If Netflix’s recent Emmy coup wasn’t enough to keep old-school television executives up at night, the latest Google gadget might do the trick. The company recently debuted Chromecast, a small thumb-drive-like stick that effectively turns any TV with an HDMI or USB port into a smart TV, allowing people to ”cast” Netflix videos, YouTube clips, tunes from Google Play, and Web pages from their little screens (laptops, phones, tablets) onto their big one.
Of course, this idea isn’t new — Roku, Apple TV, and certain Blu-ray players have had similar capabilities for a while. Chromecast is just the latest disruption device to free people from having to watch what (and when) traditional networks dictate. But unlike earlier devices, this one works in concert with what most consumers already own, including Android and iOS devices, making their media feel less cluttered and more intimate. Another thing separating Chromecast from the pack is its cost: At $35, it beats the $99 price tag of both the Roku 3 and the Apple TV. It’s a solid entry for Google, especially after the fizzle of its earlier foray into the living room, Google TV.
There are some hitches out of the box. The first thing users will notice is that Chromecast isn’t a stand-alone device as Google’s marketing suggests. It needs to be connected to a power source via an adapter, requiring a wire and plug that make the whole process seem a little less streamlined. And the current selection of apps it can cast is limited, though new ones (including Hulu Plus and HBO Go) are expected to be added soon.
Whatever the limitations, though, Chromecast certainly has the broad appeal it needs to catch on — and a bargain price most viewers won’t feel any need to resist. B+