Most attendees at Google’s breakfast event were convinced that a new Nexus 7 and Android 4.3 were the main talking points on the menu. However, Google had something much smaller up its sleeve. Something it seemed to be more excited about than new software and tablets.
The internet giant launched a tiny device called Chromecast, which will cost just $35 when it launches later this month. Chromecast is a HDMI dongle which effectively turns your regular HDTV into a Smart TV, and we think it’s going to be huge.
Looking like nothing more than a 2-inch HDMI dongle, Chromecast allows you to share files and stream content from an Android smartphone or tablet to your HD TV wirelessly. In effect, this means you can stream HD movies from your phone or tablet, including those from apps such as Netflix, making the whole Smart TV idea even better.
The only other thing you’ll need in order for Chromecast to work is a Wi-Fi network. Your Android device uses this to interact with Chromecast and share files, but according to Google the setup is nice and easy.
The dongle runs a simplified version of Google’s Chrome operating system, allowing Android devices to link up with it and beam files over a wireless network. It doesn’t look as though the OS will be very extensive however, so you won’t be running full screen apps and downloading content from the Chrome Store on it, unfortunately.
The only other downside to Chromecast is that it requires power, which the HDMI socket itself cannot provide. This means that a USB cable has to be connected from the dongle to either a mains socket or perhaps a USB socket on the back of your TV – extra cables is of course a pain, but if you have a USB socket on your TV we guess it won’t look too bad!
Chromecast will be compatible with a surprising range of devices and operating systems. Android will of course offer the best functionality, with native videos, YouTube and Netflix and music, TV and movies purchased through the Play Store on offer. On Windows (7 and up), Mac (10.7 and up), iOS (6 and up) and the Chromebook Pixel you’ll be able to stream Chrome webpages from a device to your TV via Chromecast, with a button in Chrome simply turning the stream on and off.
Other apps and features will no doubt be added in the future too, as Google has released a Chromecast SDK which means developers can put a ‘stream via Chromecast’ button in their apps if they want to.
Chromecast is available for pre-order from the Play Store in the US for $35 right now, shipping from August 7th. It’s also going to be available through Amazon and other retailers, with worldwide availability coming “soon”.