Premature Thoughts on Chromecast

Google today just announced this

Chromecast is basically a little dongle that plugs into an HDMI port on your TV (or receiver, presumably), allowing you to watch content that originated on your Google-enabled device.

Two qualifiers for that above sentence:

  1. I said “originated from” and not “streamed from” your device.  Apple’s Airplay protocol allows you to stream almost any content from your iOS device (or Mac) to your TV via an Apple TV.  Chromecast, apparently, isn’t intended to do that — which is going to come as a shock to all the people who think it’s an Airplay competitor. If you’re watching something on your mobile device and “send” it to your TV via Chromecast, all that’s actually being sent is the web address of the source you’re watching (assuming you’re watching something web-based).  The Chromecast itself then downloads and plays the video on the TV.  No data actually goes from your mobile device to your TV.  At least, that’s what appears to be happening.  Some clarification on this would be nice, but I have a feeling people are going to be disappointed to learn that the music and videos they already have saved on their mobile device will be off-limits.
  2. Also note that I didn’t say “Android-powered.”  I said “Google-enabled.” If you have an iOS device with Google Apps, for example, you should still get the same functionality out of it.

Sounds incredibly useful, if not a must-have for many people who already live in Google’s cloud.  And at $35, the price is definitely in the right ballpark (unlike the ill-fated Google Q, which this seems to be replacing).

I look forward to trying it, but until then, here are some other completely premature thoughts on Google’s Chromecast:

  •  It gets power from a USB port.  Not cool.  I know most TVs sold today include USB, but if your TV doesn’t — or if that USB port is already being used — this could be a dealbreaker.  Sounds like you basically need both an empty HDMI port and USB port to make this work without having to get out the USB to AC adaptor.
  •  Nowhere do they talk about the ability to “mirror” your Android device’s screen.  Seems you can only share content from specific Apps updated to take advantage of this new protocol.  And if it’s true that nothing actually gets streamed directly from your handheld device, then mirroring will probably never be an option.
  • Buy one now and you get 3 months of free Netflix.  Not bad. [Looks like that deal expired in less than 24 hours!] They’re definitely billing it as an ideal way to watch Netflix on your TV… assuming you don’t already have a TV, blu-ray player, receiver, or any number of other devices that already include Netflix.
  • Twitter has gone overkill with the praise for this thing.  I’ve seen people declare that “cable is dead.”  Yeah, right.  Remember Google TV?  That was also heralded as the death of cable TV, the death of Apple TV, and, well, the death of everything but Google actually.  Three years later, Google TV is still around, but barely.  Chomecast is being called an Apple TV and Roku killer. Um, if all it does it stream internet-based content cued up by your mobile device, then it’s not even in the same category as those devices, which are entirely self-contained media hubs. (Not to mention the fact that the Apple TV also interfaces tightly with content you own that ISN’T in the cloud.)

Don’t get me wrong, this is a very exciting development.  Because Airplay streams content from your Apple device, it’s not great when it comes to web-based content (like Netflix, Youtube, or Hulu) which has to be simultaneously downloaded from the internet while it’s being transmitted to the Apple TV.  Chromecast should have an edge when it comes to those kind of things.  But for movies and music you already have on your hard drive?  Stuff you shot on your phone that isn’t on the cloud anywhere?  Video content that isn’t freely available on the web?  The ability to mirror your desktop?  It doesn’t appear to be made for that at all…

UPDATE:  This is the best review of the Chromecast — from someone who actually has one! — that I’ve seen yet.

UPDATE 2:  My own hands-on thoughts with the Chromecast can be found here.

2 thoughts on “Premature Thoughts on Chromecast

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