At their Google Breakfast event this morning, Google introduced a new hardware device, the Chromecast. The device is a dongle that plugs into your TV’s HDMI slot, connects to your WiFi network, and then lets you stream online content to the TV. Control of the content comes from your computers or mobile devices, whether Android, iOS, Windows, Mac OS, or ChromeOS. Google indicated the goal was to produce a device that will let users bring online media to their TV, that was fast and easy to setup, didn’t require anything new for users to learn as far as an interface or how to control things, and that was available across platforms and devices. Best of all, these capabilities have been achieved in a piece of hardware that will only set users back $35.
Google pointed out during the demonstration that the actual content is streamed directly from the cloud to the Chromecast device instead of going through the computer or mobile device first. This frees up the device to be used for other tasks, like looking for other content or answering emails or surfing the web, while the online media continues to play on the TV. Using the capabilities of the “Cast” feature, users can build a custom playlist of videos and even doing it collaboratively with other users.
Control over the media playback is done through a users device, whether it is a tablet or smartphone or computer. If the particular device that started the playback happens to “leave” the WiFi network, another user can regain control as the Chromecast will be recognized by other devices. Streaming content to the TV is as easy as hitting a dedicated “Cast” button in apps that have the capability built in, like YouTube, Google Play, Pandora, Netflix, or using the Cast button in the YouTube playback window on a computer.
Google also announced that they are releasing the Google Cast SDK so developers can add support for their apps to display to the Chromecast device. In the meantime, although it is still in a beta status, Google is also making it possible to project any Chrome browser tab to the TV via the Chromecast.
The Chromecast is already available for order through the Google Play Store for only $35. Google is offering 3 months of Netflix for free if you place an order now. The Chromecast should be available through Amazon.com and Best Buy later today.