Chromecast, finally connecting TV’s to the net

google_cast_logoYesterday Google announced the Chromecast device : a $US35 small HDMI Raspberry Pi equivalent computing dongle running the ChromeOS.

Out of the box it is touted as quick way to get YouTube, Google Play, Netflix and Pandora and photos and everything you can run in the Chrome browser on 1080p HDTVs. A sender device is anything that can run the Chrome Browser, so all those android & ios mobile devices and all those window (7+) / osx / (linux?) desktops. (There is also a Cast SDK to enable your sender and receiving devices or applications.)

So given that The $35 device quickly sold out on the Google Play store, Amazon and Best-By, I think that Google has a hit here. At least partly because of the low price and since it also included 3 months of Netflix for new or existing customers, it is a bargain for that alone. It been described as Google’s answer to Airplay, which will make sense to most consumers, but I think there is more going on here.

Below are my thoughts and wide ass guesses:

  • it’s not airplay. (or not just) The process get handed over to the Chromecast device, although you could also stream the media, but this saves phone/tablet battery. (Could you turn the phone off?)
  • Doing easy media streaming like experiences are low hanging fruit, especially if it very easy to set up. Having Netflix at near cost should get lost of people trying it and if it a good experience then people will try to “Cast” other things. That could turn this into a mainstream thing that Apple Tv (“just a hobby”) is not : think millions of new users per month.
  • At this price lots of early adopters will have 2 or more of these. One for home (or One for each TV at Home)  and for the road : a friend’s home, the office, and hotel rooms.
  •  You can send messages back and forth (like “volume up” to the tv or “finished” back), and I don’t see why you could have more complicated “messages”. I wonder if you could hand off messages to other devices : start the “cast” on my phone, and “cast it” to another person.
  • Chromecast also has support for CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) over HDMI with which you should be able automatically to turn on and off your TV, receivers, and other home theater equipment, control your amplifier’s volume, manage your DVD or Blu-Ray player, and redirect the active source on your TV to other equipment, all from your device.  So you should be finally turn your mobile device into a TV remote for your regular TV even the cable box or PRV, as well other HDMI devices. (just switching TV inputs will save me hunting for several remotes)
  • because the minimum requirement for the sender device is the chrome browser it is instantly available on all those mobile and desktops.  I don’t think the browser agent would be different once the process it transferred, so it should be impossible to block (as happened to google tv) this specific device.
  • given the $35 dollar price on this device and the fact that a basic Raspberry Pi is the same cost, I doubt Google will make any profit on the hardware (although they should be able to get better pricing on volume). I don’t know if the terms of the bundling deal with Netflix (or Pandora) and if that is a big subsidy but hopefully they don’t need it for the current price.  Even if it is sold at cost it makes for more sales on the Google Play store. This is the Amazon model for kindle devices : don’t lose money on the hardware and make profit on selling for content.
  • more about messaging : could the Chromecast device do the display rendering and pass information between connecting devices? (looking forward to see what Google’s video conference app Hangout will do with this).  I’m thinking of head to head games where multiple player games where the hdtv shows the “big picture” and each player has their own heads up display and controls and exchanges updated game state changes (like position or status) via the caster? board games, chase (driving) and first person shooter games all could be enhanced for players and watchers this way.
  • how could you use a Google glass casting to a Chromecast?
  • I expect the Android 4.3 update which is rolling out right now will be “Cast” enabled so that blue cast button is next to or under the share action, even if is only a general “Cast and Watch” function.  Individual applications need to figure best presentation.
  • I wonder what else could be done with the concept of spinning (casting) of a chrome tab / process onto another device? Not that there isn’t anything you can’t run in a HTML5 browser these days but given Google’s Native Client (NaCl) work with LLVM in a browser i’m not sure want the limits are.
  • This the second planform for the ChromeOS, and given Andy Rubin’s move to home automation at Google I would expect to see more happening there, even if I had always thought it as going to happen via Android.  I’m assuming that ChromeOS is a better fit for almost embedded devices?
  • This is not Google TV or the end of Google TV, but it will create a big marketplace. Few people then doing any sort of “smart Tv” or connected boxes. And there is still room for $99 or $199 or $499 devices.  Room also  for premium Chromecast devices (more cpu, gpu, memory, storage).

What I would like to see : lots of Chromecast doggles out there, getting people used to having Net connected TV’s, used to using Google services and content to do so and using a mobile device as a smart remote control.  Let’s see lots of Google app’s adding “Cast” functional. Then within a year : a reasonable priced ($59 or $99) hockey puck device (aka the current Apple TV / Roku ) HDMI pass through which has more power, camera, mic passed on Android but also a Chromecast receiver : a streaming and gamebox and tv set top device. Ideally one that can do 4K content (if the gpu can do it at this kind of price point, this year).

So TLDR : Chromecast looks like a winning way to finally get the those TV’s connected to the net for most people and add some smarts to those TV’s, with more functionality and devices to follow. (whether as supper Chromcast devices or as a trojan horse to a Google TV device)

Update : The story behind DIAL: How Netflix and YouTube want to take on AirPlay is from the beginiing of this year about a proticol for “discovery and launch”, which sounds a lot like Google Cast. Also having a Chromecast dongle gets around waiting for the Consumer Electionic manufacturers on board or expecting consumers to buy new equipment.

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