Why Chromecast is a big deal

Last week Google surprised the tech punditry by announcing Chromecast, a $35 HDMI dongle that plugs into your TV and plays video that you queue to it from your phone or Chrome browser.

Currently the device has out-of-the-box support for YouTube, Netflix and Google Play – and though that’s it for native support (for now), it can also send any Chrome tab to your TV (which in itself is a pretty great feature) including the ability to fullscreen any video playing in the tab on your TV.

Streaming local files to your TV is in beta, but it looks like the SDK enables a pretty seamless experience streaming from devices to your TV, all making it potentially a legitimate competitor to the 3 year old – and three times more expensive – Apple TV.

Jeff Jarvis dropped some great first thoughts right after the announcement which are worth a read. His first point nails it:

“Simply put, I’ll end up watching more internet content because it’s so easy now.”

With one click to send any web content to the TV, and at only $35, this is a killer solution. But this also means something more.

TV Democratised

VHS. Tivo. Netflix. TV has been ripe for disruption for decades, and while slow but important inroads have been made in both distribution and time shifting, you’ve always needed the same appliances to get the actual content onto that big screen in your living room: bunny ears, a cable from the wall, set top boxes.

Cheap, powerful computing eventually democratised music recording and cheap, high-quality cameras eventually democratised video and film. Will the affordable, easy-to-use Chromecast democratise what screens on your TV every day?

YouTube has had an historic impact on the video landscape. Now, you can bypass not only the gatekeepers of content distribution, you can bypass the gate to the TV itself. Any creator, filmmaker, photographer, designer or artist can make that last leap from your laptop into your living room, and you better believe they think this is a huge opportunity.

In his excellent review, Nilay Patel mused on the limited native app support at launch:

“History suggests that counting on Google to convince content companies to add Chromecast support to their apps is a foolish bet.”

Forget the “content companies”. A much more interesting question is: how quickly will Chromecast support come from everyone else?


More on Chromecast:

The Verge review (and video)
Android Police review
MKBHD hands on (video)

Karl Smith is a New Zealander living in Melbourne, Australia. He's an art and design, tech, and pop culture enthusiast. Previous gigs include musician, concierge, picture framer, designer and product manager.