Chromecast is Google’s $35 Apple TV and Roku Killer

Google is going after the TV market once again, this time with a little dongle called the Chromecast that plugs right into your TV’s HDMI slot.

The Chromecast is an accessory for your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. It works with iOS or Android, and with the Chrome browser on a laptop. Photo: Google

Google officially launched its next big idea for the living room. Google on Wednesday announced Chromecast, a $35 HDMI stick that streams web video to an HDTV. Chromecast will stream TV shows, movies and music, and anything in a Chrome browser, to your TV. It works with smartphones, tablets and PCs.

The product was introduced by Google VP of Product Management Mario Queiroz, and demonstrated by Director of Product Management Rishi Chandra. Both executives have been heading Google TV.

“Chromecast offers an alternative solution to existing non-connected HDTVs with a simple and affordable device. We believe there is ample room for both products to exist and succeed,” says Google spokesperson.

Essentially, it turns every TV into a smart TV, but it lets you control it through whatever device you’re on rather than providing a new interface. It connects over HDMI and is powered by USB, and can be plugged right into an A/V receiver if your TV doesn’t have an extra port, says The Verge.

“Everyone loves their phones, tablets, and laptops,” said Google. “Unlike other solutions, we will not force you to have the same operating system on all your devices.”

Rather than stream content from your device to the TV, Chromecast pulls video from the internet. This lets you continue browsing for more content, create a video playlist or queue up videos instantly.

The surprising product announcement is the latest advancement in tech companies’ growing battle over the future of TV. Set-top boxes like Apple TV and Roku already allow customers to stream web video on their televisions, and Amazon has been rumored to be launching a set-top box this fall.

The Google website notes that Chromecast works with Netflix, YouTube, Google Play and the Chrome browser. Pandora will be coming soon, Google said.

Each app that supports Chromecast will have a “Cast” button that sends content from your device to your TV. The Chrome browser will also be equipped with a “Cast” button that streams whatever is in your browser to your TV – an option for things like HBO Go, Gizmodo notes.

It’s competition for Apple’s US$99 Apple TV. The difference between the two gadgets is that the Apple TV is a bigger box that has some applications built right into it. The Chromecast is just a conduit for whatever is sent through a mobile device. The iOS Youtube app will be updated in the coming days and weeks to support Chromecast, so Apple device owners aren’t excluded.

The Chromecast dongle costs $35 from the official Google Play Store, BestBuy.com and Amazon.com, and will come later this month to Best Buy stores. in the US, but UK pricing or availability has yet to be confirmed.

Google has been experimenting with getting web video on the TV for a long time now. The product has been developed by the very same people who have been working on Google TV for the past few years. This appears to be its best effort yet. It looks like a simple, one step process that works on both major mobile platforms.

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