Google have launched a new device that allows users to stream media to their TVs from smartphones, tablets and computers. Called ‘Chromecast’, the device is a two-inch dongle that plugs directly into HDMI inputs and costs just $35 (£23).
Chromecast marks Google’s latest attempt to colonize the living room, and will be placed in direct competition with Apple’s AirPlay and Apple TV service. The latter, a £99 set-top box the size of a wallet launched in 2007, also streams content from mobile devices and video-on-demand services.
This isn't Google's first foray into the living room though - the Nexus Q was announced last year, but with an exorbitant price and lacking features it was soon taken off the shelves by Google.
Unlike Apple TV however, Chromecast streams directly from the cloud rather than using a peer-to-peer connection. Powered from USB, the dongle creates its own Wi-Fi hotspot and connects to your home router; a system that Google claims will provide higher-quality video and use less power.
Launching immediately in the US, Chromecast offers content from YouTube, Neflix and Google Play. Commentators have compared this unfavourably to the range of providers signed up with Apple TV, though the latter has a head start of several years in negotiating contracts.
Unlike Apple TV Chromecast also allows direct streaming from the web. Clicking a button in Chrome projects the content of any tab directly to a connected TV, though the feature is currently only in beta with hands-on tests complaining of lag between devices.
Google have also promised that Google Cast (Chromecast’s underlying technology) will eventually be built-in to TVs. If so it seems likely that this would involve a partnership with Samsung; the world’s largest TV manufacturer has a history of successful Google-collaborations (the Android-powered Galaxy range for example) and would be well placed to implement a line of ‘Google TVs’.
Although Apple’s streaming service currently offers more content from video-on-demand services and supported apps, Google’s Chromecast is significantly cheaper and platform agnostic (it works with iOS, Android, Windows and OS X).