Google Chromecast: Plug in and enjoy all benefits of a Smart TV

Posted online: Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 0000 hrs
New Delhi : A revolution of some sorts is happening with pluggable devices, especially with the popularity of Google’s Chromecast. Chromecast was the best-selling item for many weeks beating the competing Apple TV, Roku and even Amazon’s own Kindle products. When Google announced it in the US on July 14 last year for $35, it was meant mainly for casting YouTube videos or Netflix movies from your mobile/laptop to your large screen television.

But, this seems to be changing the future of gaming consoles, storages, media players, smart TVs to name a few. The Chromecast, that looks like a simple pen drive, plugs in to the high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) of the TV, and once you cast from your laptop/smartphone wirelessly, application gets invoked; connects to the internet through your home Wi-Fi and renders it on your TV, effortlessly. There are competing technology products such as Apple’s AirPlay, Plair and Roku; however, Chromecast is the cheapest alternative.

However, things are going to change dramatically with Google opening up its Cast software development kit (SDK) earlier in February, for iOS, Android and Chrome to allow all developers integrate the Cast function directly into their apps. This is likely to disrupt the DVD, game and television industries, as discussed below.

Normally, one struggles in figuring out how to play the video captured in our camcorders, or downloaded from the internet, on our TV. Normally we need to burn DVDs or copy them on to pen drives and use our DVD player to play them on to TV. Most often, due to lack of wireless connectivity to the TV, compatible components and due to lack of multimedia format support (one of the many such as MP4, 3gp, avi formats and H264, MPEG4, WMV, WMA audio video formats), the playback stalls!

If only we can have a multimedia decoders that can decode the media contents, then life will be much simpler. We can expect components/applications on Chromecast that will allow any of the media format to be played instantly from the mobile/ laptop/PC on the wide screen TV. Hence you need not do copying and storing content to view them through your DVD. You can just cast it from any device on to your TV. Chromecast provides wireless connectivity support and multimedia format support to TVs. Few such applications are Allcast, Avia media player, RealPlayer Cloud, Plex that are now available for Chromecast. With these applications, Chromecast user will be able to stream media from their home network storage on any media on to TV.

Second, was an interesting casting of the infamous Flappy Bird by its creator Koush from his Android phone on to TV. What this means is that Chromecast along with your mobile as the controller can virtually replace the Xboxes, Play Stations and Nintendos! One of the first things to be released with the new SDK was Koush’s updated AllCast app that allowed local media streaming using which Koush used the mobile as a controller to play his Flappy Bird!

The gaming industry thrives on proprietaries and the closely guarded ecosystem of game enthusiasts and game developers. The platforms/ consoles developed by Microsoft, Sony and others, are hugely expensive and close-ended. However, with the above disruption, Google intends to change all these – the platform being made open; no need to buy expensive proprietary consoles; and flood of games. This may very well be the game changer for game console firms. We can also expect the game developer community to enlarge with innovations coming from nook and corner of the world! With Google spearheading Project Tango (http://www.google.com/atap/projecttango/), we can expect interesting 3D augmented reality based games to be developed soon.

Third, smart TV is dead! The smartness is not in the TV but in the pluggable device such as Chromecast. Instead of spending a huge sum on buying an internet ready smart TV, you can buy a device such as Chromecast for thousands of rupees and enjoy all the benefits of a Smart TV. It is time that TV makers concentrate on displays and screens and not on the smartness of the TV. The proprietary smartness in TV is being abstracted by open software based solutions.

You can expect Google to heavily subsidise Chromecast hardware (much less than $35 in the years to come much to the delight of markets such as India) by the advertisement revenue it will generate through the Castable applications. Pluggable devices are here to stay!

- By Krishna Kishore & V Sridhar

The writers are at Sasken Communication Technologies