I can simply use the iOS apps (for both an iPhone and iPad in my case) as I always do to browse, search for, and queue up videos to watch quickly and easily then send that programming off to my big-screen TV with two taps. It's certainly much quicker than what I could do with a clunky 10 foot interface. Personally I don't see having to depend on possessing a "larger, smarter, controller device" as being much of a problem. In all likelihood anybody who's going to be using something like this already has a smartphone, tablet, or both. If you don't, and really feel that you need something like this, go buy yourself an older, used iPod Touch or something. It's also nice that I can still use my iPhone or iPad for other things after casting something off to my HDTV.

I also should mention that I am severely disabled in a wheelchair with my iPhone mounted on my right arm rest. So not having to use a 10 foot interface (which is difficult and awkward for me) or reach for yet another remote, is awesome. The more my iPhone can be a remote for the better as far as I'm concerned, especially if it's done in a way that I'm already familiar and comfortable with (just as this is).

Whenever I go to visit my father, which should be soon, I plan on taking the Chromecast with me so we can watch Netflix there. So there again is another benefit.

So overall it's really hard to criticize this thing for $11 (if you've got the Netflix promotion like I did) or even $35. And I imagine it's only going to get better. Of course if Apple came out with something similar I'd jump all over that in a second but right now that's not the case. It's going to be very interesting to see what happens with this thing over the next few months.

There goes Rene as usually talking sense...stop it!

I did buy a chromecast since $11...why not. It works, cool proof of concept device. I have zero need. Most of my family members don't use any of the appletv/smart blueray I gave them. The xbox households do mainly for netflix and youtube because their kids trained mom and dad how to. It also rocks for Living Room web conferencing. For others only the 8 yr olds know how to hit Netflix button on the blueray remote.

Why did many, me included, get so excited about Yet Another Streaming device? That is would I would love Rene to write about. Clearly this hit a nerve as we shrugged about the much more significant product Nexus 7. It is sure to force samsung/asus/Amazon to get better tablets into the hands of the masses at around that price. That is good news, since screen size needed varies.

I've accepted that I'm nuts when it comes to this stuff and try to give myself a reality check. Perhaps the tech press should admit it too.

Rene, is there a way to contact you off-forum? I can't find an email for you, and I had a comment regarding a few small things in the article. Thanks!

Haven't been able to get past the setup stage. You apparently need a laptop with wifi or an Android phone/tablet. The windows app for my desktop (cabled to a wireless router) doesn't see my wifi and there isn't an IOS app yet.

My main draw to this was it's multi-platform. Maybe next week it will be.

Yeah the the IOS setup app is "coming soon". Unless I can borrow my brothers Windows laptop I'm going to need the IOS setup app when I go to visit my father. Hopefully Google remedies this by then. They should have had it ready at launch.

You need wifi because the dongle acts as a wifi hotspot for setup. Your phone/laptoo connects to it so it can tell the chromecast what wifi network to log into.


Google's TV strategy in a nutshell:

1. Google TV - like WebTV but with broadband and HD resolution
2. Nexus Q - like Apple TV but 3X the price, no content, and spherical
3. Chromecast - totally unlike 1. and 2. because they both totally failed
4. Wait for Apple to roll out their real television strategy
5. Copy Apple's real television strategy without getting sued too much

My problem with Chromecast is only how it was marketed. I work with a lot of smart people and we all watched the announcement and came away with certain beliefs and expectations about the product. To then have it turn out that most of those expectations were wrong, was disturbing to say the least. If you look at the comments on tech sites, it's no exaggeration to say that most of the people rushing to buy it clearly think it is able to do things that it cannot do.

It's not a case of the audience misreading what they said, or not being smart enough to see what the product was. I feel that Google went quite out of it's way to *misrepresent* the capabilities of this product and that kind of smells to me. It's illustrative of how Google does business nowadays.

You are completely wrong. The device can do so much MORE than what it was advertised it could do. This has huge capabilities, Google has a winner on their hands and was great about keeping the cost down. They could have charged $100.00 and it would have sold. It's very obvious you are anti Google but remember this, if without Google the internet wouldn't be nearly as great. I use Google for just about everything I can on my iPhone, also own many of the top Android devices. I keep my options opened. Chromecast was never over marketed in any way, in fact this little gadget for only $35.00 can do much more than we were told. This is one bad ass little product that if anyone can rip it apart is probably because they will rip apart anything with the name Google on it. That is just being dumb, dumb and did I say dumb, yep I did. That is being a foolish little fanboy.

It actually can do slightly more than Google claimed. There is an experimental option to mirror your fullscreen laptop in the laptop chrome extension. Not just the "beta" chrome tab casting, which works well except for HD video like Hulu.

The only legitimate gripe is that they don't have an ios setup app at launch.

Im still waiting to really use mine. I have NO laptops or PCs with wifi in the house. I do have ios devices ("a supported device") but there is no app yet to set it up. Cant believe there is not an anger about this shortfall. I have the freaking thing and cant use it till I find a friend with droid or a laptop to set it up.

Google dropped the ball a bit here.

"So where do I expect Chromecast to succeed? For travel -- both business and personal."

That's why I bought it. I spend three or four nights a week in hotels. If I can plug this thing into the TV in the hotel and use it to stream Netflix (or even just Google Play music, since the TV has better speakers than my tablet), I'll be SO happy.

And if it doesn't work well... I'm really only out $11, so who cares?

In hotels? That's good to hear!

My concern is getting the Chromecast connected to open wireless networks with web-based login protocols (e.g., Hilton chain hotels).

It comes with three free months of Netflix, which doesn't just apply if you activate a new account; if you have an existing account, you get a credit for three month's worth of streaming subscription ($24).

Unfortunately, that promotion was a little more "limited time" than people expected and it is no longer valid for new purchases:

I won't be trying it, but will be curious how well it does. Recently we bought my 70 year old mom an Apple TV because she was tired of cable. We got her set up on Hulu, Netflix, and an Apple ID with a prepaid card so she can rent movies. My mom refuses to move into smartphone/tablet territory, but loves her Apple TV (the minimalist remote threw her for a minute after using Comcast's monster, but she adjusted). My point is Chromecast, despite its low cost, necessarily requires one have either a smartphone or tablet, whereas Apple and Roku don't. I know a great many of us are gadgeted to the gills, but, hey, not everyone wants to be.

I agree. The Chromecast works great for me because I'm, as you said, gadgeted to the gills. Unfortunately, there's no way they could come out with a beefier, standalone system (or include features that people are begging for like DLNA) with a dedicated remote without getting into Apple TV price territory, and for this thing, it's ridiculously low price is a significant feature.

I wonder if Amazon would try to come out with something along those lines, though. They're making a huge push into the streaming media and original content markets, and their Kindle Fire line has been a runaway success.

chromecast is basically just airplay.
Apple tv, offers airplay streaming, plus a remote, and the ability to stream your own content assuming it's in a usable format.
And boxes like WDTV, Roku and some others don't do airplay (i think) but can stream more content format types.

what is best is what works for you. For example i need a remote cause i'm not the only one that's going to use the device and a phone or laptop isn't everywhere, plus it's cumbersome. I also need to stream local content as i have my own music stored and almost two terabytes of archived movies, music vids, home movies, tv series, and other stuff. I also need a usb port preferably two because my content is on a drive not attached to a networked computer. I also have a wide variety of formats that i don't currently intend to convert (though i may later) mkv, ac3 audio, dts audio, divx, xvids, .ts, .iso, .flvs etc. So my ideal player not only needs to be ablet to access local files but able to play more than the basic mp4s and mp3s.

So all devices can't do everything. Chromecast if fine if you're always gonna have a phone laying around to control stuff and don't need other things like access to local stuff.

Me i hope google decides to release a real appletv competitor. That offers all the specs and more. ports, broad format support, google music access and hopefully much much faster than that internet access which is mad laggy. All in a sleek interface.

That would be awesome. I would LOVE to see something along the lines of a Nexus TV box. Something like what everyone always wanted Google TV to be in the first place.

The manual setup process is available now at: for iphones. Its through the browser.

Does anybody know what happens when you take one of these to a different Wi-Fi network? I'm assuming you have to set it up with that network just like you did before but do you have to reset it first or will it remember both networks?

I'm going to take this to my father's house to watch some Netflix there and it would kind of stink if I had to reset it first, go through this set up at his house, then when I get back home have to set it up again at my house, then go through the whole thing again next time I bring it to my father's house. Or is it like a smartphone or tablet where once you do it once it remembers in the future?