July 24, 2013 -- Google's new Nexus 7 has the specifications to impress, but a new little and cheaper device called the Chromecast is impressing a bit more today.
The small dongle costs approximately $35 and promises to let you easily stream Internet video on a television. Plug the device into the back of a TV's HDMI port, connect it to your home WiFi network and you can then fire up videos or music on your phone, tablet and computer and watch it on the bigger screen.
"The Chromecast is easiest way to bring your favorite online entertainment to your TV," Google Head of TV Technology Mario Queiroz said at the launch event this morning.
Google will build in the Chromecast support to the phone and tablet apps, themselves. For instance, the Android or iPhone YouTube and Google Video apps will have a Chromecast button that lets you play that video or song on the TV screen. In Chrome browsers on Mac, Windows and Chrome OS computers, the button will allow you to mirror what is on your computer's Chrome browser on the bigger screen.
It's intended to be a really simple way to watch the content you are watching on your mobile devices on a bigger TV screen. The technology allows you to do other things on your phone or tablet, for instance reading an email, while still streaming the video on the TV.
But it is simplicity and price together that are getting people excited about the Chromecast. The little device costs only $35 and comes with three free months of Netflix service for both new and existing customers.
Netflix support for Chromecast is coming, Google said at the event today.
Competing devices that bring Internet connectivity and video to the TV, like the $99 Apple TV and the $50 Roku, are more expensive, though, in many cases, have more functionality.
"Perhaps the best news about the Chromecast was its price. At $35, it is almost a third of what Apple TV sells for and even significantly less than even Roku," Ross Rubin, principal analyst for Reticle Research, told ABC News. " It's not the solution to everything and it does require initiation from a smartphone or other device. And they don't have all the services, but have some key ones in Netflix, YouTube and Pandora."
This isn't Google's first foray into the TV space, and its previous attempts have been largely unsuccessful. Its Google TV software, which was built into TV sets from Sony and Samsung, was sluggish and companies moved away from using the platform. Google also announced its Nexus Q set-top box last May and, after negative reviews, it was never released to the public.
Still, experts seem to think that, at $35, this might be the device many can get behind, especially given its simple purpose of just making it easier to get the video content you are watching on your other devices on that bigger screen.
Some analysts pointed out that set-up could be a bit complex for people to configure, but they pointed to the price and basic functionality as being a differentiator.
"It's not a complete solution, but it's trying to tackle a single problem -- expediently getting online video to your TV -- and at a price that beats about everything out there," Rubin said.
The Chromecast is available now from the Google Play Store, BestBuy.com and Amazon.com for $35. It will ship on Aug. 7.