Tech Web sites are abuzz today with reaction to Google’s introduction of Chromecast, it’s latest attempt to deliver online content to that big-screen HDTV in our living rooms. The consensus so far is that it’s an improvement over Google’s previous approaches to online-to-TV technology but that solutions from other vendors are still viable.
Google introduced Chromecast Wednesday at an event in San Francisco. For just $35 you get a device about the size of a thumb drive that plugs into the HDMI port on your TV. If the TV in your living room right now doesn’t have an HDMI port, it’s long since past the time to upgrade.
With Chromecast plugged into the TV, the user installs a Chrome app on their laptop, tablet or smartphone, browses through online content on the device and selects a program to watch. The video is transmitted to the TV via your home wi-fi network and starts playing on the TV. Right now, Chromecast only works with content from Netflix, You Tube or Google Play, the latter two owned by Google. Other video choices are expected to become available over Chromecast down the road, such as Pandora, Google said on its own blog.
The Chromecast gadget is available for online order now from Google Play, Amazon.com and BestBuy.com and will be available in brick-and-mortar Best Buys July 28.
How well does it work?
Larry Magid, a contributor to Forbes.com, reported a few glitches setting it up from the app on his Mac and sending content to his TV.
“The videos I played from the Mac were out of focus for a minute or two,” Magid wrote. “Still, for its intended purposes, the Chromecast did an excellent job of displaying YouTube and Netflix.”
Like Magid, Emily Price at Mashable.com also had problems displaying content on TV through the tablet’s Google Chrome Web browser, another viewing option, though currently only in beta. “It doesn’t work nearly as well as the Netflix and YouTube integrations,” she wrote.
Nonetheless, a plug-in device for $35 is an elegantly simple solution, Price and other reviewers have said. Chromecast is Google’s third attempt at bringing online content to the TV, following the launch of Google TV, a content streaming platform that depended on interoperability with set-top boxes and specific TV brands. Then there was the Nexus Q device, which Google pulled from the market just days after its introduction in 2012.
Already with a head start in the market Chromecast is just now entering is Roku and Apple TV, both of which have a wider array of content options than does Chromecast. But Apple TV only works with Apple browsing devices like iPad, iPhone and Macs. And Roku can’t be controlled by a tablet or smartphone, just a proprietary remote control.
Still, with each of these innovations, vendors are trying different approaches to deliver the same solution – programs you can find online and watch on that big, beautiful TV we still enjoy so much.
And at just $35, the price point may be perfect for prompting mainstream adoption. Even I might jump in at that price.
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