|Type||Digital media player|
|Release date||July 24, 2013(United States)|
|System-on-chip used||Marvell DE3005-A1|
|Connectivity||HDMI (supports CEC), Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n @ 2.4 GHz)|
|Dimensions||72 mm × 35 mm × 12 mm|
Chromecast is a digital media player developed by Google. The device, a 2.83-inch (72 mm) HDMI dongle, plays audio/video content on a high-definition television by directly streaming it via Wi-Fi from the Internet or a local network. Users select the media to play using Chromecast-enabled mobile apps and Web apps, or through a beta feature called "tab casting" that can mirror most content from the web browser Google Chrome running on their personal computer. The device was announced on July 24, 2013, and made available for purchase on the same day in the United States for US$35, along with a limited-time promotion for three free months of Netflix.
Features and operation
Measuring 2.83 inches (72 mm), Chromecast plugs into a television's HDMI port, while the power is supplied by connecting the device's micro-USB port to an external power supply or a USB port. The device connects to the Internet through a Wi-Fi connection to the user's home network. Chromecast works in two ways, both of which stream content to a television. The first employs mobile apps and Web apps. The second, called "tab casting", can mirror almost any content displayed by the web browser Google Chrome running on a personal computer.
- The primary method of playing media on the device is through Chromecast-enabled mobile apps and Web apps, which control program selection, playback, and volume. The media is streamed by the Chromecast within a local version of the Chrome browser, thus freeing the controlling device for other tasks, such as answering a call or using another application, without disrupting playback. Both Android and iOS mobile apps are supported, as are Web apps running on computers using Google Chrome (on Windows, OS X, and Chrome OS) through an extension.
- Tab casting mirrors the content of a Chrome browser tab on a television. The quality of the image depends on the processing power of the computer, and minimum system requirements apply to video streaming. Content that uses plug-ins, such as Silverlight and QuickTime, is not fully supported, as the stream may lack sound or image. Google lists the feature as beta.
Chrome and mobile apps
At Chromecast's release, YouTube and Netflix were available as Android, iOS, and Chrome Web apps. Google Play Music and Google Play Movies & TV were also available, but originally only as Android apps. Google advised other interested developers to create and test Chromecast-enabled apps, but not distribute them until the company released the production version of the device's software development kit. While that admonition remained in force, Chromecast-enabled applications for Hulu Plus and Pandora Radio were released in October 2013, and HBO GO in November. Jeff Lawrence, founder and CEO of PlayOn, said that Google was giving "most favored developer" status to major streaming companies, a move he found understandable from Google's perspective, but frustrating to other developers given the lack of a concrete timeline. Google invited developers to a two-day hackathon on December 7 at its Mountain View headquarters, offering the opportunity to test drive the SDK's "upcoming release". The session attracted 40 developers from 30 companies and was followed by 10 additional apps, including Plex, Avia and Realplayer Cloud. Mario Queiroz, Google vice president of product management, said that "hundreds of developers” have registered with the company to add Chromecast capabilities to their apps.
Google opened the SDK to all developers on February 3, 2014. Rish Chandra, Chromecast product manager, said that Google used the intervening time to improve the SDK's reliability and accommodate those developers who sought a quick and easy way to cast a photo to a television without a lot of coding. Google also made the SDK a part of the Google Play Services framework, thereby giving users access to new apps without having to update Android itself.
The following is a partial list of Chromecast-enabled apps and the platforms each supports:
|Avia Media Player||No||Yes||No||Videon Central Inc.||Multimedia|
|Dayframe||No||Yes||No||Cloud TV Inc.||Photo|
|Google Play Movies & TV||Yes||Yes||Yes||Video|
|Google Play Music||Yes||Yes||Yes||Audio|
|HBO Go||Yes||Yes||Yes||Home Box Office Inc.||Video|
|Media Browser||Yes||Yes||Yes||Media Browser||Video|
|MyShoebox||No||Yes||No||Couch Labs Inc.||Photo|
|Pandora Radio||No||Yes||Yes||Pandora Media, Inc.||Audio|
|Podcast Addict||No||Yes||No||Xavier Guillemané||Multimedia|
|PostTV (aka "The Washington Post" app)||Yes||Yes||Yes (iPad only)||The Washington Post Company||Video|
|Red Bull TV||Yes||Yes||Yes||Red Bull GmbH||Video|
|TicTacToe for Chromecast||No||Yes||Yes||Swishly Inc, Friendly App Studio||Game|
Chromecast contains the Marvell 88DE3005 (Armada 1500-mini) system on a chip, which includes codecs for hardware decoding of the VP8 and H.264 video compression formats. Radio communication is handled by AzureWave NH–387 Wi-Fi which supports 802.11b/g/n (2.4 GHz). The device has 512 MB of Micron DDR3L RAM and 2 GB of flash storage. The model number H2G2-42 is likely a reference to the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy abbreviation "H2G2"—in the novel, the number 42 is the "Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything." The bundled power adapter bears the model number MST3K-US, possibly shorthand for Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Software development kit
The Google Cast SDK gives developers a way of handling "second-screen interactions" and was announced as a preview version in July 2013 and as a final version on February 3, 2014. In its introductory documentation and video presentation, Google said the SDK supported both Chromecast devices and other unnamed "cast receiver devices". The development framework has two components: a sender app and a receiver app, both of which make use of APIs provided by the SDK.
- The sender app is based on a vendor's existing Android or iOS mobile app, or desktop Web app, and provides users with content discovery and media controls, including the ability to select which device content is streamed. Under the hood, sender apps can detect receiver devices on the same local network, establish a secure channel, and exchange messages.
- The receiver app is a Web app executing in a Chrome browser-like environment resident on the cast receiver device. Receiver apps of varying complexities can be developed depending on the variety of content formats supported. For example, a simple receiver app might just play HTML5 content, whereas custom receiver apps, which require more programming effort, can support a variety of streaming protocols, including MPEG-DASH, HTTP Live Streaming, and the Microsoft Smooth Streaming Protocol.
Chromecast uses the DIAL (DIscovery And Launch) protocol, co-developed by Netflix and YouTube, to search for available devices on a Wi-Fi network. Once a device is discovered, the protocol synchronizes information on how to connect to the device.
At the introductory press conference, Hugo Barra, then Google's vice president of Android product management, said that Chromecast is "running a simplified version of Chrome OS." Subsequently, a team of hackers reported that the device is "more Android than ChromeOS" and appears to be adapted from software embedded in Google TV.
Release and reception
Chromecast was made available in the US for purchase online on July 24, 2013. To entice consumers to purchase the device, Google initially offered buyers free access to the Netflix service for a three-month period. Chromecast quickly sold out on Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, and the Google Play Store, and within 24 hours, the Netflix promotion was ended due to high demand for the device. On October 19, 2013, the Chromecast mobile app was released outside of the US for the first time. Google has committed to launching the device more broadly internationally with the intent of adding to the library of compatible apps, ultimately setting consumer expectations that every app will be "castable".
Nilay Patel of The Verge gave the Chromecast an 8.5/10 score in his review, saying, "The Chromecast is basically an impulse purchase that just happens to be the simplest, cheapest, and best solution for getting a browser window on your TV." Speaking of the adapter's potential, he said, "it seems like the Chromecast might actually deliver on all that potential, but Google still has a lot of work to do." In particular, Patel pointed to Apple's AirPlay protocol as an example of an established competitor with many more features. TechCrunch's review of the device said, "Even with a bug or two rearing its head, the Chromecast is easily worth its $35 pricetag." Gizmodo gave the device a positive review, highlighting the ease of setup and sharing video. In comparing the device to competitors, the review said, "Chromecast isn't Google's version of Apple TV, and it's not trying to be... But Chromecast also costs a third of what those devices do, and has plenty of potential given that its SDK is just a few days old." David Pogue of The New York Times praised the device for its $35 retail price, saying, "It's already a fine price for what this gadget does, and it will seem better and better the more video apps are made to work with it." Pogue noted the limitations of the device's screen mirroring feature and said using only mobile devices as a remote control was not "especially graceful", but he called Chromecast the "smallest, cheapest, simplest way yet to add Internet to your TV".
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- Chromecast at the Google Play marketplace
- Chromecast developer SDK
- DIAL Protocol Specification and Registry
- Inside a Chromecast