With the release of Google’s new Chromecast HDMI dongle, the blogosphere has become clogged with comparisons with other offerings along a similar vein. From Apple to Roku, the comparisons and “which is better” arguments seem to skim over what makes the Chromecast dongle unique and game-changing.
First, it’s not a streaming device, it’s a connectivity device for televisions and other gadgets with an HDMI plug. The streaming happens through another devices talking with the Chromecast, such as a smart phone, tablet, notebook, etc. Unlike other devices on the market, like Apple’s Airplay or Roku’s set top boxes, the Chromecast is neither stand alone nor does it have a built-in user interface. Instead, it allows connectivity with apps on other devices and gives a way to stream video from them to another device (i.e. from an Android phone to a TV).
Basically, the Chromecast dongle allows apps on devices to pair the device’s innate streaming capability with a TV that isn’t otherwise capable of doing so itself.
In essence, if you can use the Chrome browser on your device (smart phone, tablet, whatever), you can stream form that device to the Chromecast dongle plugged into a TV. Unlike Airplay and Apple TV, the Chromecast dongle is completely platform independent. You’re not locked into any one setup as you are with Roku and Apple products.
So far, the capabilities of the Chromecast HDMI are limited to Netflix, YouTube, and a few third party APIs. Hulu, Pandora, HBO Go, etc. do not work on it, but some have been able to get Amazon Prime to stream through it with some tweaking. What the dongle can support is dependent entirely on which companies come on board and create an API that will work through the Chrome browser plugin for the Chromecast.
The potential is unlimited and with a price tag of just $35, this is an enabling device that many may find fun to work with to add even more options. It will be fun to watch.