Why Google's Chromecast is going to be MASSIVE

With more of a squeak than a fanfare, last week saw the official launch of Google’s Chromecast in the UK. The HDMI dongle, that plugs into your TV, looks set to compete with the likes of Apple TV, Amazon’s forthcoming set-top-box, as well as the established games consoles in the battle for the living room. But Google, I think, has one massive advantage: the user interface.

chromecast2.png

On paper, Google should be facing an uphill battle. Playstation and Xbox are long established in the living room, and are many, many times more powerful than a little video streaming device. Similarly, even compared to the Apple TV, Chromecast is underpowered – being little more than a modified Chrome OS. All it can do is receive commands from another device, and load up the video streams it is commanded to.

Where I think Google have an advantage is in terms of the user interface. Think about how you interact with other devices: Xbox and Playstation require a controller – which is great if you’re shooting your way through a warzone… but less good for browsing content (we’ve all long experienced the pain of entering text with a controller). Similarly, Apple’s TV remote is just directional buttons, alongside play and pause. Roku and other competitors are similar too.

What Google have, which is unique at the moment, is the assumption that ‘second screen’ is very much the default way to operate. The only way Chromecast can be controlled is by using a secondary device – a phone, a tablet or a computer to send content to the TV. And when it’s on TV, you can play/pause/etc using the controls on your device.

This makes infinitely more sense. Now we’re no longer in a world of 4 TV channels, having a tablet screen for navigation means we can enter search terms and browse easily – without fiddling around with sub-optimal controller or remote. And it works brilliantly – there’s no faffing about with menus on the TV screen and you can find your next video whilst watching the current one, creating a seamless viewing experience.

By using the tools we already have, Google have just created a system that works infinitely better than all of the Kinect voice and motion controls in the world. Of course – the other companies aren’t blind to it – with iOS devices and Smartglass and so on providing similar functionality… but none of it is quite so simple as one button in a toolbar sending the video to TV.

The other genius in Chromecast is only just starting to be realised. It is built on an open platform – with Google releasing a software developers kit (SDK), to enable coders to integrate Chromecast into their own apps. Because at heart the Chromecast is running Chrome OS and a HTML5 browser – making building stuff nice and easy.

This means that unlike, say, Xbox apps, it is relatively straightforward to code in support for Chromecast – and given the openness of the SDK, it means there won’t be a painful approval process for each and every supported video streaming website. For example, the Xbox YouTube app, and the Xbox Netflix app are both separate apps, that would have to be built and approved by Microsoft separately. By comparison, for Chromecast, YouTube and Netflix’s coders just have to tell the Chromecast dongle to load a particular webpage.

So expect a lot of websites to start supporting Chromecast imminently. The SDK was only opened up in February – shortly before the UK release, which is why at the moment we’re limited to a handful of websites… but the flood will eventually come.

From my own completely unscientific observations, it appears Chromecast is already selling well. On the day of launch, I went to a branch of PC World to pick one up and the promotional cardboard stand by the checkout was already empty – luckily I had one reserved. And why did I buy one? I’ve already got plenty of gadgets that can play video on my TV, but for £30? I thought I couldn’t really go wrong – as millions of other consumers will no doubt agree.

So expect Chromecast to be a huge success. The only question now is a philosophical one: is the “second screen” the tablet… or is it the TV?






About the Author

James O'Malley

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James is the Editor of TechDigest. You can follow him on Twitter @Psythor.

James O'MalleyWhy Google's Chromecast is going to be MASSIVE
  • Lamsan

    I've just recently bought chromecast; I have fibre optics broadband as well; as it stands, chromecast is very much limited to what you can use it for; the quality is also poor with a lot of lag. Also having to use your mobile (or laptop/tablet), is okay but can be annoying as well after a while; I think the option of a remote control would have been an added advantage; I believe the roku stick would be able to do what chromecast is doing now plus the added advantage of an interface and a remote for those situations when you just don't need your mobile,,, I'm starting to think google is now taking over apple in regards to tech reviewers creating unnecessary hype over nothing, in so doing so promoting google intentionally or unintentionally,,,

  • gert74

    I also have a Chromecast and I completely agree with the article. It's perfect for Netflix, YouTube and to stream videos from my computer I use Plex.I don't have any issues with quality so far or lag. HD-streaming on Netflix and Youtube and Plex seems stable now. (first weeks of Chromecast-support was a little bit buggy)

    For me and my family this is the best and most used tech-investment of last year

  • Lamsan

    I’ve just recently bought chromecast; I have fibre optics broadband as well; as it stands, chromecast is very much limited to what you can use it for; the quality is also poor with a lot of lag. Also having to use your mobile (or laptop/tablet), is okay but can be annoying as well after a while; I think the option of a remote control would have been an added advantage; I believe the roku stick would be able to do what chromecast is doing now plus the added advantage of an interface and a remote for those situations when you just don’t need your mobile,,, I’m starting to think google is now taking over apple in regards to tech reviewers creating unnecessary hype over nothing, in so doing so promoting google intentionally or unintentionally,,,

  • gert74

    I also have a Chromecast and I completely agree with the article. It’s perfect for Netflix, YouTube and to stream videos from my computer I use Plex.
    I don’t have any issues with quality so far or lag. HD-streaming on Netflix and Youtube and Plex seems stable now. (first weeks of Chromecast-support was a little bit buggy)

    For me and my family this is the best and most used tech-investment of last year

  • http://blog.sawilson.org/ Scott Wilson

    Google nailed the UI. It's really that simple. They made the best streaming device you can buy, and made it inexpensive, and work well. It's not only something you can't feel bad about owning, but it represents a best in class product. It may very well become their most successful product to date. If you don't own one, you really should.

  • Raphael Ndem

    I've recently got Chromecast and absolutely love it. Comparing its similarities to Apple TV however (and therefore keeping Mirroring out of the discussion), it seems a bit unfair to place more emphasis on the Apple TV having a remote knowing well it can function without one (using the Remote app for iOS), and there doesn't seem to be any mention of AirPlay.

    I used my PS3 a lot more than Apple TV for streaming media, but the Chromecast is quickly replacing the PS3 for that.

  • http://blog.sawilson.org/ Scott Wilson

    Google nailed the UI. It’s really that simple. They made the best streaming device you can buy, and made it inexpensive, and work well. It’s not only something you can’t feel bad about owning, but it represents a best in class product. It may very well become their most successful product to date. If you don’t own one, you really should.

  • Raphael Ndem

    I’ve recently got Chromecast and absolutely love it. Comparing its similarities to Apple TV however (and therefore keeping Mirroring out of the discussion), it seems a bit unfair to place more emphasis on the Apple TV having a remote knowing well it can function without one (using the Remote app for iOS), and there doesn’t seem to be any mention of AirPlay.

    I used my PS3 a lot more than Apple TV for streaming media, but the Chromecast is quickly replacing the PS3 for that.