Thursday, August 1, 2013

Chromecast: Google + TV = Win

chromecast device

Full disclosure: I'm a Google employee. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I'm going to be late to the game and talk about the new Chromecast.

So, what if I told you that you no longer have to buy a Smart TV to have the capabilities of a SmartTV? You'd say "Well duh! We've all already heard about the Chromecast! It launched a week ago!" And you'd get angry at me for being behind the times and whatnot. And I wouldn't listen because that's not something I do.

But think about it: SmartTVs have been around for a while now but they still aren't supplying good user experiences. All of the last generation of game consoles had some SmartTV features and they've been around since 2006-2007. Samsung introduced its initial line of "Internet TV"s in 2007. AppleTV is originally from 2007 as well. Heck, TiVo's existed since 1999 and even the GoogleTV itself has had 3 years to get better. Given all this time and all these people vying for the market, you'd hope something really wonderful would come out of it. But nothing so far has been all that great of an experience. Yes, they're usable, but they're not fun to use.

Let's talk about the Google TV. I think it was a good thing, but I feel it wasn't taken far enough. It was expensive and bulky, yet it still managed to be slow and clunky. Setting it up took forever: sign in, adjust for overscan, figure out the audio, yada yada yada. The users had to navigate it with a keyboard and touchpad mouse, either using a decent Logitech keyboard or the dreaded Sony label maker. But it was still a good thing; it was Google trying out the TV space, making mistakes and learning.

And look at that, now we have the Chromecast! Instead yet-another-set-top-box or TV itself, here's a small and simple dongle usable with any TV with HDMI. How do you set it up? Just quickly tell it your wifi network and bam, you're ready. How do you interact with it? Use your phone, tablet, or desktop, a.k.a. things you know how to use. I got mine in the mail the other day and it was ready to go within literally two minutes after plugging it up. And it's cheap! Just $35! This will sell insanely well at the holidays assuming the supply will hold out.

I've had plenty of time to play with it and there's something great about quickly finding some video on YouTube or Netflix and instantly watching it on your TV. While you're watching YouTube, find some more and queue them up. Or feel like just working around the house and need a soundtrack? Send music to the TV instead.

But wait, there's more! Google's already published the Cast SDK used to get the content to the TV, so now anyone can make their website or app work with it. Imagine playing Scrabble where the TV's the board and your phone/tablet is your tile rack. Or how about some asymmetrical gameplay like the Wii U has with its gamepad? Or something simpler like a killer photo share app or getting webcam to work with it as well and use Google Hangouts or Skype with your TV? There are so many awesome possibilities. I, for one, welcome our new multi-device experience overlords.

Long story short? Get  a Chromecast, or find a friend with one and play with theirs. You're gonna like the way it works, I guarantee it.

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