Jul 30, 2013
The Chromecast is not entirely a perfect device at launch. But its promise is so immediately apparent – the future of beaming content should look a lot like this.
To explain what makes the Chromecast so useful, let me explain how the Netflix streaming works: the user picks the video from the app, and then taps the Chromecast beam icon to beam it to the Chromecast. Then, the Netflix app will be used to pause and fast forward. It’s possible to leave the app entirely and do other things, because the video handling is all being done by the Chromecast, not sent from the device itself. On Android, it’s possible to control video from the dock, for example. This also means that it’s possible to start a video on one device, pick up another one, open the app up to pause or select a new video, and continue on. Oh, and I’m not talking about between different Android devices – this works with iOS too. Oh, and thanks to HDMI-CEC support, beaming a video can automatically tune a TV to the right input too. It’s downright magical. And it’s $35. That’s well under what the Apple TV goes for and devices like the Roku are priced at.
There’s definite issues. Most annoying is that the Nexus 4 on 4.3 freezes when Chromecast’s setup app is active. Yeah, that’s a bit of a problem, but one that will be fixed soon…I hope. RemoteCast seems to help though. Setting the Chromecast up required a special network configuration that seemed to indicate that this might not work so well at first on some open network scenarios with client isolation, making the Chromecast’s usage as a travel-size video adapter possibly a problem for some on things like public and hotel wi-fi networks. On the desktop, streaming fullscreen video from non-Chromecast services means finding a way to minimize to desktop to be able to do things while the video is playing.
As well, the ultimate question will be if web companies find ways to limit Chromecast streaming – Hulu has big money on making sure it’s hard to watch free Hulu on a TV – and if more services hop on board. MLB.tv would be the killer app for me – it would be so much more handy with that! Netflix, YouTube, and pretty much any web video is a great start, though.
The Netflix promotion wound up being something of a bait-and-switch; The promotion ended at 5:30pm on July 24th on Amazon, which I barely beat out. It’s possibly an error, but still, it’s rough that Google ran out right away. The $35 price is quite fair regardless though.
What the Chromecast is: it’s like a baseball team that starts off hot, well above its talent level and with some potential long-term problems that will need to be addressed at some point, but it’s clearly got skill and a bright future. As soon as I can beam my baseball games, I can’t help but think that my Apple TV is done for.