Google Chromecast launched: stream videos from any device to the TV; US$35

Google Chromecast

The small dongle that stole the show last Thursday at Google’s morning event was the Chromecast. In the interest of time, we’re not going to go too much into it because of two reasons: it’s not officially available in Malaysia, and it has been sold out on Amazon.

There are quite a number of devices these days that aims to bridge the gap between the web and your living room TV; Apple TV, homegrown EMAGINE, Android-in-a-stick ‘Android mini PC RK3188‘, or even a gaming console like the Xbox. Yes, most modern TVs these days have apps like YouTube or Plex, but controlling the interface is usually a clunky affair. Apple TV is great, but only if you’re already tied to its ecosystem.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could ‘push’ contents from your computer or phone straight to the TV? This is where the Chromecast comes in.

It is a small little dongle that resembles a flash drive but instead plugs into the TV directly via HDMI. It has a USB port on the other end for power, but that’s it. It runs on a version of Android, and content is delivered via Wi-Fi.

This essentially turns any regular TV with an HDMI port into a smart TV where the interface can be controlled by your computer or a mobile device. In theory, even if the TV doesn’t have an HDMI-in port, it can still be plugged into an A/V receiver to pipe in the signal.

As far as I understand it, it could work in a few ways. The first is by mirroring content that’s on your Chrome tab with the ‘Google Cast’ Chrome extension, and that includes full web pages. When trying to playback web videos, instead of streaming it through DLNA, the computer is actually just sending the instructions to Chromecast and it independently streams it itself. Only Flash videos are supported at this point, and not Silverlight nor QuickTime.

Secondly, this allows Chromecast-supported Android apps like YouTube, Google Play Music and Netflix to have a share button that could push videos to the TV. Work’s on iOS’ YouTube and Netflix apps too.

Lastly, Google also released an SDK and developers like Koush has already whipped up a simple app to use Android’s share mechanism to push (possibly via DLNA) video files straight to the TV.

I was too late to check whether Amazon ships the Chromecast to Malaysia; I’m guessing no. It costs just US$35 (RM113.52), however has already been sold out. One of the cheapest found on eBay is going for around RM190 currently, however the shipping costs around RM90 more.

Reuben Thum's love for technology dates as far back as the Sega Master System era when people are still rocking out on an 8-bit "Dixie's Land" chiptune. His gig as a bartender later did not douse his interest for tech one bit, as he then dedicated a few years of his life assisting users to achieve the same love, deep in the bowels of the tech support world. Currently, he just feels weirded out writing about himself from a third person's perspective.
  • sudonano

    1. Your EMAGINE link is routing to the Android 4.3 article.

    2. Chromecast is a very interesting thing. It makes sense, if you just want a connection between your TV and phone/tablet/PC. Apple TV includes the store on it, so you don’t really need to have any other device, meaning I can buy just an Apple TV, use it even without a phone/tablet/Mac (Apple devices) and live off the Apple TV box alone, since I can control my Netflix and iTunes movies and media on it straight. But the reality is, if you are going to get your TV to receive internet content, you are 99% likely to at least have a smartphone or tablet or PC and WiFi. I think that is the beauty of Chromecast. It’s so cheap, and so tiny that even though I will need a phone/tab to use it, it’s still worth.

    But the thing is, there is a problem on the content streaming on Chromecast that Apple TV seems to address. Piracy. The thing is, in Chromecast, any tab on Chrome can be streamed to the TV. with the rise of large number of online “movie” sites, won’t that be an issue? Apple’s version where they lock you to Netflix and its store helps preserve the copyright of media. Besides that, the thing about Chromecast is that, is there a chance of “taking over” the Chromecast. Ie if you and your neighbour have Chromecast, and both your WiFi networks are visible to each other with little to no protection (many people have weak WiFi passwords that are too short), and should there be an attack from the neighbour’s device to connect to your WiFi and take over the Chromecast, then what happens? Does Chromecast have an encrypted connection between your phone/tab and it? It will be interesting, but if Chromecast’s security is not rock solid, there is a chance of rogue devices taking over Chromecasts, especially if it is used in public places (like restaurants) in the future.

    • Reuben Thum

      Fixed the EMAGINE link, thanks.

      Piracy is one thing, but arbitrary blocking is another. Google TV’s browser has a different user agent string, and content providers in the US like Hulu has been blocking Google TV just because they can’t make money from it. I mean, what difference does it make if I were to watch Hulu on a TV as an external monitor connected to my computer? To use Chromecast, we still need Chrome the browser, which has around 25% market share now, and these content providers won’t be stupid enough to block Google Chrome entirely.

      Not sure about Chromecast’s security though.

      • sudonano

        No worries.

        That is true. If Hulu was blocking Google TV, then it is extremely stupid. I don’t see the difference between using Hulu on my laptop than on my TV either, cause if I could not use Hulu via Google TV, I’d just hook my laptop via HDMI and lo and behold, Hulu on my flat screen! I think they will never block Google Chrome, so media from the content providers will still be “cast” able. Arbitrary blocking is bad. But so is piracy, I think Google could like “allow” the Chromecast to receive media that is licensed ie netfilx and all, where the content provider signs an agreement to them, to help control the piracy. They’ll have to think of something to fix that.

        Technically, what does Chromecast run on? Is it a diet version of Chrome?

        • Reuben Thum

          It’s funny Google named it Chromecast, because the folks who looked at the code revealed that it’s running on a version of Google TV, which is a stripped-down version of Android, not Chrome OS.

        • sudonano

          That’s funny!

          They should call it Droidcast. But they already have Android Beam. So too close la.

  • cheesk12

    I just got my chromecast ship in from US but tried to install the app from handphone and PC, it showing the device is not available yet in your country … Is there any way to install the app.. Thx in adv.