Take Two for July 25, 2013

How does Google's Chromecast compare to competitors?

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The new Google Chromecast is arranged on a table at a media event at Dogpatch Studios on July 24, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Google on Wednesday unveiled a slim, powerful new Nexus tablet computer and a thumb-drive sized device that lets popular mobile gadgets feed online content to television sets.

Google's second quarter earnings might not have been great, but the release of some new products could help boost the company's third quarter profits. Those products include a new tablet, an update to their android operating system and a little device called Chromecast designed to change the way you watch TV.

Google recently debuted Chromecast, a device that lets you beam content directly from a device like a phone, tablet or laptop to your television. For $35, it essentially makes any newer TV into a smart TV.

You have to have a tablet or some sort of device, because that's what tells the device to play the video. For example, if you start a Youtube or Netflix video on your iPad, you will be able to send it to Chromecast and it will show up on your TV.

If you don't have use a smartphone or tablet, opting for a regular computer instead, you can also send that video directly to the TV as long as you're using the Chrome browser.

Google isn't the first company to come up with this idea. For instance, there's a product called Plair, which basically does the exact same thing but costs about $60 more than Chromecast.

Of course, we can't forget about the streaming boxes from big companies like Apple and Roku, but those are a little different. When you play videos through the Apple TV or Roku, you're stuck in their little app world that you have to navigate with a remote.

Chromecast turns your TV into a smart TV without forcing you to navigate through a whole dedicated system. You can simply use your tablet or phone or laptop to control what you watch on your TV. The idea is that it gives you more freedom to watch what you want, compared to being limited to what Apple or Roku offers on their own systems. 

Also, Chromecast is a bargain. Its $35 is significantly less than the $99 Apple TV, and beats the $50 cost of the Roku streaming box.  

Google is expecting to sell a lot of these devices, but it won't have a huge financial impact on the company, according to Ross Rubin Prinicple Analyst with Reticle Research. More likely, the device is a big move to embed Google into your living room and into your life.

Google has already tried to create their own TV ecosystem with Google TV, and it's been largely a failure. The advantage comes when users buy items through Google Play, the company's online store where you can buy movies, TV shows and music.

The company is hoping that if you purhcase products through apps on the Google tablet or Android phone, then you will also decide to stream it through their platform.

But this is not quite an Apple TV-killer yet. Currently, Google has only licensed Netflix, YouTube and Google Play to allow their apps to play through your TV. So if you're playing a TV show through the Hulu app on your iPad, you can't send it to your TV yet until more licensing agreements are worked out. 

Apple and Roku both have content providers including Hulu and Amazon on their devices, so they have a much bigger library for you to choose from. That said, if you're using Google's Chrome browser, you can broadcast any video from your computer to your TV. That's the workaround for right now.

Chromecast is a great device if you don't have a streaming system setup already, and it's cheap enough that some people might give it a go just to see what it's all about.


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