It’s official: Google Chromecast is a gamechanger!
My $35 Chromecast dongle arrived Wednesday. Four minutes after plugging it into the HDMI port of the bedroom TV, I had paired it with my phone through the house wireless network and was controlling and watching YouTube and Netflix from across the room. No box, no wires, no issues. And while I have enjoyed my Apple TV for its simple connectivity over the past few years, there are some fundamental differences between Chromecast and Apple TV worth pointing out.
Tell a college student the cost of Chromecast and check the box for “No brainer”. At $35, Google has simplified the decision process based on cost. I anticipate buying Chromecast for all the house TVs, one of which will accompany my son to his dorm room TV in the Fall.
2. Stick vs. Box
Chromecast resembles a flash drive or “dongle”, is roughly the size of a flash drive and plugs into a USB or HDMI port on the TV or monitor. What makes it unique is what it is not – a box. Unlike Apple TV or Roku (or Comcast, Time Warner Cable and DIRECTV, for that matter) it does not sit on top or next to your TV. It simply plugs in and, in my case, is out of sight as my HDMI port is behind the TV. It does, however, come with a power cord as do the aforementioned boxes, and in my case plugged nicely into the power outlet behind and shared with my TV.
What’s also missing from Chromecast is a remote control. That’s because Google has made the brilliant choice of requiring you to use your own personal devices to control and “cast” video, TV shows and movies to your TVs and monitors. And they’ve made it very easy to pair with your iOS and Android smartphone, tablet or computer. Simply follow the steps on the TV screen the first time you turn on Chromecast and you’re connected.
Another stroke of brilliance for Chromecast is Google has enabled an open system for video and TV producers/distributors and online video platforms to “cast” their Apps and web sites to the TV. Upon its release last week, Chromecast shipped with access to only two services; YouTube and Netflix. Not too shabby given that those two services have plenty of video, movies and TV to begin your Chromecast viewing experience. But that’s just the beginning. Google has opened up Chromecast with an API and from the developer documentation I reviewed, it looks fairly simple integrate. So I expect to see many video apps in iTunes and Play Store to be Chromecast enabled soon.
The approach Google has taken basically relegates the TV to “dumb terminal” status, which makes sense given that the Smart TV movement has been sinking on dismal failure for a while now. What excites me most about Chromecast as a user is its simplicity, low cost, choice and control. As a developer and proponent of smart open platforms, I am pleased to see the experience-formely-known-as-TV finally get the What Would Google Do treatment. We have finally reached the moment in time when technology, content distribution and mass adoption has proven that a simple innovation like Google Chromecast is not only possible, but ready for the market to respond to.
History will tell whether Chromecast is a success or failure. I see it as a gamechanger that will finally force the content and distribution industry, built on closed and unstable business models, to creatively imagine and deploy value producing new models, products and systems with end users in mind – just like Google has done.