Google is the latest tech company to get into the dongle market. The search engine giant is going after Apple's jugular with a lower-cost Apple TV competitor dubbed Chromecast.
Google's dongle plugs into a TV's HDMI port to let users stream media from computers, tablets and smartphones. The dongle is available now for $35 in the U.S. Chromecast works with Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Music, and Google promised more apps like Pandora are coming soon.
"With Chromecast, we wanted to create an easy solution that works for everyone, for every TV in the house," Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome & Apps, wrote in a blog post. "Once your Chromecast is set up, you can use your phone, tablet or laptop to browse and cast content to your TV, play and pause, control the volume, and more."
A Good 80% Solution
Pichai was quick to point out Chromecast's competitive differentiator: Unlike other streaming solutions, he said, you can still multitask. In other words, you can still send emails or surf the web while you watch the content streaming to your TV. Chromecast works with Android and iOS tablets and smartphones, as well as Mac and Windows.
Chromecast can also cast web pages to the TV. A new feature in the Chrome browser lets you project any browser tab to the television screen. Practical use cases include sharing family photos or video clips from your favorite news site.
For analysis of Google's latest market move, we turned to Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research. He told us Chromecast is a great "80 percent" solution.
"It's not a universal answer to getting online video to the TV, but it's small so that it doesn't take up any more shelf space and -- most importantly -- inexpensive. It looks like a good stocking stuffer this holiday season," he said.
"Of course, if the home router or broadband connection isn't up to the task of streaming HD video, performance will suffer," he added. "The real play for Google will be trying to get the technology embedded in TVs as they've started to do with a similar, earlier initiative called DIAL."
Nexus 7 Has Sharper Screen
Google also announced a new Nexus 7 with ASUS. Pichai said it has the sharpest 7-inch screen on the market with 323 pixels per inch. The tablet also weighs less and offers more than nine hours of HD video playback and 10 hours of web browsing or reading.
"Nexus 7 is the first device to ship with Android 4.3, the newest version of Android. Tablets are perfect for sharing with others, so in Android 4.3, we're introducing restricted profiles, which let you limit access to apps and content," Pichai said.
"For example, restricted profiles enable parental controls, so certain family members are prevented from accessing mature content," he added. "Likewise, retail stores can use tablets to show off product information, and shops can use tablets as point of sale systems."
The new Nexus 7 features stereo speakers and virtual surround sound from Fraunhofer, the inventors of the MP3 format. Prices start at $229 and the product will be available July 30. Android 4.3 is rolling out to Nexus devices starting Wednesday.