At Google’s “Breakfast with Sundar Pichai” event today, the company introduced a new device called Chromecast that plugs into your television’s HDMI port, and instantly adds video streaming capabilities to it. The best part about this device? It’s a tiny dongle that costs just $35.
The dongle connects to a Wi-Fi network, and lets you use your Android or iOS device or laptop to “cast” online content to your TV. Chromecast currently works with Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Music and more apps coming soon. There’s also a Google Cast SDK for third-party developers that lets them add screen-sharing abilities to their iOS and Android apps via Chromecast.
Google is also giving a three month Netflix membership free with every Chromecast, so the effective price of the dongle comes down to just $11.
Though Chromecast’s “screen sharing” concept is very similar to AirPlay, the technologies are very different. Unlike AirPlay, where the content is sent from your iPhone or iPad to the TV, Chromecast itself fetches content from the cloud, so the devices just do the initial pairing and present UI elements to control the stream. While this arrangement works well for video and photo streaming, it proves to be limiting for other tasks like mirroring and gaming.
Another differentiating factor from AirPlay — this time a positive one — is that you can continue multitasking while content is being “casted” to your TV, letting you check your mail, surf the web even as a video or a photo is being streamed.
Chrome will also add support for Chromecast and allow web apps to send content like photos, videos etc. to your TV.
Google notes that Chromecast, which runs a toned-down version of Chrome OS, will soon also be embedded in a number of products from several manufacturers, eliminating the need for a separate dongle.
Tell us what you think about the Chromecast in the comments below. Is its reliance on the cloud for streaming a feature or limitation?
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