Is New Google Chromecast All About the Future of Pay TV?

During yesterday’s breakfast event unveiling Google’s new Nexus 7 tablet, the company also announced the $35 Chromecast, a small thumbnail device that connects to televisions via HDMI and enables users to send content via Wi-Fi from phones, tablets or PCs to the TV screen. Chromecast comes with three months of free Netflix and offers more functionality than Apple TV’s AirPlay. “On paper at least, it’s the best device Google has ever announced,” suggests Wired.

“With Chromecast, you can easily enjoy your favorite online entertainment on your HDTV — movies, TV shows, music, and more from Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, and Chrome,” explains the Google Chromecast page. “No more huddling around small screens and tiny speakers. Chromecast automatically updates to work with a growing number of apps.”

“Chromecast is pure simplicity: Search and discovery of video content is happening on the mobile device or laptop, and all Chromecast does is stream media from the cloud,” reports GigaOM. “Add to that the ability to turn on your TV simply by starting video playback on your tablet, and you’ve got something that looks a bit like the anti-Google TV.”

“Of course, the real point of comparison for Chromecast isn’t Google TV, but Apple TV with its AirPlay feature. The simplicity of AirPlay is what Chromecast is modeled after, for a reason: Apple has sold some 12 million Apple TVs, making it by far the most popular dedicated video streaming device, with a 56 percent worldwide market share.”

However, AirPlay only works with Apple products and does not include the advanced multiscreen features of Chromecast. Additionally, Google’s new product synchronizes media playback across multiple devices.

“It works with Android and iOS phones and tablets, Chromebooks, and the Chrome browser for Mac and Windows,” notes Wired. “The original device controls playback — so if you want to turn up the volume on your TV, simply turn up the volume on your phone. Any program that uses the Googlecast SDK can send content — Google specifically mentioned Netflix and YouTube, and says Pandora is on the way. The Chrome browser itself can also sling content via ‘Chrome tab projection.'”

“There have been a few other solutions that try to pull something similar off like Apple’s AirPlay and Roku’s Streaming Stick. But both of those have required you to buy a $100 device to connect to your TV. Nothing else has been so device independent, cross platform and, well, cheap.” (After playing with the device, the Wired team notes that the Chromecast experience is reliant upon a solid Wi-Fi connection; otherwise, it can be extremely slow.)

“The real issue however isn’t how the the Chromecast product introduced this week stacks up against Apple’s current-generation Apple TV. These products are just the first step towards a future in which both companies could be offering their own pay TV services over the Internet to compete with traditional cable and satellite TV offerings,” suggests GigaOM.

Many believe that online pay TV services are inevitable. “And when they finally get ready to launch, having direct relations with consumers, and devices in their households, is going to be critical. Until now, it looked like Apple TV was winning this race. But with Chromecast, Google has a real shot for the first time.”

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Netflix Streams Full HD to New Google Tablet, But Still No High-Def on Apple Devices, Variety, 7/24/13