Google Chromecast is the future of TV. This tiny USB-powered device allows people to turn their TV into what it once was: the best way to watch video at home or work.
It is a runaway hit in short supply. Often hot gadgets cost hundreds of dollars, plus subscription fees and pricey accessories. At $35, the Chromecast is complete and likely to be stuffed into everyone's stocking this holiday season.
I bought two. It's a lot cheaper than dinner in New York City. It's even cheaper than a tank of gas for a compact car. The bottom line is it works as promised, probably better than you expect. It is trivial to set up, unless you have AP/client isolation on your WiFi router. When you first use it, the device seems magical. Looking for a review of the Chromecast? Try this one from MBKHD or this one from Wired, or let Danny Sullivan compare its features to Roku and Apple TV.
Cheap -- but the future
Flying cars may never arrive, but our TV future is here now. We already have TVs as thin as picture frames hanging on the wall. Skirmishes among cable, media, computer, and phone companies over the licensing, sale, streaming, and viewing of content have slowed down the future -- until today. The war is over.
The launch of the Chromecast may be as shocking and devastating to the TV ecosystem as the first use of the atomic bomb in World War II. Research shows that most people who avoid spending money on pay TV also avoid paid streaming. There is a small but growing segment of people who are cutting out all forms of paid content.
Both Amazon and Apple charge for downloads/views. Google supports that model, but it also provides for ad-supported streaming via YouTube. Google takes 45 percent of the ad revenue and uses its cut to sell ads, pay for servers and bandwidth, and support its ecosystem. Some day, cost-per-action pricing will allow Google to deliver live, targeted ads on a TV-by-TV basis.
Amazon, Apple, and others have entangled a consumer segment willing to buy expensive hardware and content, but with more than 7 billion people on our planet, which model will succeed -- expensive shows on expensive hardware or free content on cheap hardware? Pay TV will always appeal to people with money, and the Chromecast supports paid content, as well. Google Play, Netflix, and soon other pay services will work, too.
Open-source powers Chromecast
Once or twice a year, Apple, Microsoft, and others update their carefully curated software. With open-source software, an ocean of independent developers like Koushik Dutta rush in to fill the void between iterations, and Google benefits. Within days of the Chromecast's release, Dutta demonstrated an Android phone streaming content to the Chromecast and then via Dropbox. Today only servers and desktops/laptops can stream to the Chromecast. Dutta showed how any app using the Mediaplayer API could stream content to the device. Consumer-initiated development like Dutta's can't happen on closed systems; the DMCA and other restrictions make it nearly or completely illegal.
Back to the future
The Chromecast gives consumers an easy way to upgrade their TV without having to buy a new set with a built-in computer (that will quickly become obsolete). It works with both its own and Apple's ecosystems, turning YouTube into a free video system. It is like the over-the-air TV we all had growing up -- one not covered by FCC regulations. A few years ago, a few TV networks blocked their content from getting to Google TV. The Chromecast is the next step in Google bypassing this opposition.
With the Chromecast and YouTube, Google has the only free TV network that matters. It is hard to see this now, but trust me. Google just killed broadcast TV. NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox have great programming, but as of today, that is all they have. Google just took away the network side of their business. Since independent producers develop most TV programming, the networks should fear that Google will increasingly disrupt that side of the business, as well.
— Harry Hawk, operations and marketing manager at Leske's Bakery, also provides interim social media and digital marketing leadership to Momentum Machines. He is co-creator of the New York City, Chicago, and Charleston food film festivals. Find him on Facebook and Twitter, or email him at email@example.com.