Google is taking another stab at being the centre of your living room, and this time they've opted for an affordable device called Chromecast.
Essentially Chromecast is a 2-inch HDMI dongle running a stripped down version of Google's Chrome OS. A user plugs it into any HDMI-equipped television or monitor, connects it to their home Wireless network, and enjoys the ability to stream content like Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Music, or open Chrome tabs to their HDTV with the press of a button on their device.
The appeal should extend beyond the aggressive $35 price tag. At a press event earlier today hosted by Sundar Pichai, Google's Senior Vice President of Android and Chrome Apps, the company emphasized the importance of not having to learn anything new. No additional menus, no unfamiliar user interfaces. Chromecast is controlled by software you already use on a daily basis.
To illustrate its functionality, imagine you're lounging on the couch watching House of Cards via Netflix on your Nexus 7 – or any Android tablet or phone. Press the new "cast" button on Netflix, and the show gets "beamed" to your television, by signalling to the Chromecast to pull that content down from the Internet.
At that point, the device becomes a remote control, but also retains its full functionality. In other words, feel free to check your e-mail, join a Google Hangout, or jump on Twitter while enjoying the content on your TV.
Here's where Google made a wise decision: Chromecast is app-driven, not device-driven. This means it will work with your iPad, iPhone, Mac, all Android phones and tablets, even your desktop computer. Even more brilliant is that the play state of your content – whether it's a simple MP3 or a rented movie – syncs across all these devices, allowing you to pick up and play where left off.
With a myriad of more expensive retail devices promising to turn your "dumb" TV into a Smart TV, as well as proprietary devices like the Roku Streaming Stick, Google has taken a different path by augmenting devices we already own, without playing favourites and without catering to one ecosystem over another. It even has baked-in support for multiple users.
Google also announced an SDK available for developers to add Chromecast support to existing apps. Like Chrome OS, the Chromecast will auto update ensuring those apps are supported as soon as the functionality is available.
It remains to be seen if consumers will latch on to Chromecast, but at $35 it borders on an impulse purchase – and 3 months of Netflix only sweetens the deal. It could even be disruptive to Microsoft, whose Xbox One is designed around uniting devices in your living room.
Chromecast is available now at the U.S. Google Play Store (No word on when Canadians will get a crack at it).