Low-cost UltraHighDefinition (UHD) Smart TVs and Netflix Threaten First-Generation TVBoxes and MiniPCs

Introduction and Overview

Vizio, reported to be the TV volume leader in the US market, announced a 50-inch P-Series UHD Smart TV with a US$999 MSRP at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) 2014. According to the Vizio Web site:image_thumb[41]P-Series’ ultra-fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi and a revamped, backlit QWERTY keyboard remote offer one-touch access to next-generation Smart TV image_thumb[9]In addition to featuring more of the most popular apps than any other connected TV platform, VIZIO Internet Apps Plus® is now also powered to support HEVC codec for streaming of Ultra HD-enabled apps. Its newly redesigned interface offers faster, simpler navigation and second-screen interactivity make it easier to use and more versatile than ever. [Links added.]image_thumb[6]

Chris Welch (@chriswelch) reported “Vizio Picks Streaming for 4K Delivery” the following in his Vizio announces its first consumer 4K TVs, kills all 3D support article of 1/6/2014 for The Verge:

image_thumb[11]… As for how consumers will actually acquire 4K content, Vizio is confident that streaming is the answer. “We believe in streaming,” McRae told us repeatedly. Both the Reference Series and P-Series will natively support select apps that offer 4K streaming; we expect to hear more details on which services those are as CES rolls on. Vizio’s 4K TVs utilize the HVEC codec for streaming, and they’re also capable of 60-frames-per-second 4K playback. [Visio chief technology officer, Matt] McRae said that the industry settling on 4K standards influenced the company’s decision to enter the market in a big way.

image_thumb[17]But for all that Vizio’s 2014 TV lineup may be gaining (the regular 1080p models are looking better than ever), it lacks one notable thing: 3D. The company has done away with 3D playback entirely. That’s a sudden and major break from the industry trend of stuffing 3D support into every TV that leaves a manufacturing line. It’s also a major blow to 3D in the living room; Vizio sells the most TVs of any company in the US. But Vizio is confident that consumers won’t miss it; in fact, the decision was made because Vizio’s current customers simply aren’t viewing content in 3D often. In 2014, Vizio seems willing to sacrifice what some may consider a gimmick in pursuit of a better picture.

Updated 10/15/2014: The Verge picked CES’s Best TV: Vizio’s $999 4K TV on 1/10/2014. According to Chris Welch:

Vizio’s first consumer 4K TVs will start at just $999.99 when they ship later this year, marking a major milestone as the technology finds its way into more living rooms in 2014. We’ve seen plenty of off-brand 4K sets fall below the $1,000 mark, but Vizio’s cutthroat pricing delivered an unexpected gut punch to major competitors like Sony and Samsung. Those companies have come nowhere close to matching it, though they may rethink strategy now that the most popular TV manufacturer in the US has undercut them. The cheap 4K TV has officially arrived.

Chris Welch

Updated 10/15/2014: Engadget reported Australian TV supplier Kogan’s ultra-budget 4K TV and 3G tablet arrive at CES on 1/9/2014:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.hipchat.com/61622/500567/4mrAMFZn1PkcXtC/DSC02576.jpgKogan’s name may not roll off your brain as easily as some companies we could mention, but the Australian outfit is attempting to bring premium technology to the masses with a focus on low prices. In fact, there’s probably a comparison with Vizio to be made here, considering that Kogan’s first 4K TV retails for $999 AUD, or around $890 USD. Then there’s the Agora HD Mini 3G, a 7.85-inch tablet with a 3G modem that retails for $199 AUD, or about $180 in the US. Considering how frequently our antipodean friends are gouged by technology companies, it’s good to see the locals fighting back.

Streaming is the only likely source for UHD content in the near future, according to Netflix Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt. Bryan Bishop (@bcbishop) quotes Hunt and McRae in his How Netflix won CES: It’s not the TVs, it’s what you watch on them article of 1/10/2014 for The Verge:

image_thumb[19]Before this week, the state of 4K content was fairly dire. While 4K cameras are slowly trickling into TV production, networks like AMC and Fox aren’t anywhere close to broadcasting in the higher-quality standard. Sony’s media player is a high-end device tied to Sony televisions, and a Blu-ray standard won’t be locked down until the end of the year at best. When consumers start buying the first wave of affordable 4K TVs like Vizio’s $999 P-Series this year, the only way they’re going to get content is by streaming it over the internet.

image_thumb[26]“One of the interesting pieces is that 4K is not going to have a major lifetime on a plastic disc,” Netflix’s chief product officer, Neil Hunt, tells us. “It’s not going to fit on a Blu-ray disc, and it’s unlikely that people are going to want to upgrade their DVD players.”

image_thumb[23]It’s a streaming-first view that’s held not just by Netflix, but the industry at large: Vizio CTO Matt McRae and Sharp senior VP of product marketing Jim Sanduski both told us that they’re betting on streaming as the future of 4K. “A lot of it will come from streaming,” says McRae. “And I think one of the best things that can happen is have streaming be first with content, be first with UHD [Ultra HD], be first with some of the [new] features.”

image_thumb[20]That plays right into Netflix’s strengths: in addition to having the most popular 4K-capable distribution system in the market, the company also an ace up its sleeve: actual 4K content. The Emmy-winning House of Cards is ready to launch its second season in 4K in the second quarter of this year, and Hunt also told us that “all major original content going forward” will be shot and finished in 4K.

Daniel Cooper (@danielwcooper) reported Sony’s new UHD TVs are built to support Netflix in 4K when it arrives in a 1/6/2014 article for Engadget:

3D? Pah. 2014 is the year that 4K makes its first grand assault upon the mainstream. Naturally, Sony is one of the names leading the charge, and is bolstering the 4K support it added to the Video Unlimited service back in September. The company’s new range of UHD TVs will now pull down 4K video from a variety of sources, but most importantly, will work with Netflix’s forthcoming native 4K streaming.

This year’s flagship is the XBR-X950B, available to buy in 95- or 85-inch models, while the middle tier is now occupied by the XBR-900B, offering 79-, 65- or 55-inch units. For those of us who aren’t on the roster of a Major League Baseball team, however, the company is also releasing an “entry level” XBR-X850B line, which can be snagged in 70-, 65-, 55- and 49-inch versions.

Each one has the usual cluster of Sony technologies, including X-Reality Pro, Triluminos and ClearAudio+, as well as screen mirroring, NFC and built-in WiFi. All of them will arrive in spring, but there’s no word, yet, on how much these will set you back, but we’d wager that the hardware isn’t yet into the “impulse purchase” category just yet.

Brian Hauser claims 4K Is for Programmers with US$500 39-inch Seiki UHD TVs in a 1/9/2014 post:

Seiki boxes

At our office, we just equipped all of the programmers’ workstations with Seiki 39″ 4K televisions as monitors. At $500 a piece, you should be doing the same. For the time being, there is no single higher-productivity display for a programmer.

Heralded by some as a “breakthrough,” the Seiki monitor—ahem, television—does have its limitations. Most notably, the HDMI 1.4 ports can only support 30Hz at the signature 3840×2160 resolution. Lower-end GPUs are also similarly limited to 30Hz at that resolution. The GPU in a truly old desktop PC will not support 3840×2160 at all, but if you are programming on something so old, you should first contend with that.

I equipped my wife’s home computer with one of these Seiki televisions before the price dropped from $700 to $500. Even having paid that $200 early adopter premium, that price was significantly lower than other 4K displays. (Is it any surprise that Dell and others are finally reacting to this new pricing reality?)

The fact that Seiki markets their 4K display as a television only betrays a bit of marketing ignorance. Seiki is missing a golden opportunity to dominate the desktop display market by removing the television tuner, speakers, and remote, and then reallocating that budget to a 60Hz or better input (HDMI 2 and/or DisplayPort), a matte screen surface, and instant-on DPMS support, all the while retaining the market-wrecking price. After establishing that foothold, Seiki should deliver a smaller 4K (32″ or so) at the same price or lower, and push for 8K or higher at large form-factor (around 50″).

At the office, we had been using antiquated pairs of 19-inch monitors. An upgrade was needed. What to choose? Today, you can still buy a 30-inch 2560×1600 display for over $1,000. Or you can get a 39-inch 3840×2160 display for $500. This choice is not even fair.

OSX Mavericks at 3840x2160

One initially-skeptical colleague fired up his code editor, took a moment to savor the spectacle, and then the epiphany: “I didn’t really get it until just now.” Four editors side-by-side each with over a hundred lines of code, and enough room to spare for a project navigator, console, and debugger. Enough room to visualize the back-end service code, the HTML template, the style-sheet, the client-side script, and the finished result in a web browser—all at once without one press of Alt-tab.

Some people don’t intrinsically appreciate the appeal of large displays for desktop computing, but many of those folks will become converts when they use one. Remember when people argued that the iPad 2 resolution of 1024×768 was good enough? I have had enough of good enough.

I want a 50-inch desktop display with north of 10,000 horizontal pixels. Had desktop computing avoided the taint of HD, we may have arrived there by now. Instead, we allowed desktop displays to regress to “high definition”—perhaps the most damaging marketing term in consumer electronics—and stagnate for nearly a decade. Giving up on display evolution, allowing the living room to converge on the desktop, has given desktop computing a crippling lethargy. If not exactly responsible for the popularity of mobile computing, desktop’s lethargy has certainly made facile its own frequent eulogies by the pop punditry.

Why is mobile computing orthogonal to desktop computing anyway? Multi-device harmony is elusive because of anti-desktop partisanship from the mobile frontrunners (dismissing desktop computing as uncool is a facet of their manifesto) and the Old Guard’s reluctance to decisively merge mobile and desktop contexts (though Microsoft is finally taking baby steps). If you ever use your tablet or phone while in front of your desktop PC, you have experienced the failure of modern computing. Years of neglect have left workers with desktop computers no better or even inferior to their bring-your-own-device mobile gadgets.

The toleration of mediocrity on the desktop irks me.

Large desktop displays won’t unify the computing model (we need something like PAO for that), but they do reinvigorate a flagging industry and give knowledge workers a boost in productivity. At $500, a 4K desktop display is a no-brainer.

If it means you need to buy a new CPU and GPU, the PC manufacturers should be so lucky. Users will be pleasantly surprised too. Apathetic with their ~2007 desktop PC, they flaccidly rationalize that “it’s good enough for browsing the web and editing documents.” Unexpected delight is in store with a Haswell 4770K, 16+ GB of memory, a modern GPU, and a 3840×2160 monitor, all of which can fit in modest IT budgets. …

Brian continues with more screen shots, a full disclosure of a few weaknesses, and a comparison of “televisions” versus “monitors” for programming.

Chris Welch asserted “Manufacturers are making progress, but there’s still more bad than good” in a deck for his IQ test: the state of smart TVs at CES 2014 article of 1/10/2014 for The Verge:

image_thumb[27]TVs have never looked better than they do at CES 2014. Gorgeous displays are all over the show floor, showcasing awe-inspiring demo footage. This year, perhaps more than ever before, TV manufacturers have all committed to following a similar hardware path: they’re building big, beautiful, and nearly indistinguishable televisions. But there’s one disheartening trend that remains alive and well this year: terrible software.

image_thumb[31]Technology giants like Samsung are seasoned experts when it comes to building quality TVs, but they’ve gotten no better at designing the software that controls them. User interfaces remain overwrought with unnecessary bloat, sacrificing speed and intuitiveness for features that most humans will never use. In 2014, smart TVs remain caught in a struggle between brand differentiation and usability. And too many consumers are losing as a result.

image_thumb[35]Things don’t fare much better at Samsung and Sony [than at Panasonic]. Samsung’s experiments with multitasking are confusing and overwhelming. Worse yet, TV manufacturers continue to shoehorn web browsers into their software with no elegant way of interacting with them. Samsung says it’s made progress here with improved voice controls and new finger-based gestures — gimmicks that have been carried over from its hugely popular smartphones. But they’re equally as unintuitive when thrown on to the big screen in your living room, and merely serve as added “features” that Samsung leans on to differentiate its TVs from the competition.

image_thumb[37]And then there are the TV manufacturers that have finally relented and looked for a better approach to software. After buying the remains of webOS from HP, LG immediately put its weight behind the OS on the TV, and what we’ve seen thus far is impressive. The UI is modern and a breath of fresh air in a sea of bland lookalikes.

image_thumb[40]Hisense and TCL are simply outsourcing the challenge of software development — at least on some new TV models. By partnering with Roku, they’ve secured the know-how of a company that’s built a massively popular streaming platform, one that now extends beyond set-top boxes. For better or worse, the resulting interface isn’t ambitious. It’s all very simple to use, but your cable box is still in control of the most important piece. …

Despite Welch’s assertion about Smart TV capabilties, Android MiniPCs and TVBoxes will have a hard time competing with built-in Smart TV UI’s because of consumer inertia and the lack of sufficiently compelling features to justify the added expense and technical issues with these outboard devices. Faced with a limited market, it will be difficult for low cost dongles, such as EZCast, to justify the development and implementation costs of 2160p or 4320p HDMI 2.0 outputs and high-speed 802.11ac WiFi connectivity.

The Marvell 88DE3005 (ARMADA 1500-mini) System on a Chip (SoC) that powers Google’s Chromecast v1 supports hardware-decoding Google’s open-sourced VP8 codec in WebM containers but is limited to 802.11b/g/n WiFi in the 2.4 GHz band. HTML 5 video will support the WebM container format with the VP8 codec and the MP4 container with the H.264 codec. Netflix and other streaming video providers are likely to adopt WebM/VP8, which Chrome, Firefox and Opera browsers support natively, because of better quality/data-size ratios for 2160p video. IE11 and desktop Safari require a WebM plug-in. For detailed technical information on encoding and decoding HTML 5 video, see Chapter 5, Video, of Mark Pilgrim’s Dive into HTML 5 book.

Updated 1/14/2014: Kevin Collins of Home Theater Forum produced CEDIA 2013 – Joe Kane discusses UHD/4K/2160P, what is good and what can be improved interview with Joe Kane, the publisher of the Video Essentials and HD Basics video calibration tools on 9/28/2013:

image

Joe Kane speaks with Home Theater Forum on the UHD format. Joe talks about how close you need to be to the display / screen to realized the increased resolution and a series of improvements that could be made to make the format irresistible.

Joe recommends 4:4:4 RGB color encoding at 12-bit color depth for UHD rather than the YPrPb 4:2:0, 8-bit standard for today’s ATSC broadcasts. I’m not sanguine about the prospects for his proposal in consumer UHDTVs.

I used Joe Kane’s original “Video Essentials” LaserDisc with a Pioneer player to calibrate the Sony Trinitron TV I used for evaluating NTSC converter cards when writing Discover Windows 3.1 Multimedia for Que Publishing in 1992.


Tom’s Hardware Benchmarks NVidia’s New K1 GPU Driving a 3840x2160p Monitor

Dorian Black and Alex Davies of Tom’s Hardware posted Nvidia Tegra K1 Benchmarks from Lenovo ThinkVision 28 on 1/13/2014:

Nvidia is claiming the new mobile performance king at CES this year with its new Tegra K1 SoC. Luckily, Lenovo had a working K1-based product on the showroom floor, and we managed to run a few benchmarks. So, does Nvidia’s new Tegra live up to the hype?

One of the more unique products at CES 2014 was Lenovo’s ThinkVision 28. Positioned as a 4K (3840×2160) 28” LCD “pro monitor”, which happens to also run Android, the ThinkVision 28 will be available in July, starting at $1000. The ThinkVision 28 is part of the PC Plus movement, and while marketed primarily as a display (hence the ThinkVision moniker), this is a full system here, folks.This “monitor” features Android 4.3, Nvidia’s Tegra K1 SoC, 2 GB DDR3, 32 GB eMMC storage, a microSD slot, three USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, one microUSB 3.0 port, audio in/out, speakers, mics, webcam, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, Miracast, three HDMI ports, one DisplayPort, and a 10-point touchscreen.

The key aspect is, of course, the display. It’s 2160p Ultra HD. 4K is cool right now. Everyone wants 4K. But what we’re really interested in today is what powers the ThinkVision 28: Nvidia’s new Tegra K1 SoC.

While Lenovo didn’t explicitly confirm or deny the SoC’s inclusion in its ThinkVision 28 display, knowing winks and smiles were the order of the day when the question came up. CPU-Z just reports the SoC as “Tegra 2”, which is possibly a holdover from Lenovo’s old Tegra 2-based “K1” tablet – a little irony in itself. …

GFXBench

This multi-platform test renders a scene where a lot of effects interplay along with some physics and additive lighting. Off-screen is tested at 1920×1080, while on-screen relies on the display’s native resolution. Although GFXBench 3.0 is now available, 2.7 was the version installed on the ThinkVision 28 floor model.

In the off-screen test, Tegra K1 comfortably takes the lead over Apple’s A7 (by almost double)! Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 and Nvidia’s Tegra 4 are in third and fourth place respectively, scoring within 10% of one another. …

The way I see it, 16 fps won’t cut it for Netflix’s forthcoming 4K streams.

Read the entire article here.

Jean-Luc Aufranc (@cnxsoft) provides additional Tegra K1 benchmarks in his Tegra K1 based Devices Could be Just as Fast as Mid Range Intel Core i5 Laptops article of 1/13/2013:

Some benchmark results comparing Nvidia Tegra K1 reference tablet to Intel based laptops show the latest ARM SoC matches and even outperforms many Intel devices, at least when it comes to 3D performance thanks to the 192-core Kepler GPU found in Tegra K1.
Tegra_K1_vs_IntelIn T-Rex HD Offscreen test in GFXBench 2.7.5, Tegra K1 is hown to be about 4 times faster than Tegra 4, over twice as fast as Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, and interestingly it outperforms some Intel laptop such as Acer Aspire V5-573G powered by an Intel Core i5 4200U processor with HD Graphics 4200 GPU. It’s still twice as slow as a machine with an Intel Core i7-4000MQ and Geforce GT 740M. CPU performance will probably be equivalent to some Intel Core i3 machine however, at least for the quad core ARM Cortex 15 version, but that still probably means it’s very likely we’ll find computers and laptops based on Tegra K1, especially if it’s supported by Windows 8.x or the upcoming Windows 9, or if it finds its way into Chromebooks.

Via PadHZ

According to Brian Linder’s (@BradLinder) Lenovo launches 20 inch, 28 inch Android-powered all-in-ones article of 1/6/2014 for his Liliputing blog:

Lenovo ThinkVision 28 Smart Display

The ThinkVision Pro2840m is a monitor with a 28 inch, 3840 x 2160 pixel display and a starting price of $799. It’s expected to launch in April. But Lenovo also plans to launch a second model which has the same display, but also the guts of an Android system.

That model’s called the ThinkVision 28 Smart Display, and it’s due out in July for about $1199.

It features an NVIDIA Tegra processor, a touch panel, and Android 4.3 software. The system has 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage and sports 5W stereo speakers, a mic and 2MP webcam, 3 HDMI and 3 USB ports, Ethernet, WiFi, NFC, and support for Miracast wireless display technology. …

A US$400 surcharge for a Android 4.3 SoC seems like overpricing to me.

If you need 4K or 8K video content for testing, check out HDTimelapse.net’s offerings of royalty-free timelapse videos of cities and other image categories. 


Marvell Reports Skyworth will Produce Smart TVs and Set Top Boxes with Google Services for Smart TVs

Marvell Technology Group, Ltd., the producer of the CPU powering the Chromecast dongle, reported Marvell Partners with Leading Global TV Maker Skyworth to Introduce Smart TV and Set-Top Box with Google Services for Smart TV in a 1/7/2014 press release:

Skyworth announces K100 Smart TV and GS100 and GS300 set-top boxes with Google Services for Smart TV powered by Marvell’s ARMADA 1500 Plus.

Las Vegas and Santa Clara, California (January 7, 2014) – Continuing its leadership in the Smart Home ecosystem, Marvell (NASDAQ: MRVL) today announced a partnership with Skyworth, a global TV maker, to deploy Smart TVs and set-top boxes with Google services for Smart TV. The new offerings are powered by Marvell’s ARMADA® 1500 Plus (88DE3108) system-on-chip (SoC) platform, a full HD media processor designed for a vast array of smart video products. …

The ARMADA 1500 Plus is the newest edition to the award-winning ARMADA 1500 product family, offering significantly improved graphics performance due to its OpenGL ES 2.0 compatible graphics engine, while real-time 1080p video encode capabilities allow the platform to function as a multi-screen source device, enabling an optimal viewing experience for consumers. Additionally, the ARMADA 1500 Plus incorporates an enhanced security engine that further facilitates more seamless adoption by service operators as well as its award-winning Qdeo® video processing for state-of-the-art HD and 3-D video for an immersive entertainment experience. The SoC has an integrated HDMI receiver and Gigabit Ethernet, enabling a broad range of low cost form factors that makes the ARMADA 1500 Plus ideal for small set-top-boxes, over-the-top media players, hybrid set-top boxes, and Smart TVs at mass-market price points.

Marvell will showcase its innovative Digital Connected Lifestyle solutions at Murano Rooms 3304-3306, level 3, located at the Venetian Congress Center, during CES, January 7-10 in Las Vegas.

About Skyworth
Skyworth (HK00751) is a global TV manufacturer and large-sized high-tech public company. Holding the No. 1 domestic TV market share in China, achieving No.1 sales volume in domestic TV market in China, Skyworth will move forward on the way of internationalization, since established a strong, comprehensive global sales, distribution platform and network that covers major continents. Skyworth is committed to providing customers with complete solutions of digital life and bringing Skyworth’s video and audio products into common households to let people of different countries and groups enjoy the fun and joy of digital audio- and video- life. …

Skyworth might claim to be China’s top-selling TV maker, but the Consumer Electronic Association (CEA) rated it (#7) below Hisense (#5) in its “2013 Global TV Brands Top 20” item in the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) Daily magazine for 1/9/2014:

image_thumb5[1]Source: CEA, reformatted

This means that Marvell and Google Services for Smart TVs have captured the two leading Chinese TV manufacturers’ smart TV and set-top box business. (See item below for the Hisense offering.)


Hisense Announces Android-Based Smart TVs and Pulse PRO Set Top Box based on Google Services for Smart TVs

Hisense (@Hisense_USA) published a Hisense Launches H6 SMART TV for Android and Pulse PRO Set Top Box based on Google Services for Smart TVs press release on 12/5/2013:

imageSuwanee, GA – December 5, 2013 — Hisense today announced the launch of the new H6 SMART TV with the latest Google™ services for TV powered by Android™ 4.2.2. Along with a new EasyView natural user interface and incredibly simplified remote control air mouse, the new H6 SMART TV available in 40-inch, 50-inch, and 55-inch models is powered by Marvell’s latest ARMADA 1500 Plus (88DE3108) HD Media processor.

“Android delivers on the promise of Smart. Today, by seamlessly coupling Hisense’s television expertise, Marvell’s high performing and innovative ARMADA 1500 Plus platform and Android’s connectivity and interactivity, Hisense is delivering on the promise of a truly smart TV — and making it accessible to broad markets here in North America and across the globe,” said Jonathan Frank, Vice President of Marketing, Hisense USA. “We are proud to bring Google services for Smart TV to the market with the H6 and the Pulse PRO. Hisense provides a comfortable, lean-back experience, with an elegant, simple remote with MIC for voice control and functionality that is simply phenomenal. And if you’re not quite ready to invest in a new TV, but would like the latest and greatest Android platform, get the Pulse PRO set-top box.”

Image courtesy of Android Beat

“I am very pleased to see the new ARMADA 1500 Plus from our award-winning SoC platform family to be the first to power a broad portfolio of Hisense SMART TV products with the next generation of Google services for Smart TVs,” said Weili Dai, President and Co-Founder of Marvell. “We are excited to collaborate with Hisense and Google on bringing the best consumer experiences to the North American Smart TV mass market and beyond.”

Both products come with the Hisense Social TV™ App and Hisense Cloud Services Hi-Media™ Player and Receiver. The H6 features a 120Hz refresh rate, and both are Energy Star 6.0 qualified, and are configured with 1GB RAM and 8GB ROM. The H6 remote, which will also be sold with the Pulse PRO, comes with just 30 keys, a built-in air mouse with IQQI Smart Input and content centric voice search with a built-in microphone.

The Pulse PRO brings all of the SMART functionality you receive with the H6, including Netflix, Vudu HD Movies, Amazon Instant Video, Chrome™, YouTube™, Google Play™, Google Voice Search™, PrimeTime, Android-based TV v4 Media Streaming, a MARVELL BG2-CT board with 1G RAM and 4G Flash, HDMI-In/Out, IR-In/Out, DLNA, WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, USB and an air mouse remote with MIC and Motion Sensing.

Android, Google Play, Google and other marks are trademarks of Google Inc.

For more information please visit: www.hisense-usa.com.

» Download Press Release (PDF)

The Android Headlines blog reported Hisense Announces their Pulse Pro Android TV at CES 2014 on 1/9/2013:

IMG_2390_610x457

imageWhile Google TV isn’t officially dead, it might as well be. We have heard rumors that it would be renamed and relaunched in 2014 as Android TV. And it looks like Hisense spilled the beans a bit early. Hisense is showing off a nice little set top box at CES this week. Which is called the Pulse Pro, obviously keeping up with the Hisense Pulse naming scheme. It’s running software called “Android TV v4″. It’s not exactly Google TV, but it’s clearly built on the same foundation, with the same PrimeTime guide, and the ability to run Google TV apps. The Hisense Pulse Pro is said to be pretty impressive, according to those in Vegas this week able to check it out. They say one of the biggest improvements is the home screen, which lays out your content choices in a much more straight-forward way than standard Google TV software

The remote is said to be much simpler than your typical Google TV remote, it’s focusing on being able to easily jump to the content you want rather than offering a full keyboard. The need to type on a keyboard has been  replaced with a built-in microphone. All you have to do is press the search  button, then speak into the remote’s mic and it works within a few seconds. It worked well even at CES, on the show floor. Which as you can expect, is pretty noisy. Hisense has also added in the motion sensing to the remote control. The Pulse Pro’s pointer was actually very responsive. So for those times when you want to use a web browser on your TV, the remote will work quite well.

As far as availability and pricing goes, Hisense didn’t have any information on that front. But hopefully we’ll see it out on the market really soon. How many of you are interested in the Hisense Pulse Pro? Let us know in the comments below.

IMG_2390_610x457 IMG_2375_610x457 IMG_2373_610x457

Update 1/11/2014: Hisense also published a Hisense Transforms Smart TV Experience with the VIDAA Series press release on 1/6/2014 about Android-equipped smart TVs without a reference to Google Services for Smart TVs:

image_thumb[2]Las Vegas, NV, January 6, 2014 – Hisense today introduced the VIDAA series TV, a full-featured Android-powered SMART TV with multi-core processing and a stunningly simple, elegant and immensely powerful User Interface (UI). VIDAA redefines the current Smart TV landscape with a vastly improved user experience that does not yet exist in the product category.

The VIDAA series TV Full HD lineup will be available in March 2014 and features three ultra slim LED models, the 65H7 (65-inch), 55H7 (55-inch) and 50H7 (50-inch).

VIDAA simplifies and enhances a passive, lean-back consumer experience with intuitive channel “jumping” across four content experiences: Live TV, Video On Demand, Media Center, and Applications. VIDAA has built-in WiFi, a Chrome™ browser and also supports screen sharing – enabling pictures, videos and music to be simply shared right to your TV screen from most mobile devices. It also features a 30-button remote control with the most sophisticated built-in air mouse technology, a pop up virtual keyboard and astounding natural voice control.

“Hisense has boldly re-invented the concept of Smart TV with the VIDAA series. By combining a sleek and elegant look with the most intuitive UI and innovative remote control, our television is no longer just Smart – it’s simply brilliant,” said Jonathan Frank, Vice President of Marketing, Hisense USA.

Hisense is providing the global consumer electronics community and end-users across the world with the best-balanced coupling of connectivity, functionality and image performance with the VIDAA series. Users can easily navigate content experiences and view them uninterrupted as they slide into view. This new type of user interface was designed to align with the passive nature of the 10-foot, lean back experience, which favors a consumption-friendly experience over complicated interaction.

The VIDAA series will be on display at the Hisense booth 7243 during CES, January 7-10, 2014.

» Download Press Release (PDF)

Hisense UHD TVs with built-in Android features won’t be available until 2014Q4 according to a Hisense Launches Android Powered UHD Line at CES 2014 press release of 1/9/2014:

image_thumb[3]Las Vegas, NV – January 8, 2014 — Rounding out the most comprehensive line of high-performing, attainable Ultra High Definition televisions on the market today, Hisense today unveiled the Hisense H8c series and Hisense H9 3D series at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The H9 will debut with 85-inch and 75-inch models and the H8c will be available in 65-inch, 55-inch and 50-inch models. Both series are powered by Android™ 4.2 and include SMART TV features such as Netflix, Vudu HD Movies, Amazon Instant Video, Pandora, Chrome™, YouTube™, and are Google Play™ certified.

“Our message at CES is UHD For All!” said Jonathan Frank, Vice President of Marketing, Hisense USA. “These two additions to our line deliver stunning performance, elegant design and category leadership when it comes to coupling advanced features and innovative UI.”

The H9 is navigable via its cutting-edge VIDAA user interface; comes with Bluetooth® 3D glasses, Ultra-LED (U-LED) technology for incredible color detail and local dimming, RF remote with NFC, and Smart Interaction capabilities including voice and gesture controls.

Key Specifications:
UHD (3840 x 2160) native resolution; UltraSMR 480 (H9); UltraSMR 240 (H8c); Precise Local Dimming; Mega Dynamic Contrast Ratio; Android 4.2 base; VIDAA UI; HDMIx4 to support UHD inputs, USBx3to support UHD video play; AirBridge™ Digital Media Player and Receiver; Merlin™ Air Mouse and smart remote controls, built-in WiFi; Dolby Digital; DSP audio process; closed captioning; noise reduction; parental controls; sleep timer.

The new UHD models will be available nationwide in Q3 2014. [Emphasis added.]

Both series will be on display at the Hisense booth 7243 during CES, January 7-10, 2014.

Download Press Release (PDF)

The delay in UHD models with Android UIs might be due to availability of GPUs that will handle the 15 Mbps bandwidth required for Netflix’s highest-quality UHD offerings coming in early 2014. Most UHD owners will require faster Internet connections and might need local Ethernet rather than WiFi connectivity. For more details, see Brian Bishop’s How Netflix won CES: It’s not the TVs, it’s what you watch on them article of 1/10/2014 for The Verge.

Hisense is Walmart’s primary in-store TV supplier. Walmart also sells RCA, Sceptre, Vizio and LG models online. 

Android MiniPCs and TVBoxes will require IEEE 802.11ac WiFi for 3840x2160p30 and HDMI 2.0 connections to support 7680x4320p60 content. HDMI 1.4 maxes out at 3840x2160p30.

The IEEE Standards Association reported New IEEE 802.11ac™ Specification Driven by Evolving Market Need for Higher, Multi-User Throughput in Wireless LANS on 1/11/2014.


Current and Potential Chromecast Competitors

The following items were imported from the original Google’s $35 Chromecast Might Redefine the Media Player Market post on 8/17/2013 to reduce its length:


TCL Communications Announces Alcatel OneTouch Home V102 Miracast Dongle for European Users

From TCL Communications’ OneTouch V102 Web site:

image

Unlike Chromecast, OneTouch works supports Skype videocalls:

image

Following are OneTouch V102’s specs:

image

Amazon.co.uk lists numerous Alcatel “One Touch” smartphones and accessories, but not the OneTouch Home V102.

A search of the WiFi Alliance’s WiFi-Certified Products list doesn’t return any indication that the Alcatel device is certified to use the Miracast trade mark. There’s no indication that the V102 supports the DIAL protocol, which enables use of the phone for other activities after starting streaming playback.


AIRTAME WiFi Display Dongle Debuts at CES 2014

Richard Lai reported Airtame wireless dongle mirrors your computer onto any HDMI display in a 1/8/2014 Engadget article:

Here’s yet another option for wirelessly mirroring your computer screen to another display, but don’t worry: This one is rather impressive. Airtame, the creation of a group of Danish folks, is an HDMI dongle that links your PC — be it running Windows, OS X or Linux — to whatever display it’s plugged into over WiFi. Installation is a breeze: All you need on the PC side is just the software, and from there you can choose which dongles to beam your screen to. Yes, dongles, because you really can beam one PC to multiple screens, thus beating Miracast. We also played a game on one of the laptops, and the response time on the remote display was surprisingly good.

Airtame’s Indiegogo campaign has long reached its $160,000 goal, but you can still pre-order this $89 dongle in the remaining nine days left. Do also check out our video from the CES show floor after the break.

Airtime also can broadcast a PC’s screen to multiple PCs over the WiFi network, which Miracast doesn’t support and might justify its higher price compared with a US$30 EZCast dongle:

imageImage: AIRTAME


Netgear Proposes NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle with Miracast as a Set-top Box Replacement

Netgear (@NETGEAR) delivered a NETGEAR Announces The NeoMediacast Dongle, Full-Featured Android Set-Top Box in Your Pocket press release on 1/6/2014:

imageLAS VEGAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–NETGEAR®, Inc. (NASDAQGM: NTGR) (www.netgear.com), a global networking company that delivers innovative products to consumers, businesses and service providers, has introduced the NETGEAR NeoMediacast™ HDMI Dongle (NTV300D) (www.netgear.com/ntv300d).

image

The NTV300D is a customizable, Miracast®-enabled platform that enables telecommunications service providers to use the latest Android™ applications to offer their subscribers a veritable “curated content store” of both premium and free Over-the-Top (OTT) content. The NETGEAR NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle is among a number of new products that NETGEAR is demonstrating to press, customers and channel partners this week at the 2014 International CES® trade show in Las Vegas.

“The NTV300D platform supports seamless integration with other NETGEAR home connectivity devices so that service providers can offer a worry-free connected media solution to their subscribers, knowing they can trust the NETGEAR reputation for quality, reliability, and ease of use.”

With NeoMediacast, service providers can develop and operate a complete media streaming solution that supports their multi-screen video initiatives, where quick time-to-market is critical. The small, easy-to-use NTV300D integrates the Android SDK, giving service providers the tools to build their own premium content store. Another major benefit is that service providers can leverage the Android apps they have already developed to support linear TV on tablets and phones. Combined with NTV300D support for DRM, this offers service providers a low-cost alternative to set-top boxes. By supporting this seamless portability of existing Android applications and the cost-effective development of new applications, the NeoMediacast Dongle enables service providers to instantly turn any TV into a Smart TV.

“Consumers are clamoring for new options for accessing digital content across their screens, including their wide-screen HD TVs. With the NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle, our service provider customers have the means to provide a plug-and-play solution to their subscribers that also provides opportunities for additional revenue stream,” said Michael Clegg, senior vice president and general manager for Service Provider Business at NETGEAR. “The NTV300D platform supports seamless integration with other NETGEAR home connectivity devices so that service providers can offer a worry-free connected media solution to their subscribers, knowing they can trust the NETGEAR reputation for quality, reliability, and ease of use.”

imageThe NETGEAR NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle provides uncompromising functionality and performance. It offers Miracast®-enabled wireless display, so that consumers experience intuitive sharing of content from their mobile screens to big screen TVs. Equipped with full HD 1080p/60 decode, there is no compromise in accessing the best content available, while integrated DRM support ensures access to premium content. The NTV300D also leverages best-in-class, next-generation 802.11ac wireless connectivity for a top quality viewing experience even with HD quality video. It integrates support for Bluetooth® 4.0 so Bluetooth-enabled remote devices connect seamlessly. Service providers’ subscribers will love the simple and easy installation afforded by the small form factor.

The NETGEAR NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle comes with a host of innovative features:

  • HDMI dongle form factor for small footprint
  • Android 4.2+ supported with RDK support in the future
  • 1080p/60 full HD, H.264/MPEG4 video decode
  • Supports HDMI 1.4 and HDCP 2.1
  • Miracast®-enabled
  • 802.11ac high-speed wireless connectivity
  • USB powered
  • Micro SD slot for playback/storage
  • Micro USB (OTG) for secondary storage
  • DRM support for Microsoft PlayReady™, Google Widevine® and Adobe® RTMPe
  • Remote control unit: RF4CE or Bluetooth® supported

“Subscribers want intuitive, plug-and-play access to all forms of video content across multiple screens in their homes. They also want simple integration with their home networks,” said Jeff Heynen, principal analyst covering broadband access, pay TV and video for Infonetics Research. “The NETGEAR NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle provides both, bringing true content integration to reality.”

Availability

The NETGEAR NeoMediacast HDMI Dongle (NTV300D) is scheduled to become available for service provider deployments in the first half of 2014.

More Information

Cross-posted to Miracast-Compatible Android MiniPCs and TVBoxes.

Jean-Luc Aufranc (@cnxsoft) posted NETGEAR NeoMediacast Android HDMI Dongle (NTV300D) Features Wi-Fi 802.11ac Module on 1/10/2014:

image… Albeit it looks very much like Geniatech ATV120, powered by AMLogic AML8726-MX dual core ARM Cortex A9 SoC, the hardware must be different because it supports Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac. I haven’t seen the latter [in] any other mini PCs [with a] dongle form factor.

The company has also designed their own user’s interface, and added DRM support to the firmware.

Netgear NTV300D User's InterfaceNetgear NTV300D User’s Interface

The device will be sold with a USB Cable, an HDMI Cable, a Remote unit, and an IR blaster cable once it becomes available in Q2 2014. Further details may vbe available in NETGEAR NeoMediacast page.

Jean-Luc added the following information about retail availability in a 1/11/2014 comment:

I met with Netgear at CES, and this model is NOT going to be available in retail. It will be sold to service providers (like AT&T / Comcast in the US).

Also, this model will be bundled with a home gateway (which will have a hard disk — functionality very similar to that of a DVR). The hope is that, in the future, service providers will be able to give consumers multi-room functionality by having a DVR in a central location that doesn’t necessarily need to be connected to the primary TV.

In addition to the NTV300D, a NTV300M was also on display – same hardware, but in a form factor similar to the traditional OTT STB (like the Roku, just a small box).

Check out these reviews and articles about Netgear’s NeoMediacast:

* RDK is an abbreviation for Reference Design Kit. Quoting Jeff Baumgartner:

… The RDK is a pre-integrated software stack for IP-only and hybrid IP/QAM clients and gateways that’s being managed by Comcast and Time Warner Cable and designed to accelerate product development cycles. An RDK-optimized version of the NeoMediacast should be ready by the second half of 2014, with MSO tests expected to get underway by the third quarter, [Netgear director of product management Naveen] Chhangani  said.

Smaller, more portable devices are increasingly expected to become part of the RDK arsenal. Here at the show, Alticast said it will demonstrate an RDK-based HDMI set-top stick, but so far has not revealed its hardware partner for the project. Elsewhere in the emerging set-top stick universe,  Azuki Systems and LG recently teamed on an Android-powered streaming device that will serve as a small, IP-capable unit capable of handling authenticated TV Everywhere apps, cloud DVR services and transactional VOD fare.

In RDK environments, Netgear’s new dongle could be made to work in tandem with the vendor’s new “headless” gateway, the HMG7000, which would give the set-top stick access to a consumer’s “home cloud,” Chhangani explained.  As designed, that headless gateway includes a video transcoder that can convert QAM  video to streams that can be delivered to IP-based devices hanging off the wireless home network.

“Multiscreen is becoming a must,” Chhangani said.

The new NTV300D dongle is also capable of accessing content directly from the Internet-fed cloud.

Netgear did not divulge pricing, but Chhangani said the NTV300D will likely sell for in the sub-$50 range. The device itself can be powered by a TV’s USB port. [Emphasis added.] …

I’ll be at CES2014 later this week and will post updates with additional information I obtain at the show.


Jean-Luc Aufranc Reviews US$21.99 iPush Hi768 EZCast Dongle

Jean-Luc Aufranc (@cnxsoft) posted iPush Hi768 HDMI/AV Wi-Fi Display Dongle Supports DLNA, and Airplay for $22 to the CNXSoft blog on 1/2/2014:

imageNow EZCast dongles are my preferred type of Wi-Fi display dongle, although there are not perfect, they support Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac OS, and beside the proprietary EZCast protocol, they also support Miracast, Airplay, and DLNA. However, they cost between $30 to $40, and if all you are after is a cheap DLNA and Airplay adapter, you could get iPush Hi768 for $21.99 including shipping. This device also features an AV output (composite + stereo audio) to mirror your phone on your old TV.

iPush_Hi768Here are the specifications as listed on Pandawill and some other sources:

  • SoC -  ACTIONS SEMI ATV6003 @ 500MHz
  • System Memory – 64M or 128M DDR2
  • Storage – 16MB NOR flash
  • Video Output – HDMI, AV/CVBS
  • Connectivity – Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (Built-in Realtek 8188 SDIO WiFi Module)
  • Protocol – DLNA and Airplay.
  • Power Supply – 5V/0.5A via micro USB port
  • Dimensions – 76 x 36 x 13mm
  • Weight – 21g

The dongle comes with a USB cable, an AV cable, and a user’s manual. I understand there are two versions of the hardware: one with 64MB RAM for DLNA only, and a 128MB RAM version that supports Airplay too. Pandawill also mentions “Miracast for Android 4.2.2 (on MTK6589, MTK8389, AllWinner A23, A31S, and others)”, but the few other sites selling iPush Hi768 do not mention Miracast at all. The internal hardware seems similar to iPush D2 which also came in two versions (64MB / 128MB RAM), with DLNA working on both, and Airplay only working on the 128MB version and with some caveats. ATV6003 is supposed to support Miracast, but it’s unclear whether actual devices based on this SoC sell with Miracast enabled. So whenever you buy an iPush TV dongle make sure you double check and the amount of memory, and supported features.

Other iPush devices, but for now not Hi768, also sell on Aliexpress for $22 and above.

Thanks to Alex for the tip.

The composite analog video output probably is more useful for connection to older PC monitors without HDMI inputs. The stereo analog audio output delivers sound to external amplifiers and speakers for HDMI-equipped monitors without built-in speakers. The external WiFi antenna is uncommon for low-cost EZCast dongles.


Belkin Announces US$79.99 Miracast Dongle

Jared DePani (@jareddipane) reported Belkin releases an all new Miracast Video Adapter in a 12/30/2013 article for Android Central:

Take content from your device to your TV with Belkin’s new adapter

Belkin MiracastimageBelkin has just announced a brand new Miracast Video Adapter.  The adapter, the manufacturer claims, will allow you to stream content from your Android smartphone to your HDTV with virtually no setup. To get up and running all you will need to do is plug the new device in the back of the TV and start streaming from a supported device.

Features of the new unit, the F7D7501, include —

  • Mirrors smartphone screen onto HDTV to wirelessly display content
  • Full 1080p HD resolution for a full, rich picture
  • Plug-and-play installation and setup, connects directly to HDMI port
  • Small, compact design keeps it hidden in use
  • Compatible with Android devices running Android 4.2.x or higher

The Belkin Miracast Video Adapter is available now, priced at $79.99, and Belkin will be hoping it’ll fare better than competing Miracast adapters. Will you be purchasing one of these for yourself or a loved one? Shout out in the comments.

In my opinion, the Belkin dongle is drastically overpriced for its limited capabilties.

From the Enjoy Mobile Content on Your HDTV with Belkin’s New Miracast Video Adapter press release from Belkin International, Inc. of 12/30/2013:

imageBelkin, creator of people-inspired technology products, today announced its new Miracast Video Adapter, a small HDMI dongle that wirelessly displays content from an Android phone directly to an HDTV. Miracast mirrors the screen of your Android smartphone, enabling you to enjoy any of your phone’s content, including movies, TV shows, video clips, photos, games or apps, in full HD with plug-and-play simplicity and without messy cables.

“With so much of our lives embedded in our mobile devices, it’s only natural that people are looking for more ways to share content from their smartphones with family and friends, said Mike Chen, vice president of Belkin’s networking division. “Miracast makes it easy to share rich content, in full 1080p resolution, on your large HDTV so you aren’t crowded around a tiny screen.”

With a compact, low profile the Belkin Miracast Adapter tucks neatly out of the way while in use and is easily transportable for sharing content on-the-go. It plugs directly into the HDMI port of any HDTV and uses a small USB cord connected to the TV’s USB port for power. For TVs with hard to reach HDMI ports, The Miracast Adapter also comes with an extension cable for easier attachment.

Belkin Miracast Video Adapter (F7D7501)

  • Mirrors smartphone screen onto HDTV to wirelessly display movies, photos, games or apps
  • Full 1080p HD resolution for a full, rich picture
  • Plug-and-play installation and setup; dongle plugs directly into TV’s HDMI port
  • Small, compact design keeps it hidden in use

Compatibility

Miracast works natively with Android devices running Android 4.2.X or higher, including the Samsung Galaxy S3/S4, Galaxy Note 2 and 3, HTC One, Google Nexus 4/5 and Kindle Fire HDX. Full device compatibility is listed here or check with your device manufacturer.

Availability

The Belkin Miracast Adapter is available now at Belkin.com and Amazon.com for an MSRP of $79.99.

Belkin’s product page for the F7D7501 is here. Here’s page 2 of Belkin’s Miracast interoperability certificate of 7/5/2013 from the WiFi alliance:

image


New Illustrated Tronsmart T1000 Review from ArmTvTech.com

DeadHP posted a Tronsmart T1000 review! to the ArmTvTech.com site on 12/16/2013 (missed when published):

Conclusion:
The Tronsmart T1000 is a great device. It has earned a permanent spot on my HDMI switcher.

    • Coming from Android TV sticks I wasn’t expecting much. It really can’t be compared since it has a different goal in mind.
    • It unlocks the hidden potential of an Android phone/tablet.
    • I like that I don’t need to connect my phone or tablet to an HDMI cable in order to display on my HDTV. Very useful if your device doesn’t have HDMI output.
    • I can also stream video to the T1000 or I can tell it to stream video from the web.
    • The T1000 finds it’s place in living rooms just as easily as guest bedrooms, hotel suites, and offices.
    • You can also mirror and serve videos from Windows and OSX. I haven’t tested those portions yet, but when I do I will update this review.
    • I don’t have any iDevices so I can’t test iPhone functionality.

You must register with ArmTvTech.com to view the *.jpg images. Click each image to display its full height.


Brad Linder Compares the Tronsmart 1000 (a.k.a. Mirror2TV) with Chromecast

Brad Linder (@bradlinder) posted Chromecast vs the Tronsmart T1000 wireless display adapter to his Liliputing blong on 12/13/2013:

imageGoogle’s Chromecast provides one of the cheapest and easiest ways to stream internet audio and video to your TV. Just plug the $35 stick into your TV, run a setup utility to connect to your WiFi network, and you can stream content from Netflix, YouTube, HBO, Hulu and other sites while using your phone, tablet or PC as a remote control.

But the Chromecast isn’t the only game in town — you can sort of do the same thing with a cheap Miracast wireless display adapter like the $30 Tronsmart T1000 — and as an added bonus, you can mirror your display, which means games, videos, web browsers, and other content will show up on your big screen.

So which is the better value, the Chromecast or the T1000? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for.

Tronsmart T1000 and Google Chromecast

Which does more?

imageThe Chromecast is only designed to work with apps and services that support the Google Cast protocol. As of mid-December, 2013 that means you can use it to stream content from over a dozen apps including Netflix, HBO, Hulu, YouTube, Google Play Movies, Pandora, VEVO, Songza, Plex, and Google Play Music.

You can also stream the contents of a web browser tab if you use the Google Cast plugin for Chrome on a PC or Chromebook.

But while the hardware is capable of  doing much more, such as turning your TV into an external display for your phone, that’s not something that’s officially supported (at least not yet).

The Tronsmart T1000, on the other hand, supports Miracast wireless display technology — which means it can turn your TV into an external display for your phone, tablet, or PC.

Anything playing on your mobile device can be beamed to the big screen. That includes videos, games, presentations, web browsers, and more. Theoretically this gives the T1000 an edge in the content department, because if you can play a video on your phone, you can play it on your TV — but real-world performance leaves a bit to be desired.

There’s also an EZCast app which creates a direct connection between your phone and TV, letting you play videos, music files, or other media on your TV without actually mirroring your device. Instead your phone or tablet acts as a remote control.

OK, so which one actually works better?

Right, so in theory the Tronsmart T1000 is more versatile because it can take anything happening on your phone and throw it on your TV. In practice, it’s a bit trickier to use.

The Chromecast and T1000 both boot quickly and take a few more seconds to connect to the internet. But before you can beam content from your phone to your TV with the T1000, you’ll need to fire up the EZCast app and either select the content you want to play or enable EZMirror to start Miracast mode (which can take a minute or two to connect).

Google’s Chromecast, on the other hand, is automatically detected as soon as it’s turned on. Just fire up a supported app on your phone, tablet, or PC and you’ll see a little icon that you can tap to send audio or video to your TV instead of the smaller screen on your mobile device. Then just hit the play button in the Netflix, YouTube, or other app and it’ll start playing on your TV.

In other words it takes less time and less effort to use the Chromecast for simple tasks such as streaming a TV show from Hulu Plus. There’s another advantage — Google’s Chromecast actually pulls audio, video and other files straight from the internet, not from your mobile device. That means you can use your phone to start a Netflix video, for example, and then continue using your phone to surf the web, play games, or do just about anything else without stopping video playback. You can even shut off your phone’s screen.

The T1000 wins if you want to stream video from a website or app that’s not currently supported, such as Crackle or Crunchyroll, because it’ll take any content from your phone’s screen and put it on your TV. But if you turn off the phone the video stops playing. If you exit the video player to check your email, the video stops playing. And so on.

Can I use it with my Windows tablet (or other device)?

As mentioned above, the Chromecast is designed to work with Android or iOS apps, but you can also use a Chrome browser tab on a Windows, OS X, or Chrome OS machine.

The T1000 works with any device works with any device that supports the EZCast app, so that covers Windows, OS X, Android, and iOS. But if you enter EZMirror mode, it also works as a Miracast adapter, which means you can treat it like a wireless display for your Windows tablet, Android phone, or other device.

What about performance?

Both devices are capable of streaming high-definition video to your TV. But when you use your phone to start a video on the Chromecast, you’re telling the device to grab the video from the internet.

When you do it with the T1000, you’re actually sending video from your phone to your TV.

When the T1000 is working well, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. But at times there’s a bit of lag, pixelation, or other problems. For example, I fired up an Android game on my phone while connected to the T1000 and tried to play without looking at the phone screen. The graphics were a bit pixelated, the audio was glitchy, and there was enough lag to make it tough to play the game.

On the other hand, videos streamed from the phone to the TV tend to look pretty good.

All told, the Tronsmart T1000 can do more than the Google Chromecast, which isn’t bad for a device that costs less money. But the while the Chromecast doesn’t do as much, the things it can do, it does better.

Still — if there’s one reason to consider a Miracast adapter like the Tronsmart T1000, it’s because you can use it as an inexpensive wireless display adapter for a device that would otherwise be tough to connect to an external display. The Dell Venue 8 Pro, for instance, is an 8 inch Windows 8.1 tablet with only a single micro USB port. There’s no HDMI or VGA connector, and there’s not even a separate power jack.

By using that single port to connect a wireless mouse and keyboard dongle, and using the T1000 to connect an external display, I was able to essentially turn Dell’s little tablet into a desktop computer. Getting it to connect to the display took a few minutes, and there’s a bit more lag than I’d like… but it certainly demonstrates that the T1000 can do some things that the Chromecast cannot.

Personally, I’ll keep using my $35 Chromecast to watch Netflix videos on TV. But I can imagine a few circumstances where a device like the $30 T1000 might be a better solution.

Disclosure: Geekbuying sent me a Tronsmart T1000 for testing purposes. Promise: I’ll be giving it away to a reader soon, now that I’ve had a chance to test it. Stay tuned for contest details.


GeekBuying Explains Connecting Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 Phones to Tronsmart Mirror2TV (T1000)

Geek Gadgets answered How to connect Samsung S3 [or] S4 to Tronsmart T1000? in a 12/11/2013 post to GeekBuying.com’s official blog:

To connect your Samsung S3 S4 to your Tronsmart T1000, please follow the steps below:

1. Plug your Tronsmart T1000 into your power outlet and connect the HDMI cable to your TV.

2. Turn your TV on and select the correct HMDI input source.

3. Download the EZcast App from Google Play store, and install it.

4. Open your Samsung S3 or S4 WiFi setting, and connect to Tronsmart_XXXXXX SSID.

5. Run the Ezcast app, and choose EZMirror mode. You will see the following on your TV

http://oi43.tinypic.com/2rgfbqc.jpg

6. On your Samsung S3 or S4 , go to Apps and tap Settings.

image

7A. On Samsung S3, Tap More settings and then AllShare Cast.

image

7B. On Samsung S4, tap the Connections tab and then Screen Mirroring.

image

8. Tap the Tronsmart-XXXXXXX device on the Available devices list and wait for it to become connected. Once connected, you can now watch movies, listen to music etc.

9. To end the connection, tap End connection and then OK.

Note: The Step 7B screen capture shows a Netgear Push2TV PTV3000 device, not the Tronsmart T1000 or Mirror2TV. I have a Galaxy S4 phone and received a T1000 from GeekBuying.com on 9/12/2013. I’ll create a new post dedicated to the T1000 after testing the combination.


Communication Integrators, Inc. Seeks Funding for a Consumer Version of its Obsess Media Console

Communication Integrators, Inc. (CII) started a campaign for crowd-sourced Indiegogo funding of its Obsess, Wireless HDMI Media Console, “A dock to connect your [Apple] smartphone, tablet or laptop wirelessly to your HDTV,” on 10/16/2013, From the description:


Short Summary

G-LINK is a niche electronics company creating high end AV products for the four and five star hotels.

We recently introduced Obsess, the world’s first Wireless HDMI Media Console for smartphones and tablets.  Obsess allows you to wirelessly play videos, movies, games, music and more on any HDTV right from your phone or tablet.

We are seeking to raise capital to bring Obsess to the consumer market.

More About G-Link

G-LINK is the AV hospitality division of Communications Integrators Inc (CII).  CII has been in business for 25 years.  Originally specializing in furniture power and communication, CII rapidly moved into the Hotel AV market with the volcanic rise of personal electronics.

G-LINK’s original products were connectivity panels that allowed guests to connect their laptops, MP3 players, camcorders or portable game consoles to the in-room HDTV.  G-LINK shifted focus to tablets and smartphones to keep pace with travelers’ mobile lifestyles.

Our expertise lies in our ability to create a very simple and hassle free user experience.  At G-LINK we recognize the average hotel guest will probably spend less than a minute trying to make in-room technology work before giving up.  We focus on intuitive ways to make things happen.  This mindset has led to a number of guest room innovations.  We introduced the industry’s first auto sensing and auto switching HDMI media panel.  This enables guests to put their content on the screen simply by plugging their device into a G-LINK panel.  The G-LINK device detects the input and automatically turns on the TV and switches the TV to the correct input.  Your movies, your videos, your games are instantly presented in life sized clarity on the in-room HDTV.

The Obsess HDMI Media Console is equally intuitive.  Simply plug in your device, choose your movie and press play.  Obsess does the rest.  The HDTV will turn on and play your movie in big, beautiful HD vibrancy.

G-LINK’s easy to use mentality lends itself well to the consumer market.  The Obsess Wireless HDMI Media Console can be set up in less than five minutes.  It requires no networking knowledge or additional equipment.  Simply plug it into the wall, connect the receiver to the TV and you’re ready to go.  It couldn’t get any easier.


The Campaign

G-LINK is seeking funding to help adapt their Wireless HDMI Media Consoles to the consumer market.  The funds will be used to develop packaging and marketing material to push the G-LINK brand into consumer retail.

We hope to raise at least $250,000 in this campaign.  We will use the capital to create a consumer specific product and package (with consumer centric messaging, new receiver and updated inputs). We will also increase our sales, marketing and communications, and build stock for initial sales and sell in.

What It Means To Us

A successful campaign will help us move and market in a direction we never thought possible until now.  This funding will create new products and new positions for the consumer market.  We will require, Industrial Design, Graphic Design and Engineering here in the US.  We will expand our sales force and enter into an incredibly exciting, fast paced consumer retail market.

We believe that our hospitality niche is a giant benefit.  In essence, each guest room is a little showroom for our product.  Each guest who uses Obsess becomes a fan.  We know we have an exciting product.  Thousands of guests can’t be wrong.  We hope this product will become iconic.  We hope 20 years from now people will look back and say, “I remember when that product took off!”

Crowds don’t appear to be jostling to fund CII’s project, which appears to be limited to Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod devices. As of 12/11/2013, CII had raised only US$3,500 of its $250,000 goal. Although Indiegogo’s Flexible Funding policy allows CII to receive funds, even if short of its goal, I don’t believe there’s much chance of success for this project in the light of competition from Chromecast, EZCast, Tronsmart, and other low-cost videocasting dongles.


Rumor: Nexus TV Set-Top Box Coming from Google in 2014

Mike Flacy (@mikeflacy) posted Report: Google eyeing Nexus TV Android set-top box launch next year to the Digital Trends blog on 12/6/2013:

imageAccording to an anonymous Google employee cited within a report on The Information ([paid] subscription required), developers at Google are prepping a new set-top box, possibly called Nexus TV, that’s powered by Android. According to the report, the device will play streaming video applications such as YouTube, Netflix and Hulu Plus as well as run a selection of video games.

nexus-tv-googleThis information is fairly identical to a report released by the Wall Street Journal several months ago mentioning that Google was working on a set-top box for the living room that included a video camera and motion controller. One of the most interesting features on the device was the ability to run Google Hangouts, potentially an inexpensive way for small and large businesses to video conference easily and allowing families to communicate over long distances with video chat.

Today’s report also indicated that a remote control with touchscreen would be included with the device, although it’s likely that Google would release some form of companion application for touchscreen Android devices. The device is not expected to support live broadcasts and will not be used as a replacement for a cable box, a goal previously sought by Google while attempting to promote Google TV.

If the new Nexus TV is successful at running the vast majority of Android games currently available on the Google Play store and is priced under $99, it’s possible that could be the finishing blow for the Kickstarter-backed OUYA console. Powered by Android, the OUYA console has suffered due to a general lack of popular games as well as a low adoption rate within the gaming community.

However, it’s not clear how Google intends to differentiate the Nexus TV against other products attractive to home theater enthusiasts. Devices like the Roku 3 already excel at playing a vast quantity of popular streaming video applications as well as a collection of motion controlled games. In addition, it’s difficult to find a home theater has doesn’t already have access to video streaming applications within a smart HDTV interface, Blu-ray player, gaming console or DVR set-top box.

Google Chromecast

Google could potentially end up cannibalizing the highly popular Google Chromecast HDMI dongle that had impressive sales at a discounted $30 price point during Black Friday weekend. Indicating the popularity of the device, the Chromecast is currently the top seller in Amazon’s Televisions & Video Products category. Assuming you own a compatible mobile device, the Chromecast can stream media content from applications such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, Pandora and YouTube. Other popular apps headed to the platform include Plex, VEVO, Vimeo and Redbox Instant.

Since the report mentioned Google will take an aggressive stance on price with the new Nexus TV device, it’s highly likely that Google will attempt to monetize the television screen with the company’s highly lucrative AdSense business. The home theater is one area where Google has continually failed to make strides in regards to inserting advertising, thus this new platform could drive that initiative. While Google frequently releases products without much advanced notice to the tech community, it’s possible that more information about the Nexus TV device would be released at CES 2014 next month.

See also Janko Roettger’s (@jank0) Google to sunset Google TV brand as its smart TV platform merges with Android article of 10/10/2013 for the Gigaom blog.


AIRTAME US$89+Shipping WiFi Display Dongle Coming for Windows, Linux and Mac in 2014

Jean-Luc Aufranc (@cnxsoft) reported AIRTAME is a Wi-Fi Display HDMI Dongle for Windows, Linux, and Mac (Crowdfunding) in an 12/6/2013 post to the CNX Software blog:

imageEarlier today, I wrote about the Tronsmart T1000 Mirror2Tv, a $30 Wi-Fi Display adapter [see post below] that can mirror the display from Android, iOS, and Windows devices and computers to your HDMI TV via Wi-Fi, and I’ve been informed a somewhat similar device called AIRTAME had a very successful Indiegogo campaign albeit selling for over $100 including shipping, and with shipping expected for May 2014, so I decided to have a closer look.

AIRTAME

AIRTIME specifications have not been fully released, but we still get some information:

  • Processor – ARM @ 1GHz
  • System Memory – 512MB RAM
  • Wi-Fi – 802.11 b/g/n
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 with CEC and MHL – Up to 1080p resolution
  • Audio – 2 channel stereo with variable bit rate, work in progress for surround sound 5.1 support
  • USB – 1x micro USB for power, 1x USB host port for accessories
  • Power Consumption – About 500ma @ 5V via MHL or USB.

AIRTIME currently works for Windows, Mac and Linux computers, and Android may be supported at a later stage [emphasis added]. Beside display mirroring, the main differentiating features are extended desktop support (using your HDMI TV as a second independent display), multiple screen support, and PC to PC support. To provide optimal quality, the system uses adaptive encoding for a given task: low response time for gaming, maximum quality for presentations, and a large buffer for video playback.

AIRTIME needs a computer with at least a dual core 1.6Ghz CPU, 1GB RAM and 100 Mbps Ethernet or 802.11g  Wi-Fi to work, but a computer with a dual core CPU @ 2.8Ghz, 4GB RAM, and Gb Ethernet or 802.11na Wi-Fi is recommended for optimal performance. You won’t need to connect anything to your PC, you’ll just need Wi-Fi or Ethernet, and the dongle connects to the HDMI port of your TV.

The company compared AIRTAME against ChromeCast, Apple TV, and Miracast, and it does seem to have a few advantages, except it lacks support for Android and iOS devices [emphasis added]. Compared to EZCast systems, it supports Linux, extended desktop, multiple screens, and PC to PC screen sharing.

AIRTAME_vs_ChromeCast_vs_Miracast

AIRTAME vs ChromeCast vs Apple TV (Airplay) vs Miracast

A $89 pledge will get you one AIRTAME dongle, with $15 extra for shipping if you live outside Denmark. As mentioned above, delivery is expected for May 2014, so you’d have to be patient.

Beside the Indiegogo page, further information should eventually find it way to airtame.com.

I’m surprised that the AIRTAME folks were able to raise almost US$200,000 (more than the $160,000 goal) for such an expensive device with limited mobile device support. Barnum was right when it comes to Indiegogo crowd funding of MiniPC media player dongles, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”


Tronsmart Mirror2TV is a Bare-Bones US$29.99 EZCast Dongle

Jean-Luc Aufranc reported Tronsmart T1000 Mirror2TV EZCast, Miracast, Airplay, DLNA HDMI Dongle Sells for $29.99 in a 12/6/2013 post to his CNX Software blog:

imageThere has already been several dongles released to the market that support Miracast, Airplay, and DLNA, either a subset, or a combination of the standards. One of the cheapest is iPush that now sells in the low $20, but there are different models, and one of them is only supporting DLNA. A couple of months later, EZCast was released with support for DLNA, as well as Miracast and Airplay (with some limitations), and their own EZCast support.

imageEZCast is supported on several hardware dongles that often sell for about $35 to $45, and although it’s not outrageously expensive, you can get full single or dual core Android HDMI MiniPC TV for this price.

I’ve just come across a new product called Tronsmart T1000 Mirror2TV sold for $29.99 including shipping by GeekBuying, and a couple of sellers on Aliexpress, that appears to be another EZCast dongle with support for Miracast, Airplay, and DLNA.

imageTronsmart T1000 Mirror2TV

Here are the (tentative) specifications I could gather from various sources:

  • SoC- Action Semi AM8251 @ 600MHz (MIPS)
  • System memory – 128 MB DDR3 RAM
  • Storage – 128 MB NAND Flash
  • Video output – HDMI v1.3 with HDCP 2.x – 480p, 720p or 1080p resolution
  • Wi-Fi – 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (Realtek RTL8188) with WEP, WPA and WPA2 support
  • Standards – Miracast, Airplay, DLNA, and EZCast
  • Video container formats  – avi, .divx, .mkv, .ts, .dat, .vob, .mpg, .mpeg, .mov, .mp4, .rm, .rmvb, .wmv,
  • Audio formats / codecs – MP1/MP2,/MP3, WMA, OGG, ADPCM-WAV, PCM-WAV, AAC    etc
  • USB – micro USB port for power and connect the external USB cable with Wi-Fi module
  • Power – 5V/1A
  • Dimensions – 6.5×2.5×0.9 cm
  • Weight – 15 grams

The dongle comes with a USB cable with wifi module and an installation guide. There’s no HDMI cable, and apparently no power supply, but the USB port of your TV should do. EZCast [software] is available for PC (Windows or Mac OS), Android tablets and smartphones, and iOS devices (iPhone/iPad), and can be downloaded here. Airplay screen mirroring is not working at this time, and iOS devices can only play videos and music, display pictures, and web pages to your TV.

It should work with most devices running Android 4.2.x, including Chinese smartphones based on Mediatek SoC, and tablets based on Rockchip. EZCast is still work in progress, as you can see from users’ feedback on EZCast community on G+.

Tronsmart T1000 looks very much like Visonicom VMD-EZ153, which may, or may not, be the manufacturer of the device.

Geekbuying.com lists the following devices as compatible with Mirror2TV:

Tronsmart Mirror2TV (T1000) has integrated HDCP TX and HDCP RX key, which ensure T1000 to be compatible with Miracast function of every brand mobile phone and pad. Here is a list that we have tested:

LG G2
LG Optimus
Google Nexus 4
Google Nexus 7ii (2013)
Samsung Galaxy S3
Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung Galaxy Tablet
Sony Xperia ZR M36h
HTC New One
Lenovo A830
Lenovo K900
Acer V370
ZTE Z5 or Mini
OPPO Find 5
Xiaomi MI2/MI2A/MI2S
Most of MTK quad core smartphone, such as THL brand, ZOPO brand, etc;
Most of Rockchip Tablet PC, such as cube, pipo brand etc.

Geekbuying.com bundles the T1000, an HDMI swiveling converter adapter and wallwart power supply for US$39.07:

image

I’ve ordered one for comparison with the Sienoc offering fulfilled by Amazon below.


Amazon Offers EZCast Dongle for US$34.99 with Free Shipping from China

Amazon’s Generic Ez Cast M2 Android Hdmi 1080p Player Dongle Wifi Display Receiver Adapter Color Black item from third-party supplier Sienoc is competitive with Chromecast at US$34.99 with free shipping from China:

image

Like the Tronsmart T1000 above, Sienoc’s offering doesn’t include a power supply or HDMI cable. However, I’ve never heard of the the following Android version mentioned in Amazon’s Product Details:

image

I’ve ordered one for the HDTV in the living room and will report my findings. Note the similarity to Chromecast’s trade dress.


Chris Welch Reports Kindle Fire 3.1 Emulates Chromecast with PS3, Samsung TVs

Chris Welch (@chriswelch) asserted Amazon releases Kindle Fire OS 3.1 update, takes on Chromecast with ‘Second Screen’ in an 11/18/2013 article for The Verge:

imageFire OS 3.1 also introduces Second Screen, an option that lets users “fling” movies and TV shows from their tablet onto a nearby television. It’s essentially Amazon’s answer to Google Cast, the technology that powers Chromecast. Once content begins streaming on the TV, users are free to use the Kindle Fire HD or HDX to control playback or for other purposes like web browsing. They can also view a “customized” version of X-Ray and learn more about cast members as a movie or show progresses.

Amazon says Second Screen is available now on PlayStation 3 and Samsung TVs, and the feature will come to PlayStation 4 “later this year.” Sorry Xbox owners: the company isn’t saying when or if it will come to Microsoft’s platform.

imageThe capability “… to use the Kindle Fire HD or HDX to control playback or for other purposes like web browsing” emulates that Chromecast feature and distinguishes the approach from Miracast, which monopolizes the sending device’s display. Read the entire post here.

Amazon’s official Announcement NEWS: Fire OS 3.1 Now Available! of 11/18/2013 says the following about Second Screen:

image
* Watch movies and TV shows on another device with Second Screen – Fling movies and TV shows from your Kindle Fire to your 2013 Samsung Smart TV or PlayStation 3 using Second Screen. [Emphasis added.]

To read about other improvements see this Help page: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200529680


Gerald Chao Explains the DIAL Protocol for Second Screens

Gerald Chao answered What is the DIAL Protocol and Why It’s Important to Second Screens? in an 11/14/2013 article for the Lingospot blog:

imageThe DIAL multiscreen protocol may become the most important addition to the connected TV ecosystem since HDMI and DLNA. It is an open standard initiated by Netflix and YouTube (arguably the two most important providers of online videos) that makes it easier to play online content on televisions.

discovery and launchWhat makes the DIAL protocol so useful? Consider this scenario: suppose your friend emailed you a link to a funny YouTube video, or you saw on Facebook that your sister watched an intriguing documentary on Netflix. Instead of watching these videos on your mobile phone or laptop, you’d like to play them on your big-screen TV in the living room. How would you (or your mom, for that matter) do this easily, e.g., without fumbling for remotes or having to get up from the couch?

Simply put, there’s no universal, easy way to play online videos on TVs: for smart TVs, it’s one way, and for streaming set-top boxes, it’s another; for gaming consoles, it’s yet something else. Or via phones, tablets, BlueRay players, connected laptops, etc., each requiring a different set of steps to watch online videos on TVs. It’s a big mess.

This situation is certainly a hindrance to enjoying online videos in the living room. So folks at Netflix and YouTube got together to devise a common, open standard for connected devices to discover each other over the local network in order to make launching content on TVs simpler. This is where the acronym DIAL came from, for Discovery and Launch.

The standard is pretty simple (which is a good thing), whereby devices and apps can declare their presence and capabilities on the local network, so they can find each other and offer users more choices to play online content. For example, a TV can declare that it is capable of playing YouTube content, and a streaming box says it can play Netflix videos. So when a user is on her tablet and would like to watch a movie on Netflix, the Netflix app can look for, via the DIAL protocol, any other devices capable of streaming this content. If found, the app can provide the option to launch the movie onto these devices, such as the streaming box, in addition to the tablet itself.

chromecast optionThis convenience is certainly appealing, since consumers can simply choose which screen they would like to watch content on (not to mention the option to move between screens). Netflix saw the benefit and decided to propose the DIAL protocol for connected devices to inter-communicate, and with it, the industry can work together on this standard to create a seamless experience for consumers.

While the proposal has credibility and garnered some industry supporters such as Pandora, the new protocol needs as many apps and devices to support it as possible — both new hardware, and ideally, old ones as well. Without devices to partner with, DIAL would be a lonely party in the living room and we’d be back to where we started.

imageTo kick start DIAL’s adoption, Google took upon the challenge to make this protocol ubiquitous as quickly as possible by releasing Chromecast, in a way to very affordably upgrade “legacy” devices so there would be many more DIAL capable devices. Based on the great reception Chromecast has gotten so far, DIAL may just become the open protocol for connecting the living room (and beyond).

Yellin InterviewWhy is DIAL important to Lingospot? In a word: second screens. Netflix’s VP of Product Innovation Todd Yellin explains best the connection between DIAL and second screens in this great interview:

“… an important step which might drive second screen is that, with Chromecast, there is no UI on the TV. You need to have your phone and tablet to control the TV experience. It’s a really cheap way to take a dumb TV and make it a smart TV by just plugging in [a Chromecast device]. If that will make a consumer reason for why [second screen] might take off…it will take off because there will be consumer adoption. Chromecast might be the door open for that.”

In other words, DIAL could become the catalyst for consumers to switch to their mobile devices, in lieu of old remotes, to control their TVs. When that happens, it would greatly strengthen the connection between TV viewing and mobile devices, making second screens more integral part of TV watching.

That is, rather than having our mobile devices being the loosely coupled companions to TV watching, DIAL can transform these devices into the primary command and control mechanism for our TVs, creating a much stronger bond between them. And when mobile devices become the primary method to control the content on TVs, the likelihood of consumers engaging with second screen content goes up dramatically since these devices become the natural extension of TV watching.

This is why we are keen to see DIAL gain traction. Lingospot’s focus is to apply our content intelligence to fill second screens with engaging companion content and make TV watching a even better experience. The more second screens become part of TV watching, we think the more likely the viewing experience can be enhanced. Since the DIAL protocol can be a driver for this shift, it could become a significant step in connecting the various parties together to create this seamless and richer experience in everyone’s living rooms.


ASUS Plans a Miracast Dongle to Compete with Chromecast

Jeff Causey (@jcauseyfd) reported ASUS readying Miracast Dongle with hopes of mirroring success of Google Chromecast in a 11/13/2013 post to the Talk Android site:

asus_miracast_dongle

imageASUS has released a video showing a new product they are preparing to launch, the ASUS Miracast Dongle. Similar to the Google Chromecast, the Miracast Dongle plugs into your television’s HDMI port to deliver content on the big screen. Using an appropriate device, like an ASUS tablet, users then make a wireless connection and configure their device.

imageUnlike the Google Chromecast, ASUS says their Miracast Dongle will enable users to mirror their entire tablet screen to the big screen. At the same time, it appears ASUS has figured out a way to initiate a mirroring session from an app delivering content and then letting the user access other apps on their device while content continues to play. Another difference compared to the Google Chromecast is support for dual-band wireless at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz to help reduce latency in signal delivery.

imageAccording to reports, the Miracast Dongle will sell for 79€ ($106 USD) which is quite a bit more than the Google Chromecast. It appears the new device will support any ASUS tablet running Android 4.2 or higher and some Windows 8.1 devices, but it is not clear whether it will work with devices from other manufacturers. ASUS does list the Nexus 7 (2013) model as compatible with the Miracast Dongle. Check out the video below from ASUS showing the Miracast Dongle in action. No information is available on countries, markets or a release date for the device.

The official ASUS Miracast Dongle site has more details, but not where to buy or price.

US$106 is rather pricey for a simple Miracast dongle with severe device restrictions. If the device is certified Miracast compliant, it should work with other certified devices (other than Samsung devices, specifically the Galaxy S4.)


PLAiR Introduces a $49 PLAiR 2 Android MiniPC to Compete with Chromecast

Brad Linder (@bradlinder) reported PLAiR attempts to build a better Chromecast with the $49 PLAiR 2 in a 11/1/2013 post to his Liliputing blog:

imageEarlier this year a company called PLAiR released a $99 device that you could plug into a TV to stream internet media to your big screen while controlling playback with a PC, phone or tablet.

Then Google launched the $35 Chromecast which basically did the same thing for $35 — and with support from some of the biggest names in software and online media.

imageNow PLAiR is back with a $49 model called the PLAiR 2, which the company is positioning as a device that can do far more than a Chromecast. Whether it does things better than the Chromecast is another question.

plair 2

imageHere’s how the new PLAiR 2 works: It’s basically a cheap Android device that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port. It has a 1 GHz processor, 1GB of RAM,  and 802.11n WiFi.

The device can basically run any Android app from the Google Play Store or Amazon Appstore, which means that you have access to far more apps than you’d get with a Chromecast or even an Apple TV or Roku box.

You can use an app on an Android or iOS phone to launch apps or control media playback, but unlike the original PLAiR, the new model doesn’t stream content from your mobile device. Instead it uses apps running on the device itself to stream content directly from the internet.

Unfortunately CNET reviewed the device and found it difficult to work, discovered that some apps didn’t work very well, and the controls weren’t very responsive.

In other words, while you can access more apps than would be available on a Chromecast, it’s simply not as easy to use.

That sounds a lot like my experience with other Android TV boxes. At least PLAiR’s device has a user interface designed for TVs and a mobile app designed to make it easier to control Android apps running on your TV. Many Android TV sticks just use a variation of Google’s app launcher designed for phones and tablets.

But what makes a Roku or Chromecast different is that the devices are designed for ease of use on a TV display, letting you find and watch content quickly without worrying about whether apps will work or waiting forever for content to show up on your TV screen.

plair 2 plair 2_04
plair 2_03 plair 2_02

PLAiR’s Android App, updated 10/17/2013 is compatible with my Samsung Galaxy S4 and Nexus 7 (original version), but not my Tronsmart MK908ii:

image

Ryan Lauder posted PLAiR 2 Launches To Take On Chromecast With Netflix, Hulu Plus, Spotify, And Pandora Apps For $49 to the TechCrunch blog on 1/11/2013:

imageUnder the hood, PLAiR 2 has a 1GHz ARM Processor, 1 GB DDR3 RAM, 802.11n wireless, and a built-in GPU/VPU for full 1080p streaming.

After rethinking the components it would use and the design of the hardware, the company also took a look at how it could add content more quickly. While the old PLAiR device required video to be streamed from the mobile device to the TV, the new device would have apps residing on the dongle itself.

And since PLAiR 2 is built to support Android TV and Amazon Appstore apps, it has a wide range of content that’s up and ready to go.

imageThe end result is a device that looks similar to the old PLAiR, but costs half as much and has a much larger offering of content than the old device — and a lot more than what Chromecast currently offers. That’s because unlike Chromecast, which requires developers to add code to their apps to beam content to the TV, all PLAiR apps reside on the device itself.

PLAiR 2 supports Netflix, VUDU, HULU+, Spotify, Pandora, and games such as Angry Birds, as well as cable apps like the Comcast Xfinity App. Users simply bring up the app on the TV and control the experience from their mobile device or tablet just like a remote control.

While the device still costs about $15 more than the Chromecast, at $49, the hope is that the additional content and better user experience will hook more potential customers than its first go-round. For those who want to give it a try, the product is available for pre-order at Amazon.com, Newegg.com or PLAiR.com, and will ship by November 8.

Read the entire article here.

The PLAiR 2 appears to me to be a low end Android MiniPC dongle with little to distinguish it from competitors. Two of the five four-star reviews for the Android app as of 11/1/2013 are from “A Google User” and thus suspicious. Other reviewers claim various problems.

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) asserted “Plair was doomed to fail when it tried to establish an expensive, Chromecast-like product three months before Chromecast came out. Now, it’s trying again with a different approach” in a summary of his Plair releases second version of its TV dongle, now with Android apps article of 11/1/2013 for GigaOm’s Android blog:

imageI got a first demo of the new Plair stick recently and was relieved that it doesn’t just bring the default Android mobile UI to the TV screen, which is what a flood of cheap Android TV adapters have been offering up until now. Instead, it presents some featured apps in a kind of coverflow-like experience, making it easy to access your favorites.

imageHowever, I was a bit concerned when I heard that Plair is relying on the mobile apps for Netflix and Hulu Plus and other online video services. Sure, many of these services now stream in HD on mobile as well, thanks largely to better-and-better phone and tablet displays. But what works well on a tablet doesn’t necessarily translate to a good user experience on the TV screen. I’ve since gotten a review unit of Plair 2 and will report back once I have gotten some hands-on experience with the product.

In the end, the question for Plair may be how well it can position itself between upcoming Android TV products from major manufacturers and Chromecast. There is clearly a lot of interest in Chromecast right now, and once more apps come to the platform, there may be little reason for the average consumer to instead opt for a product like Plair.

However, Google is also getting ready to reposition Google TV, going as far as completely dropping the Google TV brand and instead calling products Android TV. One shouldn’t be too surprised to see consumer electronics manufacturers come out with their own takes on Android TV in 2014, some of which may include a more minimal, Plair-like app experience and a pure focus on streaming. If Plair gets this right before the big guys are ready, then it might actually have a shot to at least fine a niche.

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst. Read the entire article here.

Michael Gorman (@Numeson) wrote Plair 2 HDMI wireless streaming dongle runs Android, costs $49 for Engadget on 11/1/2013:

imageSetting up Plair 2 is a simple affair. Just like the Chromecast, you simply stick the dongle into an HDMI port on your TV, plug in the microUSB power cord, then load up the companion app. The app prompts you to log the dongle into your home network, then switches to remote mode once your done — it takes no more than a minute or two. After that, your TV will load up Plair’s home screen, which displays a row of apps onscreen in a cover flow fashion. Navigation via the companion app’s accomplished via swipes and taps or a virtualized touchpad and cursor. Once you’ve chosen your content portal, the tablet version of that app is displayed onscreen, and you make your selections with the cursor.

Plair 2 HDMI wireless streaming dongle runs Android, costs $49 eyeson

imageWhile the remote app is a good idea in theory, we found using it to be a bit difficult. Swipes failed to register regularly, and scrolling up and down was often a dicey affair — scrolling down usually worked, but we often had to lift our finger off the screen and try multiple times to get it to scroll up. Additionally, while video quality is largely comparable to what you’ll see via Chromecast, buffering takes a bit longer, and we had playback issues during our brief testing with Plair 2. Hulu Plus and Netflix froze on us several times when trying to load content, and playback on Comcast’s Xfinity app froze a couple times as well. We also played a bit of Angry Birds on the device, and found the experience enjoyable. Control via the companion app worked well, and we experienced none of the issues we had when streaming video.

In short, while the Plair 2 costs $14 more than Chromecast, it also offers a lot more functionality. The ability to run any Android app or game is really handy, and well worth the additional cash outlay. In general, the fact of the matter is that Chromecast is less expensive, currently streams video better than Plair does and its native app control paradigm is superior to Plair’s proprietary remote. However, the ability to play games and run Android apps on the TV is valuable, and the company tells us that it’s working on improving the user experience. That’s good, because improvement’s needed if it hopes to carve out some market space alongside Google’s offering.

Read the entire article here.


Janko Roettgers Reports on Samsung’s Forthcoming Chromecast Workalike

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) asserted “Samsung is taking a page out of the Chromecast playbook by allowing developers to launch media playback straight from a mobile device. But Samsung’s new multiscreen SDK also supports gaming and more” in a summary of his Samsung latest to embrace the second screen and take on Airplay article of 10/28/2013 for GigaOm:

imageSamsung believes that one of the best remotes may already be in your pocket: The company announced its new multiscreen SDK at its first-ever developer conference in San Francisco Monday. The new SDK, once adopted by developers, will make  it possible to press a button on your phone to launch an online video stream, or even a game, on your TV. Sound familiar? That’s not really a coincidence — but Samsung thinks that it can one-up its competition.

imageThe idea of controlling your TV with your phone or tablet has been around for some time. Apple was the first company to successfully use mobile and connected devices together with its Airplay protocol, and Google managed to surprise everyone this summer by launching Chromecast, a streaming media device that can’t be controlled with anything but a phone or a tablet.

Samsung is taking more than just some cues from Chromecast: The company’s new second-screen API is compatible with DIAL, the multi-screen protocol that was jointly developed by Netflix and Google. But the company went one step further and added functionality on top of DIAL that allows developers to control media playback from the mobile phone, launch games on the phone and use the TV as a display and even overlay content over live TV programming — think tweets during a newscast, or stats while a baseball game unfolds. If you want to know more about Samsung’s thinking behind such a multi-device approach, make sure to check out Samsung SVP Curtis Sasaki’s talk at our Roadmap design conference in San Francisco next week.

One of the companies that took advantage of the new SDK is Rabbit, a San Francisco-based group video chat startup that allows users to jointly watch videos while chatting with each other. “Samsung’s SDK is quite powerful and easy to use, plus they have a strong blend of powerful hardware to work with,” said Rabbit co-founder Stephanie Morgan.

imageSamsung has said that the SDK is going to be available for its 2013 and 2014 smart TVs starting November 12. The company is making APIs available for Android, iOS and HTML5, meaning that developers will be able to launch media playback, games or other multi-screen apps from both smartphone platforms as well as ordinary web browsers.

Samsung’s multi-screen SDK is based in large parts on work done by MOVL, a startup that the company acquired back in May. MOVL actually built a complete multi-screen platform, but the startup was best known for some of the multi-screen games it built for both Samsung and Google TV devices. Some of those ideas can clearly be found in Samsung’s SDK as well. For example, it allows developers to work with an unlimited number of devices for their apps — something that’s particularly helpful when users are battling each other in multi-player games.

Samsung’s embrace of multi-screen technology is smart, in part because it allows the company to entice many more developers to make apps that work with the company’s TV sets.

But there’s more to it: Simple video beaming from your mobile phone to your TV is quickly becoming commoditized. DIAL is now being supported by devices from Sony, Vizio, LG, Panasonic, TiVo and Samsung, with support for Roku streaming players coming soon. Adding gaming and other functionalities on top of remote control features could be one way for Samsung to differentiate itself from the competition.

Updated at 12:16pm with the availability date of the SDK.

It will be interesting to see what proprietary features Samsung appends to its DIAL implementation, in the same way Samsung claims to support Miracast, but doesn’t. See my Samsung Galaxy S4 Screen Mirroring Is Not Miracast Compliant article of 8/1/2013 for more details.

Limiting  SDK availability to 2013 and 2014 TV models is a non-starter for most developers. I have no intention of replacing my 2012 Samsung UN46D6050 TV to take dubious advantage of an erstwhile Chromecast competitor.

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst.


Vizio Adopts DIAL Protocol in $79.99 Co-Star LT Stream Player

Visio announced the availability of its Co-Star™ LT Stream Player, which supports the DIAL protocol, abandons Google TV and offers an HDMI input, from the Vizio Store on 10/16/2013:

image

  • Upgrade any HDTV to be a smart TV with streaming movies, TV shows, music and more on demand*.
  • Combines your existing live TV with the best in streaming entertainment into one seamless experience.
  • Built-in Wifi for easy, hassle-free internet access.
  • Access popular streaming apps such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, iHeartRadio, M-GO, Amazon Instant Video, VUDU, YouTube, and more.
  • Second Screen Interactivity – Control apps and send content seamlessly from your mobile device to Co-Star™ LT**
  • Supports Full HD 1080p and 3D.
  • Easy to use remote with 1-touch access to popular apps.

From the Overview page:

Upgrade Any HDTV With Shows, Movies, Music and More On Demand

Powered by VIZIO Internet Apps Plus™, Co-Star™ LT is your door to the best streaming entertainment.

The VIZIO Co-Star™ LT Stream Player seamlessly combines live TV and streaming entertainment – bringing more hit movies, TV shows and music to your existing HDTV*. Powered by VIZIO Internet Apps Plus™, Co-Star™ LT adds apps such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, M-GO, iHeartRadio, YouTube and more to your TV – you can even control select apps from your smartphone or tablet. Its HDMI pass-through feature eliminates the need to change inputs, and a streamlined interface with full-screen apps window makes finding something to watch a breeze. With 1080p Full HD resolution, built-in Wi-Fi, and 3D-readiness, VIZIO Co-Star™ LT is the ultimate entertainment upgrade for any high-definition television.

Smart TV Made Simple
INSTANT SMART TV

Enjoy streaming TV, movies and music on your HDTV

SEAMLESS EXPERIENCE

Watch live TV + streaming content in one unified experience

BUILT-IN WIFI

High-speed wireless means no cable clutter

image image image image

HDMI IN + HDMI OUT Connects to TV & Cable / Satellite box, No changing inputs to access apps

*Compatible with high definition televisions with HDMI-HDCP connectivity. Internet connection required and sold separately.
**Compatible with apps including Netflix and YouTube that support the DIAL (DIscovery And Launch) protocol.

From the Tech Specs page:

Features
Smart TV Platform VIZIO Internet Apps Plus™
Remote Control Wireless (2x AAA batteries included)
Featured apps Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus, MGO, Vudu, Crackle, iHeartRadio, YouTube, Facebook and many more.
Second Screen Interactivity Control apps and send content from mobile device to Co-Star LT.

 

Networking
WiFi Yes, 802.11n (single-band 1×1)
Ethernet No (optional USB to Ethernet adapter available)

 

Video
Resolution supported 720p, 1080p
3D support Yes – Pass Through
Video playback H.263, H.264, AVC, MP4, VP8, WMV9/VC-1
TV compatibility HDTV with HDMI-HDCP port
HDMI Profile HDMI 1.4

 

Audio
Music playback AAC LC/LTP, HE-AACv1 (AAC+), HE-AACv2 (enhanced AAC+), MP3, PCM, WMA
Audio Features Pass-through only.  Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus & DTS Digital Sound

 

Ports and Interfaces
HDMI In (to Cable/Satellite Box) 1
HDMI Out (to TV) 1
USB 1 (USB 2.0)

 

Power
Energy Star Certified Yes

 

Weights + Measurements
Product Dimensions (W x H x D) 3.98” x .97” x 3.98”
Weight .37 lbs

 

In the Box
Co-Star™ LT Stream Player
Remote Control
Batteries (2x AAA)
Power adapter
Quick Start Guide

VIZIO, Inc. has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information provided herein. All product specifications, functionality, features, configurations, performance, design and other product information described herein are subject to change without notice. VIZIO, Inc. disclaims liability for typographical, technical, or descriptive errors.

I would have been tempted to purchase a Co-Star LT for testing if I hadn’t bought an early 38-inch Vizio HDTV whose power supply died after 13 months of use. (One month out of warranty.)


Roku Upgrades Its US$50 LT Expected to be Available in October

Jim Funk posted Introducing the all-new Roku family to the All Things Roku blog on 9/25/2013, about a month after Google released its Chromecast dongle:

imageWe’re excited to announce that streaming is about to get even better with our all-new family of Roku players.  First, like all things Roku, we try to simplify everything about streaming, right down to our product names.  The new family features the new Roku 1 and Roku 2 to go alongside the Roku 3 that we launched earlier this year. We have also updated our entry level product, the Roku LT, giving all current Roku players a fun, friendly design.

imageSecond, just in time for fall TV viewing, we’ve added some great new features to give customers more enjoyment and value. For example, we’ve added a headphone jack for private listening and dual-band wireless to the Roku 2, and support for 1080p HD video to the Roku 1.

As always, every Roku player comes loaded with a broad selection of streaming entertainment – currently more than 1,000 channels in the U.S. and more than 450 channels each in Canada, the U.K., and the Republic of Ireland.

The new Roku 1 and Roku 2 models will be available in the US, Canada, the U.K, and the Republic of Ireland, and we are very pleased to now be offering our flagship Roku 3, the fastest and most powerful Roku player to date to users in all these countries as well.

Here’s the new Roku family lineup in more detail:

  • The new Roku LT (model 2700) is the easiest and most affordable way to stream to virtually any TV with support for up to 720p HD video quality. (Expected to be available in the U.S. in October for $49.99).
  • The Roku 1 takes streaming a step further than the Roku LT with support for up to 1080p HD video quality. (Expected to be available in the U.S./Canada/U.K.+Republic of Ireland in October for $59.99/CAD $69.99/£59.99).
  • The Roku 2 offers the same great experience as the Roku 1 and features a remote with built-in headphone jack for private listening and dual-band wireless for better Internet connectivity. Both are popular features that were previously available only with the Roku 3. (Expected to be available in the U.S./Canada/U.K.+Republic of Ireland in October for $79.99/CAD $89.99/£79.99).
  • Leading the family is the flagship Roku 3 which sets the bar for streaming with all the features of the Roku 2 plus Ethernet and USB ports and an enhanced remote with built-in headphone jack and motion-control for gaming. (Expected to be available in the U.S./Canada/U.K.+Republic of Ireland in October for $99.99/CAD $109.99/£99.99).

We’re also introducing the M-GO movie and TV store, integrated directly on our home screen menu in the U.S. for easy and instant access to their great selection of movies and TV shows including Hangover 3, The Croods, Breaking Bad, Modern Family, Big Bang Theory, Glee and even fall-premiering shows like Brooklyn 9-9 starring Andy Samberg. To make it even simpler, the M-GO service features direct billing with a Roku account so users can rent or buy through M-GO without any extra account setup.

I bought an original Roku 3 from Amazon in April 2013, but seldom use it because I prefer my Chromecast. Amazon sells the original Roku LT for US$49.96, a 3-cent discount from its list price, with free shipping for Prime subscribers. There’s no indication that the upgraded Roku devices were available for purchase from Amazon as of 10/11/2013, but you can order them directly from Roku.


Mozilla Foundation Considering Chromecast Look-Alike for Firefox Browser

Sharif Sakr (@shotsheriff) reported Mozilla working on Chromecast-like mirroring for Firefox Android browser in a 9/27/2013 post to Engadget:

Mozilla tests Chromecaststyle tab mirroring between Firefox and Roku box Basic tab mirroring from Firefox to a Roku*

imageMaybe this is Mozilla’s retort to Google’s Chromecast, maybe it isn’t. Either way, the end result certainly looks similar. Details are scarce, but an enigmatic Google+ photo shared by insider Mark Finkle clearly reveals some sort of wireless tab mirroring between a Nexus 4 and a Roku box. [Link to photo and Twitter photo below added.]

We’re going to hazard a guess that it’s being orchestrated through the web, rather than merely being based on WiFi Direct or a similar device-to-device protocol. In the same manner as Chromecast or Apple’s AirPlay, this could allow the Firefox-running smartphone to be used independently from what’s shown in the display — so, for example, it could work as a keyboard or a remote control at the same time as feeding content.

Anyway, there’s a limit to how much we can glean from a single pic (could that be a DVD-VHS combo player on the shelf?), so we’ve asked Mozilla for a bit more detail and will update this post if we hear back.

Update: Mozilla has confirmed that it is indeed at working on a second-screen solution for Firefox on a range of devices:

image“We are conducting some experiments around second-screen support with a number of devices. But this is at investigation stage and we have nothing to announce at this time.”

Mark Finkle’s (@mfinkle, pictured above) Google+ and Twitter profiles say he works for Mozilla and a tweet confirms it is a DVD-VHS combo player.

*Caption from Mark’s Google+ item.


Roku Plans to Add Support for DIAL Protocol and Compete with Chromecast

Janko Roettgers (@jank0, pictured below) asserted “Roku boxes will soon offer some of the same functionality now found on Chromecast, as the company is adding support for the DIAL protocol to its platform” in a summary of his Roku is adding DIAL support for Chromecast-like multiscreen functionality article of 9/11/2013 for GigaOm:

imageRoku will add support for the DIAL protocol to its devices in the near future, CEO Anthony Wood announced at the Next TV Summit in San Francisco Wednesday. Adding DIAL will allow Roku to offer some Chromecast-like functionality, including expanded second-screen support for Netflix. Wood didn’t offer an exact timeline for the integration of DIAL, but I’ve heard that it is coming to the company’s devices very soon.

DIAL is a multiscreen protocol that was jointly developed by Netflix and YouTube and that has been quickly gaining industry-wide support. Google’s own Chromecast streaming stick is based in part on DIAL, and consumer electronics manufacturers like Sony, Vizio, LG, Panasonic and most recently TiVo have started to add DIAL to their devices as well.

roku-3-with-headphones-e1362532036546Despite announcing support for DIAL, Wood said that he remained skeptical about the extent to which multiscreen controls are being used by consumers. Taking a stab at Chromecast, he said that for most people, the mobile device isn’t the primary remote control. “That’s the mode that some people will use… but most people will not use it all of the time,” he said.

He added that Chromecast primarily got a lot of attention because of the $35 price tag and the fact that it is made by Google. “We don’t expect these kinds of devices to be in the market for long” as standalone solutions, Wood quipped.

imageNevertheless, he acknowledged that Google is Roku’s primary competitor in the television space as his company is looking to strike deals with consumer electronics makers to embed Roku’s platform into TV sets. Wood described getting on TVs as the next big step for his company.

“Our goal over time is to be the operating system for televisions,” he said.

I expect Google and similar HDMI dongles to be in the market for a long time, despite Wood’s posturing.

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst.


AliExpress Offers 186 Products Claiming Miracast and Chromecast Features from 15 Suppliers or Manufacturers

A member of Google+’s Chromecast community contested my assertion of 8/29/2013 that Chinese competition for Chromecast is heating up.

A search of China’s AliExpress Web site on “chromecast miracast dongle” returns a list of 186 entries meeting the search criteria (click image below to display full-size screen capture of the first list item):

image

Note: Push2TV is NetGear’s trademark for it’s Wireless Display Adapter PTV3000, which is certified for Miracast compatibility.

Shenzhen Visson Technologies Co. also claims compatibility with Samsung’s proprietary AllShare Miracast knockoff for its iPush device, priced at US$15 to $20 plus shipping. However, their specification table doesn’t include any references to support for Miracast, Chromecast or AllShare (click for full-size table):

image

I’ve requested a quotation for the price of a single unit and will update this post when I receive a reply.


New Miracast/DLNA/AirPlay Dongles Available from Deal Extreme Starting at US$25.90 Including Shipping

CNX Software (@cnxsoft) reported RK2928 Miracast Adapter (MOCREO M1) Is Now Available for $26 on 8/29/2013:

imageRockchip (via Charbax) has been teasing us with their upcoming RK2928 miracast adapter since the Hong Kong Electronics Fair in April 2013. It appears a device is finally available on DealExtreme with MOCREO M1 (iPush) for $25.90 including shipping.

MOCREO_M1

It’s using the same casing as the other iPush or Ezcast (MSD03) HDMI sticks, but the guts of the device are different:

  • Processor – Rockchip RK2928 single core ARM Cortex A9 @ 1.0 GHz
  • System Memory – Unknown (I’ve read 16MB to 256MB).
  • Storage – Unknown
  • Connectivity – Wi-Fi: 802.11b/g/n
  • Video Output – HDMI V1.4
  • Multi-screen protocol – DLNA / Airplay / Miracast
  • Video Format – RMVB / WMV / ASF / AVI / 3GP / MPG / MKV / MP4 / MOV / MPEG2 / MPEG4
  • Audio decoding – MP3 / OGG / WAV / APE / CDA / MIDI / WMA / AAC;
  • Power adapter: 5V / 1A (Micro USB)
  • Dimensions – 7.3 cm x 2.8 cm x 1.2 cm
  • Weight – 19 grams

The device, apparently also called MCAST01, runs Linux 3.0.8, and comes with an HDMI cable (50cm), a Micro USB cable (50cm), and a user manual in Chinese and English.

I’m betting this is the same device as that Jerome Yu of Shenzhen Joystar described as “our [n]ew model will coming out end of this mo[n]th” in a message of 8/26/2013 to the WiFi EZCast Google+ community. Here’s an excerpt from the specifications on the Deal Extreme site:

    • Supports Miracast Wi-Fi wireless display, allows mirroring your Android phone screen to a TV (Require[s] Android 4.2 and compatible phone models)
    • Supports DLNA and AirPlay®, displaying videos, audios, images onto a large screen TV by connecting with your iPhone® / Android phone or tablet PC
    • Provide[s] similar functions as Chromecast dongle [Emphasis added.]
    • Works with devices you already own, including Android tablets and smartphones, iPhones®, iPads®’
    • Compatible with APK application of video-on-demand
    • Allows selecting AP type
    • Online upgrading
    • Direct Internet mode
    • Easy to operate, a single button allows toggle on DLNA / AirPlay® Mode and Miracast Mode;

I’ve ordered one and will review it on receipt, which I expect will be from China Post in about a month.

Deal Extreme also lists the following additional iPush and related devices at the bottom of their MOCREO M1 page:

  1. IPUSH 2 Multi-Media Wi-Fi Display Dongle w/ DLNA / Miracast / Airplay – Black US$45.30
  2. Universal 1080P HDMI Wi-Fi AV Receiver / iPush for Smart Phones / Tablets – White US$30.20
  3. RuiQ iPush Multi-Media DLNA Display Receiver Dongle for Tablet / Smartphone w/ HDMI / WiFi – White US$24.60
  4. CH-588 Miracast DLAN WiFi Display Phone to TV All Share Cast Dongle – Black US$50.10
  5. Phone TV S1 Multi-Media Wi-Fi Display Dongle w/ DLNA / Miracast – White US$76.30

Chromecast competition is heating up.


EZCast Dongle Available from Shenzhen Joystar on AliExpress for US$42, Including Shipping

Jerome Yu (@tvboxjoystar) added a 2013 Newest WiFi display dongle, WiFi EZcast work with Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android operating system item for Shenzhen Joystar to AliExpress on 8/25/2013:

image

I expect my EZCast to arrive via DHL today and I’ll post a review as soon as possible thereafter.


OVO Video Player’s Indiegogo Crowdfunding Faltering at 35% with Only 9 Days Left

OVO, which claims to be the “First Autoplay Online Video Player and App” started its Indiegogo funding on 7/22/2013 with a US$100,000 goal, a final date of 8/30/2013 and a retail price of “at least $65.” Apparently, Google’s release of its similar—but lower-priced—Chromecast device on 7/24/2013 put the brakes on the Taiwan firm’s crowdfunding. With 5 9 days left, OVO raised only $36,579 (36.5%) $35,063 (35%) of its goal:

image

The primary difference between the OVO and Chromecast devices, other than price, appears to be OVO’s built-in playlist feature.

Here’s a playlist demo:

I’m sure that the many Chromecast developers will compete to deliver free or very low cost Chromecast-compliant apps that perform similar duties. It might behoove OVO to reconsider their initial retail price.

Full disclosure: I’m an early contributor to the OVO project at the $49 level.


New TiVo PVRs Support the DIAL Protocol But Not Chromecast

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) asserted “With its new lineup of devices, TiVo is finally catching up to the age of streaming: Not only is TiVo adding out-of-home streaming, but the devices will also finally have good-looking apps for YouTube, Netflix and Co.” in a deck for his New Series 5 TiVos get HTML5 apps, Chromecast-like controls and an Opera app store article of 8/19/2013:

imageTiVo is updating its lineup of digital video recorders with three new devices that will feature out-of-home streaming as well as the latest apps from Netflix and YouTube, with additional apps from Vimeo and others coming in the near future. And thanks to support for DIAL, users will also be able to control these apps with their mobile devices, much like it’s now possible with Google’s  Chromecast. [Emphasis added.]

imageTiVo’s new devices, officially dubbed Roamio, come in three flavors: A $200 base model comes with 4 tuners (allowing users to record up to four shows at the same time), a 500 GB HD and an ATSC tuner as well as cable card compatibility, meaning you can record either over-the-air or cable TV. A $400 Plus model comes with 6 tuners and a 1.5 TB HD, and a $600 Pro model offers a 3TB HD.

image

Both the Plus and Pro will enable out-of-home streaming to iPads and other devices later this year, but neither have the ability to record over-the-air, meaning that cord cutters are stuck with the base model, which needs an extra TiVo stream extender to stream video to other devices. All of the devices also still require a TiVo subscription, which currently costs you around $15 a month.

But one of the key improvements over the existing experiences has nothing to do with recording TV programming at all: TiVo long neglected apps from third-party streaming services, leading users looking for a better Netflix experience to buy themselves a dedicated streaming box instead. TiVo finally caught up the competition by making its platform fully HTML5-compatible, which immediately leads to better-looking apps from Netflix and YouTube.

image

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm Analyst.


TV Display of EZCast Promotional Screens

Jerome Yu posted to Google+’s Wifi EZCast community the following photos of an HDTV set displaying EZCast promotional screens:

EZCast requires installing the EZCast app on Android or iOS devices. The EZMirror feature is a Miracast emulator for Android 4.2+ devices. EZAir is an Apple AirPlay emulator.

Update 9/12/2013: See my EZCasting Video and Other Media with a Samsung Galaxy S4 article for the latest upgrades to EZCast firmware and apps.


Mysterious iezvu.com Site Provides EZCast Software Downloads

Update 8/26/2913: Links to EZCast app downloads for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android devices added below.

Update 8/23/2013: There’s a new English/Chinese EZCast site under construction at http://www.iezvu.com.cn/, which also offers (in Chinese) to download a Windows EZCast app:

Windows Download

imageEZCast application for Windows version, developed by WinnerWave, displays your Windows embedded PC and Notebook wirelessly via EZCast devices or platforms.

Requirements:

  • Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
  • Supports Extension (XP, Vista, 7) and Mirror (XP, Vista, 7, 8) with audio transmission (Vista, 7, 8) 
  • Supports music and video streaming

The registrant for this site is jccheng@actions-micro.com, presumably the same person as Jesse Cheng, the registrant of the iezvu.com domain described below.

WinnerWave offers free EZ View and EZ Control apps from the Google Play store:

image

Only the EZ Control app documentation contains a reference to Actions-Micro:

An IR-Remote simulator for Actions-Micro wireless projectors. The App is extracted from EZ Display App.

The Visit Developer’s Website link is to the Actions-Micro site.

Jerome Yu created a new WiFi EZCast Google+ community and added this link to a Mirrocast manual:

image

An attempt to find the registrant of mega.co.nz with WhoIs returned the following message:

image

Mega’s About Us page states:

We are a dedicated group of technologists who were given the time, opportunity and Internet access to build an awesome cloud storage service that will help protect your privacy. We have programmed this Internet service from scratch in Auckland, New Zealand. Unlike most of our competitors, we use a state of the art browser based encryption technology where you, not us, control the keys. Our design group includes Kim Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk, and Finn Batato. Tony Lentino, owner of domain registrar Instra Corporation, is our Principal Visionary. Our CEO, Vikram Kumar, has been Chief Executive of InternetNZ, a non-profit organization promoting the vision of an ‘open and uncapturable Internet’. We hope you like it. [Emphasis added.]

Update 9/12/2013: Lauren Hockenson (@lhockenson) reported Kim Dotcom Resigns as Mega Director to Focus on Music Venture in a 9/4/2013 GigaOm post:

imageLess than a year after launching Mega, the file-storage successor to the raided MegaUpload, embattled internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom has stepped down to work on other projects. Specifically, he will continue to fight against extradition to the United States, where he is expected to stand trial for many crimes. In addition, Dotcom is creating a music product, formerly known as Megabox, and forming an internet-focused political party in New Zealand, where he currently resides. Despite relinquishing his position, Dotcom will likely remain the face — and opinionated voice — of Mega.

I downloaded the WiFi EZCast User Manual.pdf file, which appears to be a manual for the Actions Micro dongle renamed to “Mirrocast” and EZCast software. The manual reported support for the following phones and Android versions:

image

If these are the only phones that EZCast will ultimately support, I don’t foresee commercial success even close to that of Chromecast. Note the lack of support for Samsung phones, which support a proprietary AllShare protocol, not Miracast. (See my Samsung Galaxy S4 Screen Mirroring Is Not Miracast Compliant article of 8/1/2013.)

The manual also includes a link to http://www.iezvu.com/download/, which displayed the following directory structure with very recent entries:

image

Update 8/26/2013: The EZVu download page now includes HTML links to:

imageWindows Download: EZCast application for Windows version, developed by WinnerWave, displays your Windows embedded PC and Notebook wirelessly via EZCast devices or platforms.

imageMac OS Download: EZCast application for Mac version, developed by WinnerWave, displays your Mac OS embedded iMac, Macbook and MacAir wirelessly via EZCast devices or platforms.

imageiOS Download: EZCast APP for iOS version, developed by WinnerWave, displays and exchange your multimedia from your iOS embedded iPhone and iPad wirelessly via EZCast devices or platforms.

imageAndroid Download: EZCast APP for Android version, developed by WinnerWave, displays and exchange your multimedia from your Android embedded smartphone and pad wirelessly via EZCast devices or platforms

Linked download pages are still in Chinese. Here’s the Bing translation:

image

I’ve requested clarification of the Product ID from Jerome Yu.

WhoIs reports iezvu.com was registered on 6/11/2013 by Jesse Cheng of Taipei, Taiwan and lists his email domain as actions-micro.com, which indicates that the site is at least semi-official. The EZCast_Win.exe program reports Action Microelectronics Co., Ltd. as the publisher. Here’s the installer’s initial screen:

image

imageInstallation requires opening a Windows Firewall port and rebooting the system to allow “Extension Mode” and adds an EZCast icon to your desktop:

Running the app requires the PC to have a WiFi connection.

Online-Update-EZCast-And-Driver-Installer-1.0.14.zip contains a 4.8 MB EZCast.pkg file. The SampleAppCast.xml file lists “Most recent changes with links to updates.” Actions-Micro describes Appcast.xml as “Appcast for Example app updates.” Opening Appdownload.htm on IE redirects to your home page.

Stay tuned for more details after I install the EZCast app on my Acer laptop, Microsoft Surface Pro, Tronsmart MK908 MiniPC, and Google Nexus 7 tablet connected to the WiFi network.


ChinaFactoryToConsumer Offers EZCast Dongle on Amazon for US$45 Plus Postage

Amazon seller ChinaFactoryToConsumer offers EZ CAST ALL STREAM Full HD 1080p WIFI Smart TV Streaming Dongle for EZCAST, MiraCast, DLNA and AirPlay from 2-Tech for US$45 plus $4.49 shipping:

image

According to the offer, the seller ships from China within 6 to 10 business days, which means you can expect to receive the device in approximately one month from China Post or SingPost.

DELUXUK offers the same device on Amazon.co.uk and shipped from the UK for £45.00 with free delivery beginning on 9/10/2013. The initial delivery date corresponds to shipment by China Post or SingPost to the seller in mid-August.


Sebastian Mauer Posts Open-Source CheapCast Code 

CNX Software (@cnxsoft) posted CheapCast ChromeCast Emulator For Android Source Code Released on 8/20/2013:

imageCheapCast is an Android app that lets you emulate ChromeCast hardware on any Android 4.x devices such as smartphone, tablet, and mini PCs. I’ve tried CheapCast last week unsuccessfully on several hardware, but a recent update fixed that and I could use Tronsmart T428 to stream videos from YouTube with the Cast button just like you would do with a real ChromeCast.

CheapCast_LogoThere’s more work to be done however, and the only application that currently work are YouTube and Google Music, which is nice, but more work is needed to bring CheapCast functionalities closer to what’s possible with ChromeCast. That’s why Sebastian Mauer, CheapCast developer, has decided to release the source code under Apache License Version 2.0.

You can get the source code from Cheapcast repo on github:

git clone https://github.com/mauimauer/cheapcast.git

Finally import it into Android Studio or Eclipse, and start hacking and contribute back to the project.


EZCast Miracast App with Actions Micro Dongle is a Potential Chromecast Competitor

Updated 8/16/2013: Ordered a sample EZCast dongle from Jerome Yu to be shipped via FedEx. Will post a review upon receipt.

CNX Software (@cnxsoft) reported EZCast Is a Wi-Fi Display Solution (Miracast, DLNA, etc..) to be Used With Actions Micro HDMI TV Dongles on 8/13/2013:

image_thumb7This morning I’ve come across an interesting video via Google+ (in Chinese) that showcases the features of EZCast, an application that can be installed on Android[, Windows] or iOS, and supports screen mirroring, DLNA, and Miracast with HDMI TV Dongles designed by Actions Micro. The company is not to be confused with Actions Semi, an IC company that provides Actions Semi ATV6003 SoC used in HDMI TV Dongles such as iPush.

The smartphone used in the video appears to be a Samsung Galaxy S3 or S4. Only the Galaxy S4 is Miracast-certified, but Samsung technical folks say it doesn’t work with Miracast. See my Samsung Galaxy S4 Screen Mirroring Is Not Miracast Compliant post of 8/1/2013 for more details.

If you’ve watched the video above, beside DLNA and Miracast, you’ve found out it can also be a nice presentation tools, allowing for PowerPoint slideshows, and notes writing via your smartphone. After further research, I found the application has recently been published on both Apple App Store and Google Play.

EZCast Android Screenshots

EZCast Android Screenshots

The App description is only available in Chinese, but here’s the (unedited) Google Translation of the description:

EZCast is a powerful home media sharing software, you can complete mobile phone, tablet, PC screen on the TV to switch to the big screen perfectly. Actions-Micro with wireless connectivity solutions to achieve the best multi-screen interactive experience

Major support

  • Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android operating system, the four
  • Cell Phone / Tablet / PC pictures, music, video sharing
  • Youku video, youtube, Sohu video and other online video sharing
  • Office/PDF/Mac OS Page Share
  • Support for DLNA, including Tencent video, Sohu video, PPTV and other DLNA sharing
  • Miracast support.
  • Use with Actions Micro program Dongle

That’s all information I have for now, but hopefully, we’ll find out more soon, including the exact hardware to be used with EZCast.

[Update: SinoV-WD-12 Dongle is using EZCast, but the company did not provide details about the hardware]

According to the SinoV-WD-12 dongle’s Alibaba page for Shenzhen Yuanchang Communication Technology Co., Ltd., the FOB Shenzhen per-piece price is US$18 – $22 and minimum order quantity is 10 pieces:

image_thumb21

Following are the device’s specs:

  1. Can be used in TV or projector with HDMI connection
  2. Streams can be real-time and convenient playback and list of av to large display (TV)
  3. Support Miracast, DLNA, Airplay. Via WiFi online, you can easily play the multimedia video and mobile devices
  4. Support Windows/Mac OS platform mirror display
  5. Small Size, convenient to carry
  6. Support for 1080 p high-definition video wireless push or mirror display
  7. Inside Wifi Module
  8. Support OTA Update online

image_thumb51

It can support 1080p video WiFi push display by EZcast software.

The quoted pricing indicates that Google’s Chromecast dongle has at least a 50% gross margin at a US$35 selling price.

Thanks to Jerome Yu and Jean-Luc Aufranc for the heads-up on EZCast.


CheapCast on My Tronsmart MK908 MiniPC Plays You Tube but not Netflix Movies

Sebastian Mauer’s (@mauimauer) CheapCast app is the first publicly accessible ChromeCast emulator for generic Android devices, such as MiniPCs and TVBoxes. (See the post below for more CheapCast details.)

I installed CheapCast from the Google Play store on my Tronsmart MK908 MiniPC, which uses a stock Android 4.2.2 ROM and is connected to HDMI2 of my Insignia HDTV monitor and Hauppauge Colossus video capture card. (Click landscape images to display 720p screen captures):

CheapCastInstall

Running CheapCast opens a settings page, where I assigned “CheapCast” as the friendly name. Clicking the Start Service or Restart Service button momentarily displays a Service Enabled message at the bottom of the page:

CheapCastStarted

Starting the Chromecast app on my Galaxy S4 displayed the following Chromecast-enable receivers on my WiFi network:

CheapCast-GalaxyS4

Running You Tube app on my Galaxy S4 displayed the How to Use Chromecast segment as expected:

CheapCastYouTubeHowTo720p

and displayed the following splash screen on completion:

ReadyToWatchYouTube720p

Here’s Microsoft vice-president Scott Guthrie hawking Windows Azure without wearing his usual red shirt:

ScottGuAzureCar720p

The S4 showed the following Playing on CheapCast screen:

ScottGuS4Screen640px_thumb2

Running the Netflix app displayed the expected menu with a Chromecast icon:

NetFlixMenuWithIcon640px

However, clicking the Play button for the Spiral Season 2, Ep. 6 segment opens a Play On list, which shows only This Device and Office choices. (An S4 palm swipe won’t capture the screen with the Play On list active.)

According to comments on Sebastian’s Google+ announcement post (see below), Netflix videos require Microsoft Play Ready digital rights management (DMR) software, which is incorporated in Google’s Chromecast code but isn’t available as an open-source library for Android. However, I can watch Netflix movies with the Netflix app on my MK908. It’s to be noted that several Chinese TVBox suppliers claim to support Play Ready, for example Acemax Industrial Co., Ltd. with the 4.0.4 Smart Android DVB-T HD Set Top Box,PVR, Timeshift,1080 HD,WIFI Build in, ARM Cortex A9, Internet TV Free Shipping (US$79.00).

Conor Klecker asserted in a post to Google+’s Chromecast community:

imageI have seen a few posts asking why Netflix and You Tube were the only video apps available at launch.

Netflix and Youtube made the protocol that runs the Chromecast, DIAL: http://www.dial-multiscreen.org/.

That is why Netflix and You Tube apps work out of the box.
If you read the site, anyone who want to make a 1st screen app (runs on the TV) needs to register on that site. You can view the registry here for apps to come: http://www.dial-multiscreen.org/dial-registry/namespace-database:

Dial-multiscreen.org – a specification for multiscreen “DI”scovery “A”nd “L”aunch of first-screen (TV) content apps.

I believe Conor is on the right track.


Sebastian Mauer Describes his CheapCast Chromecast Emulator for Android Devices

Sebastian Mauer (@mauimauer) posted a CheapCast: Proof of Concept message with a video clip to Google+’s Comcast community on 8/8/2013:

What about using Android Devices (Smartphones, Tablets, Sticks) as #ChromeCast 1st and 2nd Screen? Well… introducing #CheapCast . It’s a ChromeCast Emulator (ie. it acts as if it were a ChromeCast Stick) that enables Android devices to act as target for ChromeCast apps.

This is an early preview. The target does not necessarily have to be a Tablet, an Android HDMI Stick will do fine as well. More to come tonight.

Still waiting for the other shoe to drop with availability of a beta version that I can test with my MK809 and UG007 MiniPCs.



Shenzhen TVBaby Technology Co., Ltd. Claims US$109 Huawei MediaQ M310 Android 4.0 Google TV Set Top Box WiFi Airplay DLNA same as Chromecast with Remote Control

However, TVBaby sold only two units sold from 8/4 to 8/9/2013, possibly because it might take the firm up to 60 days to ship the device:

image 
We’re likely to see many “Same as Chromecast” claims for a range of devices from Chinese dealers. Caveat Emptor.

CNX Software (@CNXSoft) asserted Huawei MediaQ M310 Is Now Available For Purchase on 8/9/2013:

Huawei MediaQ M310 is a media player based on Hisilicon K3V2 quad core SoC [that] the company unveiled at CES 2013. The company expected the product to be released in Q3 2013 (about now), and the good news is that it has started to pop-up on Aliexpress for $109 including shipping. The bad news is that the only seller has no [customer] feedback at all, so you take an extra risk if you buy right now. I’m sure it will show up in more places in the days or weeks ahead.

Huawei MediaQ M310

[Here’s a reminder] of the specifications:

  • SoC – Hisilicon K3V2 Quad-core Cortex A9 processor with Vivante GC4000 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB RAM
  • Storage – 4GB Flash + microSD card slot
  • Video I/O – 1x HDMI In,1x HDMI Out
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, SPDIF, 3.5mm stereo jack, Mic mono
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 (1 extension from Y cable) + 1x micro USB
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n 2.4G/5G 2×2MIMO, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Dimensions (L×W×H) – 65mm × 65mm × 14mm
  • Power supply – 1x Micro USB for power DC 5V 2A

The operating system is a customized version of Android. Storage and memory sizes are a bit on the low side by today’s standard, but it should still be usable. HDMI In is quite a rare feature, and allows you to connect another receiver (DVB, Cable, Satellite) to your device to easily switch between the two devices. The good thing with buying a device from a larger company is that software support is likely to be better, and if you want to see how the device “can make your life rich and colorful…” works and its features, watch the promo video below. Advertised features include display mirroring, Huawei Cloud storage, video chat, gaming, voice control, and more. [Emphasis added.] …

Huawei Device’s incomplete MediaQ product pages are here. There’s no word about availability of the MediaQ 320, which includes a DVB-T off-air/DVB-C cable tuner. For more information about the MediaQ products, see our Huawei’s MediaQ Set-Top Boxes with HDMI Input and Built-in TV Tuners item.


Third-Party Chromecast Apps and Content Providers

Contents:

The following items were imported from the original Google’s $35 Chromecast Might Redefine the Media Player Market post on 8/17/2013 to reduce its length:


Josh Unwin Reviews Plex for Chromecast

Josh Unwin (@joshunwin) asserted Plex & Chromecast – Made for each other in a 1/4/2014 post to his personal blog:

imageHaving recently reviewed Chromecast, I received a few comments asking for more on how Chromecast works with Plex. This is it, and I can start by saying Chromecast and Plex are a fantastic coupling of products, with only a few minor complaints. Let’s jump straight into this one.
Operation

PictureSo let’s start at the basics, how does one use Plex in conjunction with Chromecast? Honestly, there’s not much to it. Assuming you have your (or a friends) Plex server already setup and running, simply do the initial setup of your Chromecast, make sure you have the Plex app installed on any device you plan to cast with and you’re all set.


PictureChromecast button, between search and pin

  • Mobile Devices
    Chromecast is designed primarily for use with mobile devices, Android and iOS phones or tablets, and using Plex with one of these is a breeze. The latest versions of the Plex app for Android and iOS should have a Chromecast button available on the apps Action Bar, by tapping this you can choose to play files via Chromecast instead of locally. Whether you decide to do this before or after choosing your content doesn’t matter, and once you do so Chromecast will present you with a Plex screen, letting you know it’s ready to play. From there Chromecast will instantly start to load your content once you select to play it, and you are free to leave the app entirely from there, continuing to use your phone normally.
  • PC/Browser
    Plex recently unveiled it’s new UI for the web, bringing a fresh look and along with some new features, one of which is the ability to use Chromecast from the browser. Working in much the same way as the iOS and Android counterparts, you simply select the Chromecast button that appears in both the top bar of the library UI and the video player options and select your Chromecast device from the list. This will instantly start the playback on Chromecast, allowing you to control it right from the browser. Unlike the Android and iOS apps, leaving the Plex playback tab will stop playback on Chromecast, so be sure to keep that tab open whilst browsing elsewhere.

Picture

Chromecast button on PC

Performance, Quality Options & Consistency
How well Plex streams both in terms of speed and quality will depend on your network capabilities, your server and the file source, but having tested it on two different networks of varying speeds I found the quality to be excellent on both occasions. Buffering generally takes a few mere seconds (no different to using Plex on any other device) and I am yet to see any issues with playback or quality that is directly caused by Chromecast itself.
One potentially off-putting factor for some is that there is no control over the quality of the stream, but having been using Chromecast with Plex for sometime I have yet to come across a time where it hasn’t looked practically as good as the source.
What It Can & Can’t Do
Chromecast has been able to stream anything I have thrown at it from my server as well as friends servers, whether on the same, or a different network. Unfortunately however, I have yet to see any channels stream at all – regardless of whether casting from mobile or PC. This includes both officially supported channels as well as unofficial.


Control
PictureOf course the idea behind Chromecast is that everything is controlled via another device. No ‘old fashioned’ remote controls here. So what controls are you given? Once you’ve selected to play something via Android/iOS you are presented with a playing screen (see screenshots). From here you have the option to pause, stop, skip back 15 seconds, jump forward 30, drag the slider and change the volume. A nice touch is that the volume can be altered using the physical volume buttons on the device, even when locked. 


Picture

PC casting controls

On PC, you can pause, stop, scrub along the timeline and change the volume. The Plex web service also integrates with the Chromecast plugin for Chrome, where you can disconnect it and see what is casting from any tab.


Picture

Chrome extension whilst casting with Plex

Sadly there is currently no ability to queue content for playback, not something I personally find too big of a deal, but it would be nice to set a TV series to continually playback. I believe this is something Plex are looking into, however.
Issues
Other than lack of queuing, so far I have only one major complaint, which is that my Android app will occasionally ‘forget’ something is being cast, meaning you lose control of the playback. You can attempt to reconnect, which may work without fault, but often will cause the current playback to stop and takes Chromecast back to the initial Plex screen. I contacted Plex regarding this issue to which they confirmed they are aware of the problem and are looking into a fix.


Summary

imageSo there you have it, other than the minor issues which are being addressed and the lack of channel playback, Chromecast and Plex just work. Everything is fast, high quality & easy to control. Easily a recommended buy for not [only] Plex users who may wish to add playback to a 2nd TV, but for anyone with an interest in home entertainment.


Janko Roettgers Describes New Chromecast Apps Post Hackathon

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) reported Chromecast gets Plex, Vevo, RealPlayer, Viki and more with massive app update in a 12/10/2013 article for the GigaOm blog (cross-posted):

image_thumb[1]Summary: Chromecast now plays local and cloud content, thanks to support for Plex, Avia and Realplayer Cloud. The streaming stick also added Revision3, Vevo, Viki and others.

A few months ago, a developer source told me that Google planned to release apps for its Chromecast streaming stick in waves. Well, guess what: The first wave is here, and it’s a massive one: Chromecast got support for local media playback, podcasts, Facebook photos and more Tuesday, thanks to newly-added support for apps from Plex, RealPlayer Cloud, Vevo, Viki and others.

Chromecast users will be especially happy about local file playback, a feature that had been requested ever since the device launched in July. Now, there are multiple options available, including the popular media center app Plex.

The makers of Plex had long expressed interest in Chromecast, but never actually announced that they were going to add support for it. However, we reported last week that a user had found Chromecast configuration files within Plex, suggesting that support was imminent.

Ready to cast: Plex users can now play videos on Google’s Chromecast.

Now, Plex is adding Chromecast support to its iOS, Android and web apps, all of which offer access to local content, online video channels and personal media backed up to the cloud. For now, only casting of video is supported, but support for music and photos is promised for the near future. Also, Plex is initially only giving paying PlexPass members access to Chromecast capabilities, but the company usually releases these kinds of features to everyone soon after.

However, Plex isn’t the only option to cast local or personal media. Another app added to the Chromecast roster Tuesday is Avia, a media player for Android that allows users to beam videos, photos and music from their mobile device or any local DLNA server, including network-attached storage drives, to Chromecast. Also clever: Avia indexes photos on Picasa, Dropbox and Facebook, allowing users to show any of their photos on any of these services on their TV. However, Chromecast support is only available to users of the paid version of Avia.

Chromecasting from the RealPlayer Cloud web app.Chromecasting from the RealPlayer Cloud web app.

And there’s one more option for personal media: RealNetworks added Chromecast to its RealPlayer Cloud Tuesday, which is the company’s new cloud storage and playback offering for all your mobile media. Chromecast users can now use it to cast videos from iOS, Android and the web. Users who are logged into the same account can also play content from other devices in the same network, and for example use their iPad to cast videos stored on their phone.

In addition to these three apps, Chromecast also added support for the Android podcast player app BeyondPod, the Washington Post’s PostTV, online music service Songza, RedbullTV, Revision3, VEVO and Viki, the international TV platform that is now owned by Japan’s Rakuten.

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst.

image_thumb[3]Google’s official list of Chromecast apps is here. When I updated this post, the New arrow links for apps (presumably to their Google Play store entries) threw HTTP 404 error messages.

Caveat Emptor: Before purchasing paid versions of Chromecast-compatible apps from the Google Play store, be sure to read user comments. Some are reported to require factory resetting your Chromecast before they work.


Alex Maxham Reports on Chromecast’s Forthcoming Plex Support

Alexander Maxham (@alexmaxham) asked Plex Adding Chromecast Support Soon? Let’s Hope So! in a 12/4/2013 article for the Android Headlines blog:

Plex-for-Chromecast

imageWe know that Plex has said in the past that they are interested in creating a Chromecast app, or at least supporting Chromecast. But so far we haven’t seen anything from them in regards to an app. Which is probably because the SDK for Chromecast is not out yet. But it should be out later this month. So what’s the big deal with Plex? Well it’s a app/media server, that allows you to post all your music, videos, and pictures and stream them remotely. They already have an app for Android phones, tablets and Google TV, which was on sale over the weekend. It’s also quite easy to set up.

However, some digging by the folks over on Reddit discovered that Plex is hard at work to bring support to the Chromecast. As you can see in the image below, there’s even an .xml file under ‘Profiles’ that’s labeled “Chromecast.xml”. So hopefully it gets whitelisted by Google really soon. Chromecast is already a great device that has been selling like crazy, and I’m sure once it gets even more apps, it’ll be flying off the shelves, especially at $35. …

Plex-on-Chromecast

I’m definitely going to be picking up a few Chromecasts for Christmas in the coming weeks. It should cover just about everyone on my list. The best thing about the Chromecast is that it’s super easy to install and set up, that it’s even a great gift for my parents, who aren’t as good with technology as I am. And at $35 (along with a $6 Play Movie Rental), it makes it a no-brainer and a much better option than a Google TV set top box which ranges around $50-100, depening on the one you pick up. Chromecast support for Plex will probably roll out to Plex Pass Subscribers first, but we’re going to keep an eye out on this one, as it’s something we all want on Chromecast.

See also the GigaOm: Plex Plans Support for DIAL and Chromecast and Chromecast Support Reportedly Coming to Plex and aVia Media Players articles below.


First Interactive Chromecast Game Makes Its Appearance

The Google Play Apps Store Began Offering Tic-Tac-Toe for Chromecast on 10/24/2013:

image

image

From the description by Swishly:

imageA two-player TicTacToe app for your Chromecast device.

Download the app on two of your Android devices, and enjoy TicTacToe with a friend.

iPhone & iPad friends can play too with, the TicTacToe for Chromecast app is also available in the Apple App Store.

Enjoy!

NiceReddy asserted:

I was under the impression that this app was developed by Google as a test, but released under a different name. Kind of like Niantic Labs with Ingress.

in a 12/1/2013 post to Reddit’s Android section. I believe it might be a Google sample app for it’s upcoming Chromecast hackathon (see Chromecast apps readied for December hackathon). User reviews are mixed with different devices.


Koushik Dutta Reports a New APK of his AllCast Beta Available from Play Store

From Koush’s post of 11/30/2013 to the Google+ Chromecast community:

The AllCast beta I released last week is about to expire… to get the new APK, join the ClockworkMod beta testers Google+ group, and then join the beta on Google Play. 

Allcast Beta 7 – Cast to ALL the things

Koushik Dutta originally shared to ClockworkMod Beta Testers (Discussion):

AllCast Beta is now on Google Play (no root required)
Send local videos to your Roku, Apple TV, Xbox (360 or One), Samsung Smart TVs, and other DLNA renderers.
To download, join this community by clicking here:
https://plus.google.com/communities/106377296032657211981
Then click this link to join the beta for AllCast:
https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.koushikdutta.cast
Leave comments and bugs below!

image

Clicking the Become a Tester button opened this form:

image

Clicking the Download link as a registered ClockworkMod tester opens this form:

image

Stay tuned for a review of AllCast with my Samsung “Smart” TV and devices.


Vlad Frolov Offers Open-Source Fling Helper App for Chromecast

Vlad Frolov (@Freol) reported availability of his Fling helper app for Chromecast in an 11/17/2013 post to the Google+ Chromecast community:

imageI had something like [a] hackathon yesterday and made something like how to setup Fling from scratch, but not just tutorial. My project deals with receiver URLs, which are required by Google to create App ID. The key point of the service is to ease using [the]Fling application: http://chromecast.prostoksi.com

image

BTW, I’ve put [the source code for] this [Django] project on github under MIT license: https://github.com/frol/Fling-receiver.

I haven’t tested Fling yet because Vlad says obtaining an AppId from Google to use with his “secret key” can take up to two weeks.


Ryan Whitwam Reports a Major Upgrade to Sebastian Mauer’s CheapCast App

Ryan Whitwam (@RyanWhitwam) posted CheapCast Gets A Big Update To v0.4.1-BETA With Support For Tab Casting And Embedded Chromium to the Android Police blog on 11/25/2013:

imageThe Chromecast is only $35, but CheapCast is as cheap as it gets – free. Just install it on your Android device and it shows up on your network like a Chromecast. This is handy in a number of situations, but the app has been lacking some features since it launched. The new version that just showed up in Google Play should address some of that.

CheapCast v0.4.1-BETA makes a few important changes to the code. Here’s the changelog:

  • CheapCast is now powered by Chromium.
  • Added Support for Tab Casting.
  • Resolve ChromeCast Apps via Google Service.
  • Moved Donations to IAP due to Play Store ToS changes.

2013-11-25 23.44.27-1

imageThe Tab Casting thing is very cool. That means you’ll be able to get your desktop Chrome browser tab up on your Cheapcast device (or whatever screen it’s plugged into). That could be a webpage or a Flash video, for example. It only seems to work with tabs, not the experimental full-screen casting. The app is also backed by Chromium now, which should make things work better in general, especially for users on Android 4.3 or earlier. It’s all still free, so maybe toss the developer some cash with an IAP donation.

image


Variety Asks and Answers “Who is Google Chromecast’s Biggest Fan?”

Todd Spangler (@xpangler) asserted “The CEO touts Google’s cheap TV companion as ‘the all-time great stocking-stuffer’” in a deck for his Google Chromecast’s Biggest Fan? Netflix Founder Reed Hastings article of 11/19/2013 for Variety:

Guess which Google product will be sitting under Reed Hastings’ Christmas tree. …

Reed hastings Cromecast Christmas

The Netflix CEO is especially bullish on Google’s Chromecast — touting the cheap adapter as “the all-time great stocking-stuffer” in an exclusive interview with Variety.

imageNetflix was the critical launch partner for the $35 Chromecast dongle, which went on sale in late July and sold out initial inventory in less than a day. A big enticement was the limited-time offer of three free months of Netflix with a Chromecast purchase (a promo for which Google footed the bill). …

Hastings expects even bigger things from the little gizmo. He wanted to work with Google because he sees an opportunity to create a new category: a low-cost device that turns a regular TV into a smart TV coupled with “this radical, beautiful proposition that there is no remote control.”

imageChromecast keeps its bill of materials low in part because it includes no remote control, with all browsing and navigation functions handled on a smartphone or tablet app. The wireless USB-drive-size adapter plugs into an HDMI port on the back of any high-def TV.

SEE ALSO: HBO Go Streams to Google Chromecast

“The tablet or phone is the best remote control because you don’t have to learn to use another interface,” Hastings said, adding, “We think this will be a very big category.”

So far, Hastings said, Netflix has been extremely pleased with the reception of the Chromecast. Sales have vastly exceed Netflix’s initial expectations, he added, though neither he nor Google will provide unit shipment figures. “We see great activation rates, great usage rates and very high-quality streaming on Chromecast,” he said.

But by and large, Netflix has not seen Chromecast produce a wave of new subscribers — because most of the initial buyers of the device already had Netflix.

Hastings’ chief complaint about the product? He wants Google to launch the device globally ASAP.

Chromecast will be in countries outside the U.S., according to Mario Queiroz, VP of product management at Google, though he wouldn’t discuss timing.

Netflix, as the No. 1 Internet video subscription service, was important to have in the product at launch, Queiroz said. “Netflix had strengths of knowing this market really well,” he added.

Chromecast was originally envisioned as a new way to sling YouTube video onto a TV set, so that’s a core feature of the device, and it also incorporates the ability to access video and music content purchased through the Google Play store.

It took Google about 18 months from initial concept in December 2011 to launch. Queiroz admits that the company was caught off-guard by the overnight popularity of the device: “Given the price point and the new user interface model, it was difficult to predict what the adoption was going to be,” he said. “The market demand exceeded our expectations.”

While Queiroz won’t reveal how many Chromecasts have shipped to date, he noted, “We are making money on the product.” And Google is running TV ads as part of a bigger marketing campaign for the device as the holiday shopping season gets under way. …

Read the rest of the article here.


HBO Go Officially Joins Chromecast Content Providers

The Google Play store’s updated HBO Go for Android app of 11/21/2013 finally supports HBO Go on Android:

image
But there’s no mention of Chromecast in the app’s description. However, the Play store ran this banner on the same day:

Google-Apps for Your Chromecast

Here’s a HBO Go screen on my Samsung Galaxy S4 with the Chromecast logo emphasized:

HBO2Go - The Drive Finale

And here’s a screen from my Baden Powell Radio station on Pandora:

Pandora-Baden Powell Radio


GigaOm Reports HBO Go and International Chromecast Rumors

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) posted Chromecast rumor roundup: HBO Go, international launch, strong sales on Amazon to the GigaOm blog on 11/15/2013:

imageSummary: Google is looking to hire people to bring Chromecast abroad, and a leak hints at an impending launch of HBO Go support.

Google’s Chromecast streaming stick could soon get support for HBO Go: DroidLife discovered earlier this week that Google’s Chromecast product page briefly listed HBO Go as one of the supported apps. The reference has since been removed, but HBO previously said that it was “actively exploring” Chromecast support to its mobile apps.

imageThis wouldn’t be the first time that a Chromecast app prematurely appeared on Google’s website: We spotted some traces of Pandora’s app on the same Chromecast product page in October. A week later, Pandora officially added Chromecast support to its mobile apps.

In other Chromecast rumors, it looks like Google is working on bringing the streaming stick to other countries. A recently posted job offer for a Product Manager, Chromecast (International) states that the company is looking for “looking for a Product Manager who is passionate about launching consumer products in international markets.” It continues:

“This individual will be responsible for defining and driving the end-to-end Chromecst product experience for countries around the globe. You will be working closely with the Chromecast hardware, software, content, and operations teams to define international product requirements and successfully managing the launches. In addition, you will have an opportunity to work directly with big name developers around the world to bring their content to Chromecast devices.”

imageIn addition to this, Google is also looking to hire a developer advocate and a technical account manager based in the U.K.

Finally, there’s a bit of news on the Chromecast sales front. Google still hasn’t said how many streaming sticks it has sold since launch in July, but at least on Amazon, it seems to be selling well. So well in fact that it remained the best-selling electronics device for weeks, beating not only direct competitors like Apple TV and Roku but even Amazon’s own Kindle devices.

amazon chromecast bestseller

This week, that reign finally came to an end, as Chromecast slipped to the number two spot, behind the new Kindle Fire HD 7” tablet. Apple TV and Roku 3 remained on ranks eight and nine, respectively. Of course, both devices are also are available through a number of additional retailers, whereas Chromecast is only available through Amazon, Best Buy and Google Play.


Casey Newton and the Wall Street Journal Announce Pandora Support by Chromecast

Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) reported Pandora brings its personalized streaming radio to Chromecast in a 10/31/2013 article for The Verge:

pandora chromecast

imagePandora is now available on Google’s Chromecast dongle, giving one of the biggest names in streaming media another point of access to the living room. An update to Pandora’s Android and iOS mobile apps will now include a “Cast” button, which will allow for one-touch streaming to the TV, the company said.

image“By integrating Google Cast technology into our mobile apps, users now have another easy access point to a better listening experience from the biggest screen in their living room,” said Tom Conrad, Pandora’s chief technical officer, in a statement.

imageNetflix, Hulu Plus, and YouTube already were available on Chromecast. With Pandora, the dongle adds one of the biggest missing names to its lineup of service providers. Pandora users can stream to Chromecast from Android smartphones and tablets as well as iPhones, but not yet iPads. The company says iPad support is coming soon

Listen to the best in traditional Brasilian music with emphasis on guitar from my Baden Powell station: http://pdora.co/1dtH1Uv

imageClick image to download the updated Android app for Chromecast


The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) parroted a Pandora Now Available on Google Chromecast press release on 10/31/2013:

Updated Android and iOS apps now include Cast button for one-touch streaming of Pandora

imagePandora (NYSE: P), the leading internet radio service, today announced it is now available on Chromecast, Google’s new TV-connected device that wirelessly delivers online audio and video entertainment to the biggest screen in the home. Pandora is available on Chromecast through an update to its Android and iOS mobile apps, which will include a Cast button for simple, one-touch streaming to the TV.

Pandora Chief Technology Officer and EVP of Product, Tom Conrad said, “Our mission is to provide the best personalized radio experience to our listeners, anytime, anywhere. More than one-third of radio listening takes place in the home and we are continually innovating and investing in new platforms that help us seamlessly deliver access to Pandora across a broad range of connected devices. By integrating Google Cast technology into our mobile apps, users now have another easy access point to a better listening experience from the biggest screen in their living room.”

The Chromecast device allows users to wirelessly stream or Cast web standards-based audio and video content to the TV, using a smartphone or tablet as the remote control. While the content is launched from a mobile device, it streams from the cloud, which allows users to multitask on their mobile device while simultaneously enjoying Pandora. Core Pandora functionality, such as Play, Pause, Thumb and Skip are all easily controlled for a seamless personalized radio experience.

Owners of a Chromecast device can start casting Pandora today by downloading the latest Android or iOS mobile app, available now via Google Play and the App Store. Chromecast support is currently available for all Android smartphones and tablets in addition to iPhones, with support for iPads coming soon.

ABOUT PANDORA

Pandora (NYSE: P) gives people music and comedy they love anytime, anywhere, through connected devices. Personalized stations launch instantly with the input of a single “seed” – a favorite artist, song or genre. The Music Genome Project(R) , a deeply detailed hand-built musical taxonomy, powers the personalization of Pandora(R) internet radio by using musicological “DNA” and constant listener feedback to craft personalized stations from a growing collection of hundreds of thousands of recordings. Tens of millions of people turn on Pandora every month to hear music they love. www.pandora.com


Ivan Oliva Reports Aereo Works in Miami with Chromecast and iMac

Ivan Oliva posted the following thread to Google+’s Chromecast discussion group on 10/30/2013:

imageI just activated my FREE trial month with AEREO in Miami. I’m signed into Chrome in my iMac and streaming with no problem to my TV through the Chromecast….I’m in heaven!!!!


Daniel Lohse Updated Wiklipedia’s Chromecast Application List

From the Wikipedia Chromecast topic’s Chrome and Mobile Apps Section on 10/26/2013:

imageAt Chromecast’s release, YouTube, Netflix, Google Play Music, and Google Play Movies & TV were available both as Android apps and Chrome Web apps.[8][9] The first two were also iOS apps and were similarly enabled. On October 2, 2013, Hulu announced support for Hulu Plus, reporting that its developers had worked closely with Google.[10] Additional Chromecast-enabled apps are expected when Google releases the production version of the ChromeCast software development kit.[11]

Chromecast-compatible appsimage*Development status is only per third parties, not the app developer itself

Chromecast does not currently support apps that stream video or audio stored locally on a mobile device. An update of Chromecast’s internal software “broke” support for AllCast, an Android application that provided this function. Responding to a reporter inquiry from The Verge, Google said it “would like to support all types of apps, including those for local content” pending the production release of the device’s software development kit.[42]

Local content on a PC or attached external drive, if playable on a tab of the Chrome browser (examples: .mp3, .avi, …), can stream to the Chromecast.


Andreas Meyer’s Chrome Browser Extension Casts Full Screen Image Galleries

Andreas Meyer (+Andreas Meyer) contributed a LocalGalleryViewerExtension for the Chrome browser to Google’s Chrome store on 10/23/2013:

image

Runs Offline


Allows opening local folders and show[s] contain[ed] images in a gallery slideshow

imageThis ‘Local Gallery Viewer’ extension lets you create fullscreen galleries where the slides are shown on the entire screen. The extension opens a new tab in your chrome browser. Choose a local directory and watch your pictures and images.

The idea behind that extension was to bring local images via Chromecast on your HDTV. Since the Chrome browser is able to share a tab via Chromecast, all you need is a powerful webpage that is able to scan a local directory, parses the image file in it and present them in a nice way.

Local Gallery Viewer uses the free jQuery-Plugin SuperBGImage by Andreas Eberhard (http://dev.andreaseberhard.de/jquery/superbgimage/) for presentation. You can open or drag’n'drop local folders from your harddrive directly into the webpage, share the tab via Chromecast and enjoy local images on your HDTV.


GigaOm Reports Chromecast Support for Pandora Coming

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) asserted “Chromecast will soon get support for another major media service, as Google is preparing to push the button for Pandora integration any day now” in a deck for his Chromecast will get Pandora support any day now article of 10/23/2013 for GigaOm:

imageGoogle is getting ready to roll out Pandora support for its Chromecast streaming stick any day now, and it has already started to update the Chromecast website with references to Pandora’s app.

Google first announced that Pandora was going to support Chromecast when it launched the TV streaming stick back in July, but neither company was able to share a launch date for the app at the time. Now it looks like that launch is imminent: A closer look at the source code of a web page listing supported apps reveals this metadata description:

“Chromecast is the easiest way to enjoy online video and music on your TV. Plug it into any HDTV and control it with your existing smartphone, tablet, or laptop. No remotes required. Cast your favorites from Google Play, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora and Chrome to your TV with the press of a button.”

The CSS code used to mark up the page also contains numerous references to Pandora.

imageGoogle had announced Chromecast support for a number of additional apps in July, but since only added support for Hulu Plus to the streaming stick. It’s unclear when exactly Pandora support will roll out, but I’ve heard from multiple sources that the platform would get support for at least one more app before the end of October. I asked both companies about their plans, and spokespersons of Pandora and Google told me that they have nothing new to announce at this point.

Google has scheduled a press event in New York Thursday, but Google might not necessarily make any Chromecast announcements at that event because it has been billed as Google Play-related.

Independently of the Pandora launch, Google seems to be testing a number of additional features for Chromecast, including the ability to beam presentations straight from Google Drive and YouTube video playback from third-party websites.

Related research: Subscriber Content

Subscriber content comes from Gigaom Research, bridging the gap between breaking news and long-tail research. Visit any of our reports to learn more and subscribe.

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm Analyst.


Parks Associates Research Shows Chromecast Device Circumventing Licensing Barriers

Parks Associates (@ParksAssociates) reported Thirty-four percent of Google Chromecast Owners Streaming Hulu to TV Set Daily on 10/2/2013, the same day that Hulu announced Chromecast compatibility:

imageNew consumer research from Parks Associates finds 34% of Google Chromecast owners stream video content from Hulu to their TV set every day. The same research found 43% of Chromecast owners stream Netflix to their TV set on a daily basis, a feature heavily promoted during the device’s introduction. The finding underscores the desire by consumers to watch content on their preferred screen and the challenges of licensing content in the digital world.

image“Chromecast is giving people in Hollywood headaches right now,” said John Barrett, director, Consumer Analytics, Parks Associates. “All the wrangling over licensing restrictions doesn’t mean much if consumers can simply circumvent them.”

Parks Associates analysts explain that content providers typically license movies and TV programs for viewing on specific “screens” such as a TV, computer, tablet, or mobile phone.  Google’s latest, “screen-shifting” device complicates matters by allowing the consumer to move content from one screen to the next.

image“Google Chromecast is making it easier for consumers to circumvent screen restrictions,” Barrett said. “For example, the content from the premium Hulu Plus service is available for viewing on a TV set, but content from the free Hulu service has been technologically constrained to computers. But among those watching Hulu monthly on a TV set via a Chromecast device, roughly 50% are using only the free services from Hulu.”

Parks Associates is offering subscription clients access to the new, special research Google Chromecast Owners. Non-subscription clients can get the report at no additional cost if they purchase a research report or Market Focus before October 15. Parks Associates recently released the Market Focus Mobile Commerce: Keys to Mass Adoption, and two upcoming titles are TV Everywhere: Use & Authentication and Consumer Segmentation: Who is buying CE in this Economy?

I’m surprised that Parks Associates was able to generate their Hulu Plus data that quickly.


Adriana Lee: “Developers say they have new Chromecast apps ready to roll—if only Google would allow their release.”

Adriana Lee (@Adra_La) asked and answered What’s Holding Up New Chromecast Apps? Nothing … But Google, That Is in a 10/8/2013 post to the ReadWrite blog:

imageThere’s a disconnect in the world of Chromecast. Customers want apps that work with Google’s small, affordably priced TV streaming stick. And developers want to distribute them. Some are already built, and are just waiting to be released to the public. 

See also: Chromecast Two Months Later: Where Are All The Apps?

But so far, no one can offer Chromecast support until Google allows it—and for now, only Netflix and Hulu have entered that charmed circle. Google insists that it will open the gates to all developers, someday. Unfortunately, the company refuses to say when that will be.

All this matters on two levels. The Chromecast is an exciting device for consumers and developers alike, because it offers a new, cheap and simple way to stream video from the Web or a computer to your TV. Yet its potential is so far almost wholly unrealized because of Google’s unexplained reticence to permit new apps.

That, in turn, has made Chromecast a test of Google’s commitment to openness for some developers. The company has already tweaked its search engine at the behest of Big Copyright to discourage piracy. The reigning fear is that Google might likewise hold up Chromecast apps because Hollywood suits are disconcerted by the prospect of a streaming Wild West in which it’s dead simple to fling digital movies and shows to your TV—whether they’re legal or not.

Hurry Up And Wait

The July Chromecast announcement didn’t just court consumers—it also offered plenty for developers to sink their teeth into. That day, Google concurrently unveiled the Google Cast software developer kit, or Cast SDK—a set of tools for building apps that can stream video, music and other media directly to a TV via the Chromecast gadget. 

See also: 5 Cool Chromecast Hacks And Workarounds

True, Google oversold things a bit when it insisted developers could build Chromecast into existing media apps with “fewer than 200 lines of code.” That was a bit of “an oversell,” says Jeff Lawrence, founder and CEO of PlayOn, a PC-to-TV media server software platform. It takes a little more work to “hook up all those buttons … [but] it’s not as hard as building a whole app from scratch. You can just augment your existing app.”

Still, once developers dug in, they found that the Cast SDK was largely ready to roll. Even in its current “developer preview” state, they say, its APIs (application programming interfaces, the programming hooks that let apps access Chromecast functions) are powerful and stable enough to support distribution-ready Chromecastic features.

The Cast SDK “is very powerful,” Android developer Koushik Dutta explained to me over Google Hangout. A lead at CyanogenMod (now Cyanogen Inc.), Dutta created AllCast, an app that allowed Android users to cast videos, pics and songs to the Google TV stick. “You can build all this stuff … it’s just the terms and the way the approval process [works] that keeps you from actually running it everywhere.”

He should know: Google hobbled Dutta’s AllCast app several weeks ago via Chromecast software updates.

The SDK’s “developer preview mode” includes terms that prohibit third parties from publicly distributing Chromecast-compatible apps. Among other things, the SDK requires developers to “whitelist,” or register, specific Chromecast devices with Google. This essentially ensures that only pre-approved Chromecasts will work with apps under development.

Which is why companies like PlayOn can’t just release new Chromecast apps at will—no matter how eager they are to get them into the hands of users.

PlayOn already lets users stream online video—whether from online services or stored locally on a Windows PC—to TVs via products like Roku and gaming consoles. It wants to release compatibility for Chromecast streaming, and it has already done the work to create the new feature.

The company’s recent modifications allow its PlayCast app to stream a hidden Web browser window on the computer over to a Chromecast-connected TV. It’s a straightforward process—in fact, it’s basically the same thing the Chromecast does with “tabcasting”—and development with the Cast SDK only took about a month and a half, says Lawrence. But now his company finds itself stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for Google to give it the green light. 

PlayOn’s not the only one. Bitcasa, an online backup and storage service, thinks it has a hit on its hands: a way for users to stream their own media directly from Bitcasa online backups, regardless of file format. The company evaluated a variety of TV devices, and chose to support Chromecast because of its platform agnosticism. In other words, its openness.

“We think this is a more open platform,” Luke Behnke, Bitcasa’s director of product, told me last week. “It has a lot of future potential for wide adoption. Also it’s been very easy for us to integrate with … of course, only in a development environment at the moment.”

In other words, developers are flocking to Google’s perceived openness … only to find it’s currently closed off to most developers. 

Read the rest of Adriana’s post: Only VIPs Can Cross The Chromechasm


Simple.tv Plans Chromecast App and Joins DLNA for Video Casting

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) summarized his Simple.tv announces apps for Android and Chromecast, DLNA support article of 10/7/2013 for GigaOm as follows:

imageSimple.tv wants to get videos from its networked DVR onto more screens, which is why the startup is now embracing Chromecast and DLNA.

imageSimple.tv, the DVR for cord cutters, is working on apps for both Android and Chromecast, and is looking to add DLNA support to get on even more TV screens. Simple.tv announced the forthcoming apps in an email to users this weekend, which read in part:

image“Google recently released Chromecast and we’ve been working on native support that we plan to deliver once Google gives us the high-sign. We’re also a new member of DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) and are looking forward to working the DLNA devices as well. Our goal: if it plays video and connects to the Internet, we’ll be on it…”

DLNA is a widely adopted home networking standard that could enable Simple.tv to stream recordings as well as live TV streams to a PS3, Xbox360 and a number of connected TVs.

imageSimple.tv is selling a networked DVR that lets users record shows on a local hard drive, and then stream them to Roku devices, browsers and iPads within and outside of the home. The company recently announced its second-generation hardware, which is being manufactured by Silicondust. There’s no word yet on when the new hardware will go on sale, or how much it will cost.

Many PCSticks and TVBoxes support DLNA, either natively or with the aid of an add-in app, such as WiFiDisplay for iPush dongles (see New Miracast/DLNA/AirPlay Dongles Available from Deal Extreme Starting at US$25.90 Including Shipping.) 

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst.


Andrew Jones is Developing a Castaway App for Pictures and Videos

+Andrew Jones reported in a 10/5/2013 Google+ Chromecast community thread:

imageI’ve been working on an app called Castaway which will let you cast images and videos from your Android device. It will also let you stream videos from XBMC / Plex using BubbleUPnP. Hopefully the final SDK is released and whitelisting is removed soon!

For more information:


Hulu Plus Becomes First Added Chromecast Content Provider

Karan Nischol (@knischol), Hulu senior product manager, posted Cast Away: Hulu Plus on Chromecast to the Hulu Blog on 10/2/2013:

imageAt Hulu, we are always thinking of new ways to make watching TV a more delightful and convenient experience for our users. The Hulu Plus app on Chromecast does just that, and we are very excited to announce its arrival today.

Our teams in Santa Monica and Beijing, working closely with Google, have developed the Hulu Plus app for Chromecast to be a seamless experience that offers a new and exciting way to engage with the shows you love most.

imageFor owners of a Chromecast device, the Hulu Plus app on your phone or tablet makes it easy to control Hulu Plus on your TV. Just fire up the Hulu Plus app on your mobile device, connect to Chromecast and start watching. A simple tap on your mobile device screen allows you to scroll through and watch all your favorite TV shows.

imageThe core of the Chromecast solution on Hulu Plus is a custom remote control that has all the basic functionality of play/pause, along with the beloved :10 second rewind of the Hulu video player. You also have the option to enable captions or go straight to your favorite TV moment – like the exact moment of Mindy’s proposal on The Mindy Project – right from your mobile phone or tablet.

Leslie Knope said about waffles, “You can never have enough.” That’s how we feel about TV, which is why the Chromecast experience is designed to let you browse the Hulu Plus app simultaneously while you are casting a video on your TV. This means you could be tweeting Jimmy Kimmel’s twerk hoax or adding Doctor Who to your queue, all while watching Poehler Power right from the Hulu Plus app on Chromecast.

You can pair your Hulu Plus app at the top of your binging session and watch The Good Wife, or instantly cast the trailer of August: Osage County onto your TV when your friends come over for the Meryl Streep fan party. And, if you need to run out to fill up those popcorn bowls, we’ve made it really easy to pause your video right from the lock screen or notification tray on your Android device.

Now, it’s time for you to join the party, hide that TV remote and watch Hulu in style. Download the Hulu Plus app on your Android phones and tablets from the Google Play store and on your iPad from the App Store (iPhone experience is coming soon). [Emphasis and capture below added.]

image

We hope you enjoy Hulu Plus on Chromecast as much as we’ve enjoyed building it – we’ll be rolling the experience out throughout the day. Let us know what you think. Happy watching!

Google added a Hulu Plus clip to its Bigger Awesome … series on YouTube:

I expect other major content providers to follow Hulu’s lead. Watch for a demo with my Samsung S4 later today.

Thanks to +Dustin W. Stout for the heads up.

imageFrom the Egg on Face Department: Adriana Lee picked an inappropriate date to assert “The long wait for more streaming services on Google’s cheap little gadget is testing the patience of users” as a deck for her Chromecast, Two Months Later: Where Are All The Apps? post of 10/1/2013 to the ReadWrite (formerly ReadWriteWeb) blog.


GigaOm: Plex Plans Support for DIAL and Chromecast

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) asked “Looking to play local files with Google’s Chromecast streaming stick? Soon, Plex may be able to help you” in a deck for his Plex to add DIAL multiscreen support, could come to Chromecast soon article of 10/2/2013 for GigaOm:

imageThe popular media center app Plex may be one of the next apps to be made available to Chromecast users: The startup recently took first steps to support DIAL, the protocol that Chromecast is based on, which indicates that it is looking to take Chromecast-like functionality even beyond Google’s hardware.

Plex is a media center app that originated on the Mac, but has since found its way to iOS, Android and a number of connected TV platforms. It’s especially powerful for the playback of local files, which is a feature that has so far been missing from Chromecast.

imagePlex hasn’t officially announced support for Chromecast yet, but the company has left a number of clues that it is looking to embrace Google’s streaming stick. A Plex spokesperson told GigaOM back in July that his company was “actively investigating and optimistic” about Chromecast, and the Plex Twitter account acknowledged that this has been a frequently requested feature and that the company was “definitely interested in Chromecast.

imageNow, that interest may have turned into action. Plex recently registered its app name for the DIAL app registry. DIAL is the open protocol for multiscreen discovery and launch functionality that Chromecast is based on, but fully implementing DIAL isn’t a prerequisite for app publishers that want to be on Chromecast. Google developed its own media playback and control protocol that is layered on top of DIAL, allowing app makers to quickly add Chromecast support to their apps. (At least that’s the theory. In practice, Hulu Plus is the only additional app that was approved for Chromecast since the device launched in July.)

imageHowever, using DIAL will allow Plex not only to embrace Chromecast, but also add the same kind of multiscreen playback capabilities to other hardware. The latest generation of TiVO recorders supports DIAL, as do TVs from Vizio, Sony, LG and Panasonic. The latest hardware maker to announce DIAL support was Roku. Fully embracing DIAL could enable Plex to let its users fling local files from their Plex mobile app straight to any of these devices.

imageSo when will Plex come to Chromecast? The startup won’t comment, but we have heard that Google is looking to add a number of additional apps to Chromecast within the next few months.

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst.


Chromecast Demos Scheduled for WebRTC Conference and Expo in November

Phil Edholm (@PEdholm) discussed use by Chromecast of the WebRTC protocol in his Chromecast and WebRTC post of 8/1/2013 to the WebRTCWorld site (missed when published):

imageWith Chromecast out and shipping, I thought it would be interesting to talk about the implications for WebRTC apps. While most of the Chromecast discussions focus on streaming video and audio from the cloud, another key function of Chromecast is the ability to “mirror” your Chrome browser window into the television the Chromecast device is connected to. What is interesting is that this connection actually uses WebRTC to send the content to Chromecast.

While the entertainment options for Chromecast are obvious, the potential for other applications using WebRTC are significant. There appears to be three potential uses of Chromecast beyond entertainment:

  • With Chromecast plugged into the monitor of a room video system, any device using Chrome, can share web content with the room. Since Chrome has the ability to share the screen, this may work as well. Of course, the applications will have to come up with how to share to other rooms.
  • As the Chromecast device is WebRTC enabled, it seems that it should be possible to include it directly in a WebRTC- based conference as an “output participant”. In other words, the camera does not have to facilitate the monitor; it is just paired logically where the inbound video to a conference comes from the camera and the outbound goes directly to the monitor through Chromecast. This assumes that Chromecast cannot be the transmitter due to HDMI limitations in the reverse direction for video (there is a reverse audio channel in HDMI, but not video).

  • As the Chromecast device responds to WebRTC, it should be possible to build new WebRTC-based apps to use this capability for displays. For example, real-time adaptive advertising could use WebRTC to stream to a display based on other factors. Or potentially, the control of a display could be auctioned, and then content could be streamed to the display using Chromecast and WebRTC. The applications in healthcare could also be significant, as it becomes easy to grab the display in a patient room and stream WebRTC content to it. For example, a nurse could have a tablet and the doctor could be on a large display.

I fully expect to see some interesting demos in Santa Clara in November at WebRTC Conference and Expo using Chromecast.   We will have to have the capability to have a Chromecast device plugged into the video system to display those demos, but that is easy after all, to the AV folks it is just a HDMI input. Hope to see you there! [Emphasis added.]

There’s also a WebRTC Fundamentals Summit being held in conjunction with Sys-Con’s Cloud Computing Expo at the Santa Clara Convention center on November 6 and 7, 2013. Registration for this conference is free.

Alan Percy (@AlanDPercy) recommended “Don’t put a WebRTC client for Lync on your Christmas List for 2013” in a deck for his Is a WebRTC Lync Client in your Future? article of 6/29/2013 for the Telecom Reseller blog, which summarizes the earlier WebRTC Conference and Expo held in Atlanta:

imageI just wrapped up a three-day visit to WebRTC Conference and Expo held at Atlanta’s Cobb Galleria and organized by the effervescent  WebRTC promoter, Phil Edholm and his partner Chris Vitek with the TMC team providing event operations and logistics support.  A great technology event of learning and sharing by some of the early technology experts, adopters and vendors – The event included almost eight hours of demonstrations over two days – some were outstanding peeks at what is possible, while others were painful to watch as Murphy’s first law of demos invaded the stage and squirming presenters talked around technical SNAFUs.

WebRTC LogoThe simplest way to explain WebRTC is that it’s a web technology that would extend the native capabilities of web-browsers to allow them to offer voice, video and data sharing without separate client or plug-in software.  Example applications include collaboration systems (like Google Hangouts), distance learning, video contacts centers and more. Evolving under the IETF and W3C standards process, much of the technology leadership came from a team of developers at Google who have widely supported implementations in other browsers too.

imageWebRTC and Lync have the potential to offer a greatly-enhanced Lync user experience, initially making the web-based guest/visitor to Lync conference calls a seamless experience with full voice and video.  Like Outlook, Lync offers a web-based access, but with limited functionality that sufficient for the occasional user, quickly reminding you why the native client and mobile client software exists.  It would be easy to envision the Lync experience available to a wider range of users, browsers, tablets and room systems with WebRTC.

However, here’s the rub…Microsoft has all but given the WebRTC effort “the technical cold shoulder” -  with no visible participation in this week’s event and going on-record with significant disagreements of a range of technical issues from voice  and video codecs to call control, Microsoft is definitely not in alignment with Google (big surprise).  Here’s a good summary of where Google and Microsoft differ.

So, I would not put a WebRTC client for Lync on your Christmas list for 2013 – let’s hope that over this next six months the technical teams from Google and Microsoft can “meet in the middle” before the gap between Chrome and Internet Explorer becomes too great.

You can learn more on the web at:

Full disclosure: I have press credentials for the WebRTC Conference and Expo in Santa Clara. 


PlayOn Plans Chromecast Support via PC Intermediary

Brad Linder (@BradLinder) reported PlayOn demos method for Chromecast streaming Hulu, Amazon, more in a 9/20/2013 post to his Liliputing blog:

imageGoogle’s Chromecast is one of the cheapest devices you can buy that will let you stream internet video to your television. But right now there are only a handful of video sites that work with Chromecast, including Netflix, YouTube, and Google Play Videos.

imagePlayOn is showing off an upcoming feature that will let you stream video from Hulu, Amazon, HBO Go, and dozens of other sites… although there’s a catch.

PlayOn has been providing software that lets you send internet video to your TV for years, by leveraging a game console like an Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii. Now they’re adding support for Roku and Chromecast devices.

imageBut you’re not streaming the video straight from the internet to your TV. You’re routing it through a PC first. So while you can pull up the PlayOn app on your phone, find a video you want to watch, tap a button and have it appear on your TV thanks to a Chromecast (or other support device), you’ll need to run the PlayOn app on your Windows computer to grab the internet video, transcode it in real-time to a format that works with your Chromecast, and keep your PC running the whole time.

As workarounds go, it’s kind of nifty — because dozens of internet video sites that work on a PC can now work with a Chromecast (or Roku or Google TV device, etc). For example, you can stream Hulu video without paying $8 per month for a Hulu Plus subscription. Since you’re technically using your PC to watch the videos — which is something that Hulu lets you do for free, PlayOn says this falls under fair use.

But it’s also not quite as efficient as streaming directly from the internet to a Chromecast, since you still need a PC. You just don’t need to run an HDMI cable from your PC to your TV.

Right now PlayOn for Chromecast is still in the testing stages. It’s based on the pre-release Google Chrome SDK, which means that PlayOn can’t officially launch support until Google’s tools come out of beta.

Once it’s ready, you’ll be able to PlayOn with a Chromecast for the same price as the company’s existing service — which currently costs $7 per month, or $30 per year, with a lifetime subscription running $60.  The company also offers an app called PlayLater which lets you record internet video for watching later. Prices start at $9 per month for the PlayOn + PlayLater bundle, or $40 per year or $70 for a lifetime fee.

imageMediaMall Technologies’ PlayOn for Android and PlayOn for GoogleTV (@playontv) are free Android apps. However, they require the PlayOn Media Server, which costs the amounts shown in the paragraph above for PlayOn for Android and currently is free for PlayOn for GoogleTV. For more information, check MediaMall’s Web site. MediaMall also offers PlayLater, a DVR for online streaming content.


Thomas Hebb Releases Chromecast Utilities for Rooted Devices

Thomas Hebb posted [RELEASE] FlashCast: Quickly and easily mod your Chromecast to the XDA Developers site on 9/21/2013:

What is it?
FlashCast is a USB image that provides a standardized way to mod your Chromecast. Think of it like a recovery which runs off of a USB drive. No more struggling with the limitations of the GTVHacker image, which is hard to modify and can only flash the /system partition.

imageFlashCast is based on shell scripts, so it you can use it to do anything you can do with a root shell. It also comes with a comprehensive suite of helper functions, so many tasks actually become much easier than they would be using a regular shell.

How do I use it?

Preparation

Before you begin, you’ll need some materials:

  • A Chromecast with a vulnerable bootloader
  • The latest version of FlashCast (the download link is at the bottom of this post)
  • A USB drive (minimum size 128MB) which you are willing to have erased
  • A powered Micro-USB OTG cable

Installation

Once you’ve gathered everything required, you can install FlashCast to your USB drive. To do so, you need to write the .bin file contained in the FlashCast .zip file you’ve downloaded to your drive. Simply using a file explorer to drag the .bin file to your USB drive is not correct and will not work. The specifics of doing a low-level write differ depending on OS, but, in general, Linux and OS X users should use dd and Windows users should use Win32DiskImager. This operation will erase your flash drive.

After you’ve written the .bin file to your USB drive, your computer will no longer recognize a filesystem on it. This is normal. In order for FlashCast to set up the drive’s filesystem, you need to boot your Chromecast from the drive. To do this, perform the following steps:

  1. Connect the male end of your Micro-USB OTG cable to your Chromecast.
  2. Plug your USB drive into the USB-A female connector of the OTG cable.
  3. Simultaneously hold the button on your Chromecast and connect the Micro-USB power connector to the female Micro-USB port of the OTG cable.

The power must be connected last. If it is not, your Chromecast may fail to detect the USB drive and boot up normally. If this happens, simply repeat the process, making sure to perform the steps in the correct order.
If FlashCast was copied correctly, you will see a red light on your Chromecast for approximately 9 seconds. It will then turn white and your TV will display a screen containing the FlashCast logo (shown at the top of this post) and various instructions. This screen will appear for another 9 seconds or so, after which your Chromecast will reboot on its own to the stock image. After it has rebooted (you may disconnect the power when it starts to boot into the stock image if you’re worried about it updating), FlashCast is installed on your USB drive and ready for use. When you plug the drive into your computer, it should appear as an empty drive which you can copy files to.

Usage
FlashCast-compatible mods are distributed as .zip files. To flash a mod, simply copy it to the USB drive with the name eureka_image.zip. Do NOT use dd as you did in the previous section. If you do, you will have to repeat the whole process. Instead, just copy it onto the drive’s filesystem as you would any other file. FlashCast is also capable of flashing a GTVHacker-style raw system image; if there are no native FlashCast mods present and the system image is in a file called Chromecast-Rooted-System-GTVHacker-cj_000-July27-635PM.bin, it will be flashed. This method of flashing is very inflexible and is not recommended.

How do I develop for it?

If you are interested in creating mods for FlashCast, please see the developer thread.

Where do I get it?
Downloads and source code are available at FlashCast’s GitHub repository. The latest version is currently v1.0.

Obviously, this group of utilities isn’t for the faint of heart and only a few Chromecast users will have virgin devices that haven’t been updated.


OneGeekOneTool Releases a Chromecast Emulator for Windows Media Center

OneGeekOneTool described Media Center Cast as “Chromecast for your PC” in a 9/19/2013 message to Google+’s Chromecast Hack’s community:

Just to let you guys know, we have made a #ChromeCast emulator for Windows Media Center that supports also supports #Chrome tab casting! Have a look!

From the Website:

Enjoy the ChromeCast benefits… without changing your TV inputs!

What’s this? (AKA Product description)

Something fresh for Windows Media Center has arrived!

Media Center Cast allows you to watch online content on your HTPC without sacrificing your Windows Media Center experience. When running Media Center Cast, your TV is transformed into a handled-device-controlled-display. As soon as Media Center Cast is launched, you can start “casting” online content from any ChromeCast-enabled app installed on your phone or tablet.

Is it complicated to use? Nope! Run the installer, launch Windows Media Center and select Media Center Cast. When it opens, your phone’s YouTube app will automatically discover your HTPC… it’s then time to start casting! Done with the casting? Use your remote control and press the back button twice to return to your favourite media center interface.

By the way, the YouTube app responds incredibly well to WMC remote controls… a real bless!

Anxious to give it a try? Press the download button, install, run and impress your friends with your new powers!

Do you have more questions? Have a look at the FAQ!

Do you have even more questions? Visit our forum!

Your contribution is highly appreciated

The software is only 10$… not much for the comfort and usefulness it brings to your TV!  Please keep in mind that we spent time improving and tuning this product to make it as easy and as accessible as it is now. Your contribution is very important to us. If you decide not to buy a license, send us an email and tell us what you expected and what should be improved.

DownloadNow

Note: AFAIK, “Chromecast” is a Google trademark, it is not a registered trademark (®), and “ChromeCast” is neither.

Andreas Bratfisch (a.k.a. Duskman72) reported on 9/19/2013:

Just tested… works as expected and described on the web page.


Gerwin Sturm Releases Source Code for His Photo Slideshow Chromecast App

Gerwin Sturm (@Scarygami) updated his Photo Slideshow for Chromecast message to Google+’s Chromecast community on 9/18/2013 by reporting “Source code is now online.”

imageVery easy implementation, but I don’t think anyone has done this so far.

  1. Sign-in on Chrome sender.
  2. Connect to receiver.
  3. Select album from your own Picasa/Google+ albums.
  4. Photos are fetched on the Receiver side and displayed as a slideshow.

Source-code to be released soon.

Planned improvements: “Remote” controls for the slideshow, starting, stopping, changing speed, manually switching between photos.

This would be even nicer with an Android/iOS Sender, but my Android dev skills are a little bit rusty, so maybe someone else wants to work on the Sender side once I released my code. Receiver side should be able to work with either sender as long as it receives the correct messages.

Edit: Source code now online: https://github.com/Scarygami/chromecast_experiments

Gerwin’s message includes a video of his app in action.


Will Google’s Chrome Apps “for Your [Windows PC] Desktop” include Chromecast?

Kevin C. Tofel (@KevinCTofel) asserted “Surprised that Google has launched apps “For your desktop” on Windows? You shouldn’t be. This strategy has been unfolding for months as Google is looking to boost engagement through its Chrome platform on Windows, Mac and Linux desktops” in a summary of his Google’s strategy to take over computing continues: Chrome apps “For your desktop” article of 9/5/2013 for GigaOm:

imageOn the official 5th birthday of Google’s Chrome browser, Google introduced Chrome apps for Windows desktop users. The new “For your desktop” section of the Chrome Web Store launched on Thursday and offers applications that run outside of the browser as well as offline on Windows computers that have the Chrome browser installed. Support for Mac and Linux is in the works.

imageIf you’ve been following our Chrome coverage — or listening to our weekly Chrome Show podcast — this shouldn’t surprise. For the past several months, we’ve noted that Google’s long-term computing strategy has a name and that name is Chrome. This particular podcast episode gets to the heart of the matter:

Listen to the ChromeShow. 

imageWhat appears to many to be just a browser is actually a framework for applications built both on web technologies and native programming languages. Google has been calling these Packaged Apps and Native Apps respectively, but now it looks as though they’re being rebranded as apps “For your desktop.” In an email, a Google representative confirmed, saying: “These are actually known as packaged apps to developers… Chrome Apps can use Native Client, but don’t necessarily need to use it.”

And folks like me who use a Chromebook have already been using these types of apps. It’s only now that Google is making a concerted branding effort to get Windows users on board.

Chrome App Launcher Mac

So what can these apps do? Quite a bit of what a native Windows app can do. They have access to device hardware such as the webcam and microphone, they work offline and they support notifications, for example. After using dozens of these such apps on my Pixel, I simply use them as examples when people say Chrome OS is just a browser: These look and behave like traditional native applications. Take a peek at this video demo of a game on my Pixel that works offline and supports a USB-connected Xbox 360 controller:

That’s just one example. Here’s a full list of capabilities from Google’s blog post on the topic:

  • Work offline: Keep working or playing, even when you don’t have an internet connection.
  • More app, less Chrome: No tabs, buttons or text boxes mean you can get into the app without being distracted by the rest of the web.
  • Connect to the cloud: Access and save the documents, photos and videos on your hard drive as well as on Google Drive and other web services.
  • Stay up-to-speed: With desktop notifications, you can get reminders, updates and even take action, right from the notification center.
  • Play nice with your connected devices: Interact with your USB, Bluetooth and other devices connected to your desktop, including digital cameras.
  • Keep updated automatically: Apps update silently, so you always get all the latest features and security fixes (unless permissions change).
  • Pick up where you left off: Chrome syncs your apps to any desktop device you sign in to, so you can keep working.
  • Sleep easier: Chrome apps take advantage of Chrome’s built-in security features such as Sandboxing. They also auto-update to make sure you have all the latest security fixes. No extra software (or worrying) required.
  • Launch apps directly from your desktop: To make it quicker and easier to get to your favorite apps, we’re also introducing the Chrome App Launcher for Windows, which will appear when you install your first new Chrome App. It lives in your taskbar and launches your apps into their own windows, outside of Chrome, just like your desktop apps. Have lots of apps? Navigate to your favorite apps using the search box.

That last bullet is one we’ve been pointing out over the past several months. Yes, Windows has its own app launcher, but by building one into Chrome, you can see how Google is trying to “take over” the desktop. It hopes you’ll simply run and stay in the Chrome environment more than Windows. And this new breed of applications, along with an easy place to find them in the Chrome Web Store, makes it easy to do so.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see a Chrome App appear soon to solve Chromecast’s poor performance when casting local video content from a Chrome browser.

See also MSFT: Google adds local app support to Chrome, looks to challenge Windows from Seeking Alpha’s Market Currents blog.

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst.


Andreas Bratfisch is Developing a Chromecast Device Emulator with a REST API

Andreas Bratfisch (a.k.a. Duskman72) reported Wow, my emulator is found by the #Chromecast setup tool on 9/19/2013:

Andreas Bratfisch (a.k.a. Duskman72) posted Just a step closer to emulate a real Chromecast device as a message to Google’s Chromecast Hacks Community on 9/5/2013:

imageEven if the real Chromecast device is found by the UPnP protocol spec, the HTTP port of the device must be always 8008 – other ports don’t work: the URL given in the LOCATION header is always found and called, but after that nothing happens – seems, the HTTP port is hard coded.

I found this out by trying to find my emulator with the google Chromecast setup tool (running on windows), which is now calling the url http://IP_ADDRESS:8008/setup/eureka_info on my emulator.

I respond with a HTTP/1.1 200 OK and the desired JSON string, but need some playing here to find, what is needed: tried to change some variables like the WIFI SSID, disable/enable some things but something is missing.

All other is working on my coded emulator: full UPnP support, full REST support (the HTTP part) … YouTube is working as expected, we can start and kill the app on the emulator …  if all is going on as until now, i think we can have a nice thing doing what WE want – wish me luck.

I’m using the QT framework with a WebView and it’s working … at least i can call,stop the YouTube app and can play movies selected on my phone :) curently, i have the big issue – device cant be found by google music, google play movies and the chrome browser extension shows me a error from the web page app – “No receiver id” sent … the extension doesnt send a ID but th senderId? [Links added.]

This url is sent by my REST server: https://www.gstatic.com/cv/receiver1.html?{“channel”:0,”senderId”:{“appName”:”ChromeCast”,”senderId”:”jm97bn46z2et”}} and i get this answer from the page:
No receiver version number specified; try updating the CV extension in your browser.

Updated 9/6/2013 with Some good news:

My ChromeCast emulator is now found by the Chrome Browser extension in the configuration page. I found out a simple HTTP header when asked for the app on the “server”: we have to answer with the HTTP “Access-Control-Allow-Origin” header … seems, Google checks that header in their API’s :D … but … when sent too often, nothing is working – do we have different API request implementation steps in the apps???

Updated 9/8/2013 with this post to the Chromecast Hacks community:

Here are some nice debug messages from the websocket used on my ChromeCast emulator’s QT5 QWebView from the Android YouTube app …  App is already working, but lacks of controls in the app – currently I’m working on the websocket to get more things to work :)
BTW: I think we don’t need a Chrome window from a installed browser, seems things are working on more WebKit platforms :D
Loading app width URL  “https://www.youtube.com/tv?pairingCode=24378327-e088-4af0-8638-9476a2553b96&v=&t=0″
ChromePage:  “[  0.002s] [cast.receiver.ChannelHandler] New channel factory added: YouTube to heartbeatChannelHandler”
ChromePage:  “[  0.003s] [cast.receiver.ChannelHandler] New channel factory added: ramp:YouTube to ramp”
ChromePage:  “[  0.003s] [cast.receiver.ConnectionService] Open connection service websocket: url=ws://localhost:8008/connection”
ChromePage:  “[  0.003s] [goog.net.WebSocket] Opening the WebSocket on ws://localhost:8008/connection”
ChromePage:  “[  0.004s] [cast.receiver.Receiver] Receiver started.”
ChromePage:  “[  1.013s] [goog.net.WebSocket] WebSocket opened on ws://localhost:8008/connection”
ChromePage:  “[  1.015s] [cast.receiver.ConnectionService] Got event: d”
Flags:  ï
ChromePage:  “[  1.030s] [goog.net.WebSocket] WebSocket opened on ws://localhost:8008/system/control”
ChromePage:  “[  1.031s] [cast.receiver.ChannelOverWebSocket] Dispatch OPEN event to ws://localhost:8008/system/control”
ChromePage:  “[  1.031s] [cast.receiver.Channel] Dispatch OPEN event to ws://localhost:8008/system/control”
ChromePage:  “[  1.032s] [cast.receiver.Platform] Platform channel is open: ws://localhost:8008/system/control”


Bubblesoft Makes Cast to UPnP/DLNA for GMusic App Available from the Google Play Store

From Bubblesoft’s Cast To UPnP/DLNA for GMusic app’s description for its Play Store entry:

Did you ever want to play your Google Play Music to your UPnP / DLNA devices connected to your speakers ?

image

imageWith Cast To UPnP/DLNA for GMusic, enjoy streaming your cloud Google Music uploaded by yourself and from the All Access subscription (including Radio) to: XBMC, DLNA TVs, PCs, WDTV Live, Xbox 360, Sonos, Android (with BubbleUPnP), various hifi gear from Denon, Pioneer, Onkyo, and many many more. *** The PS3 is NOT supported as it is not controllable ***.

You may even have an UPnP / DLNA device to play to on your network without knowing it!

Playing music is as simple as selecting your favorite UPnP / DLNA device in the Google Play Music app Chromecast menu, and using the Google Play Music app for control.

FEATURES:

  • Emulates UPnP / DLNA devices as Chromecast devices that can be selected as devices to play to in Google Play Music’s Chromecast menu
  • Can run on any Android device on the network (eg not necessarily the device on which Google Play Music is running)
  • Can handle several Google Play Music instances running on different Android devices, playing to different UPnP / DLNA devices

Streaming is limited to 20 minutes per app launch. This limitation can be removed by purchasing the unlocker within the app.

NOTE: Cast To UPnP/DLNA for GMusic only works with Google Play Music and only with cloud music (no local files).

I’d like the same or a similar app to handle my Pandora and Spotify playlists.


Leon Nicholls Adds a REST API to his Caster Command-Line Chromecast App

Leon Nicholls (@entertailion) posted a Chromecast REST API message to Google+’s Chromecast Community on 9/4/2013:

imageI’ve updated my Caster command-line application to support a REST API for Chromecast devices.

The REST API supports the following operations:

  • imageGet a list of Chromecast devices
  • Play a stream from the internet
  • Play a local media file
  • Transcode a local media file
  • Play/pause/stop playback
  • Get current playback time, duration and state

The Caster command-line app is open sourced: https://github.com/entertailion/Caster


Koush’s Meeting with Google: Heap Big Smoke; No Fire

Koushik Dutta (@Koush) reported on his 8/31/2013 Lunch with the Chromecast Team in a 9/1/2013 message to Google+’s Chromecast Development community:

imageThere’s really nothing to report, so I didn’t really want to write this post, but people keep pestering me about it.
The lunch with the Chromecast team went as expected. I met with two engineers from the Chromecast WebSDK team and the developer relations. They were all happy that I had been building stuff on top of their platform. As engineers, we love it when other engineers play with the toys we create.

They were curious what I thought about the SDK, as it all came together at the buzzer right before launch. They asked whether I had more ideas for it, and were curious how I had accomplished certain things (like the HTTP server in Chrome). We shared what
our “wow” moments when using the Chromecast.

They claimed that the reason for the whitelist was so that they can provide a positive user experience as the SDK changes and matures. I pointed out that Google has released beta SDKs for Android and Chrome, without a whitelist, and both of those products have grown to have billions of users. I voiced my skepticism, given that this behavior is more consistent with the Google TV program, which has been invite-only to date.

They later went on to say that they wanted to remove the whitelist, and have a “lightweight approval process” for Chromecast apps (which sounds awful lot like a whitelist). I chuckled as it seemed a bit contradictory, but didn’t push further. No real timeline given on when anything would change, besides a “few months”.

Most of my pointed questions were understandably met with “we can’t answer that”. I joked about which manufacturers they are partnering with to ship Chromecast enabled TVs in Q4; no comment.

The general sentiment from the three engineers is essentially what  was reflected in the statement to The Verge:
“We’re excited to bring more content to Chromecast and would like to support all types of apps, including those for local content.”

Really read that. That’s not a commitment of any sort. And it doesn’t alleviate my concerns about who would be able to build that. Google, a Google partner, or any indie developer?

Of course, as engineers, we would like to have as many people using our stuff as possible. And I would like a pony for my birthday tomorrow. But engineers do not drive business decisions. And I completely understand why Chromecast would not be an open platform, and that Google needs to posture in such a way to grant themselves the maximum flexibility in the future.

I don’t want this post to read as if there was any animosity- there isn’t. I had a great time while there, and was taken on a tour of Google Fremont. The conversation spanned several topics (outside the whitelist issue), and it was basically just a bunch of software engineers hanging out.

Update 9/21/2013: Cyanogen, Inc.’s Team page says Koush is CyanogenMod’s VP of Engineering. Kim-Mai Cutler reported Cyanogen Mod Raises $7M To Find A Direct-To-Consumer Route For Android Firmware in a 9/18/2013 TechCrunch article.


Leon Nicholls Demos a WebCam App with Chromecast

Leon Nicholls (@entertailion) posted a ChromeCast WebCam message to Google+’s Chromecast community on 8/31/2013:

imageThis is a demo on how to beam the video from the camera on your mobile device to a ChromeCast device.

I’m using an app called IP Webcam to stream the video of the camera from my smartphone: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pas.webcam

I’ve developed a ChromeCast app which connects to that video stream on my smartphone. The IP Webcam app generates the video in a format called Motion JPEG (MJPEG) which consists of a stream of JPEG images.

The HTML video tag on a ChromeCast device does not support MJPEG, but the image tag does. So all you have to do is point the source attribute of the image tag to the video URL of the server on the smartphone.

The frame rate isn’t great and there is a lag, but its still quite a good experience and an interesting opportunity for developers.


Chromecast Support Reportedly Coming to Plex and aVia Media Players

Derek Ross (@derekmross) reported Plex and aVia media players to get Chromecast support, will bring playback of media stored on your network on 8/28/2013:

imageI’ve learned that team members from both Plex and aVia are at Google right now, working with the Chromecast team. The Plex app will get casting ability from a Plex Media Server and the aVia app will be able to cast content from a  DLNA server. [Emphasis Derek’s.]

Don’t get your hopes up for a release in the very near future. It looks like we’re still a while away from a public release and we’ll have to wait until later this fall.


New Google Update Enables iPhones and iPads to Set Up Chromecast

Whitson Gordon (@WhitsonGordon) reported Google Launches Chromecast for iOS for New Chromecast Setup in an 8/27/2013 post to the LifeHacker blog:

imageiPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users could always stream Netflix and YouTube to Chromecast devices, but now they can set up new Chromecasts as well with the new Chromecast for iOS.

imageThe app scans for existing Chromecasts and helps you set up new ones, which is handy if you don’t have an Android device around.

Chromecast may not be super useful yet since we’re still waiting on third party app support, but we still think it’s a solid device for $35, and now iOS users have it a little bit easier thanks to this settings app. …


The Verge Reports in an Update Direct-Casting Local Video Content Might be a Future Possibility

Chris Welch’s (@chriswelch) Google blocks Chromecast app that let you stream your own videos (update) of 8/26/2013 describes Google’s response to the outrage over blocking Koushik Dutta’s AllCast/AirCast app:

imageUpdate: Google has responded to our request for comment, and any fears that the company may bar playback of local media appear to be unfounded. “We’re excited to bring more content to Chromecast and would like to support all types of apps, including those for local content,” a spokesperson tells The Verge. Google notes that its Google Cast SDK is still in “early days” and may change significantly before an official release reaches developers.

imageGoogle says it aims “to provide a great experience for users and developers before making the SDK and additional apps more broadly available.” Dutta has admitted that he reverse engineered the Google Cast protocol to make AllCast possible, but it seems he may have another chance to do things the proper way once a full-fledged SDK arrives. The company’s full statement is below.

We’re excited to bring more content to Chromecast and would like to support all types of apps, including those for local content. It’s still early days for the Google Cast SDK, which we just released in developer preview for early development and testing only. We expect that the SDK will continue to change before we launch out of developer preview, and want to provide a great experience for users and developers before making the SDK and additional apps more broadly available.

Google could engender favor, if not excitement, among developers by reinstating support for ‘video_playback’ immediately.

Joshua Brustein (@joshuabrustein) piled on with a similar Google Reels In Its Latest Internet-TV Device story on 8/26/2013 for Bloomberg BusinessWeek.


Koush Releases AllCast Beta 4 with “Probably Won’t Work” Caveat

Koushik Dutta (@Koush) posted an AllCast Beta 4 message to Google+’s Chromecast community on 8/25/2013:

imageHeads up. Google’s latest Chromecast update intentionally breaks AllCast. They disabled ‘video_playback’ support from the ChromeCast application.

Given that this is the second time they’ve purposefully removed/disabled[1] the ability to play media from external sources, it confirms some of my suspicions that I have had about the Chromecast developer program:

  • The policy seems to be a heavy handed approach, where only approved content will be played through the device.
  • The Chromecast will probably not be indie developer friendly.
  • The Google TV team is only prepared [to deal] with media companies.

I’d strongly suggest holding off on buying a Chromecast until we can see how Google chooses to move forward on third party applications. There are also other (open) platforms and stacks that one could buy/support as well. (LeapCast, NodeCast, etc.)

Here’s the apk, but please note it probably won’t work.
http://download.clockworkmod.com/test/Cast.apk

[1] There used to be a sample app that provided similar functionality.

This appears to me as if Google is intentionally “doing evil.” Attempts to restrict third-party Chromecast apps will encourage production of competitive devices and fragment the market. Rampant megalomania doesn’t pay dividends in these days of open software, systems, and devices.

imageChris Welch (@chriswelch) comments on the issue in his Google blocks Chromecast app that let you stream your own videos post for The Verge, Brad Linder (@BradLinder) rings in with Google kills support for streaming local videos to Chromecast (kinda) for Liliputing, Robert Nazarian (@RobNazarian) opines It’s unlikely the Chromecast will ever support local or networked music and video for Talk Android, and Jerry Hildebrand asserts “Google has plans for the Chromecast, and they may not be the same as yours” in a deck for his What the Chromecast is – and isn’t post to AndroidCentral, all on 8/25/2013.


Robert Nazarian reports Chromecast Build 12940 and SDK Preview 1.0.1 Updates

Robert Nazarian (@RobNazarian) posted Chromecast gets updated to build 12940, Google Cast SDK preview to version 1.0.1 to the TalkAndroid Web site on 8/21/2013:

imageGoogle is sending out its second update to the Chromecast. It’s build 12940 and will be rolled out in stages. Just like the last update, you don’t have to do anything to initiate it, it will happen when it happens. This build includes better discovery of Chromecast devices and improved stability for Google Play Movies.

imageAdditionally, the Google Cast SDK preview has been updated to version 1.0.1. It’s a bug fix update with one key developer facing change for iOS–’namespace’ renamed to ‘protocolNamespace’ to allow Objective-C++ development. Unfortunately, it’s still in “Preview” mode so all apps created with this SDK are only intended for testing and can only be used with whitelisted Chromecasts.


Koush Releases AirCast Beta 3 and Explains Cause of Video Stuttering

Koushik Dutta (@Koush) posted an Aircast Beta 3 message to Google+’s Chromecast community during the early morning of 8/22/2013:

http://download.clockworkmod.com/test/AirCast3.apk

imageChanges:

  1. Fix bug where controls would disconnect.
  2. Add support for more stock galleries.
  3. Fix crashes.
  4. Detect and warn if the the local network is too slow to play back a high bitrate video from the gallery.
  5. Allow setting of the default device, so you don’t need to select it over and over.

He also wrote AirCast Stuttering Solved (with math) shortly before the above:

imageThis seems really obvious in retrospect.

The typical wireless network has a theoretical maximum of 54Mb/s. My HTC One says I get 65Mb/s on 802.11n.

I have a 15 second video that stutters fairly consistently. It’s 32MB.
32 / 15 = 2.1MB/s

But the sender and receiver are on the same network, so I am guessing that I need to double the throughput to get what network is actually seeing:

  • 2.1MB/s * 2 = 4.2MB/s
  • 4.2MB/s * 8 (bits per byte) = 33.6 Mbps

But 33.6 Mbps is still less than my 65Mbps throughput…

The catch: the more SSID/networks you are sharing the spectrum with, the worse your actual throughput is. Your throughput will vary as other wireless users in the area utilize the spectrum. As I live downtown, I can pop open my wireless access point list, and see a dozen within my immediate vicinity. (Read through the comments for more insightful reasons why throughput suffers.) So I switched my wifi access point to a couple other random channels, and the stuttering stopped. Derp.

Though this really isn’t a solution, as bitrate on 1080p videos can burst well past what a wireless network can sustain, even if it is vacant.

Stay tuned to see how Beta 3 solved my problem with casting local files reported in the below article.


Review of Koush’s AirCast App with DropBox and Local MP4/H.264 Videos

My original Review of Koushik Dutta’s AllCast App with a Google Nexus 7 Tablet article of 8/19/2013 reported success with streaming a 1080p file from Dropbox but not from an MP4/H.264 file local to the Nexus.

Update 8/22/2013: Part of the problem with the original review was that I didn’t use Android’s Gallery app to attempt to play the video. When I did this, the app froze when attempting to start the video. I’ve updated this review with the corrected procedure. Koush’s AirCast beta v3-1 solved this problem (and updated the app name.)



Leon Nicholls Posts Open Source Code for his Fling Local Media Casting App

Leon Nicholls (@entertailion) posted a ChromeCast Local Media Playback for Everybody message to Google+’s Chromecast community on 8/18/2013:

imageNow anybody can play local media directly from their computers to their ChromeCast device. No browser required.

I’ve released an updated version of my Fling application: http://goo.gl/HAc9ex

The application is written in Java and should run on any OS, just install a JRE: http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/javase/downloads/index.html

The app has experimental support for transcoding of media formats not supported by the ChromeCast. You need to have the latest version of VLC installed for transcoding (preferably 64-bit).
ChromeCast devices has at minimum support for these media formats: https://developers.google.com/cast/supported_media_types

The previous version could only be used by ChromeCast developers, but this version can be used by the public.

The code for the app is open-sourced: https://github.com/entertailion/Fling

This app does not use the official Google Cast SDK.


Koushik Dutta Releases His AirCast App for Testing

Kellex reported Koush Releases AirCast App for Testing, Share Videos From Dropbox or Gallery to Chromecast in an 8/18/2013 post to the DroidLife blog:

imageKoush [@koush]– of ClockworkMod, ROM Manager, and Helium (to name a few) fame – took to Google+ this morning to share his first Chromecast app called AirCast. The app allows you to share videos that are locally stored on your Gallery, in Dropbox, or on Google Drive with a Chromecast device attached to TV. He claims that after a couple of hours of “reverse engineering” the Chromecast protocols, he was able to get around the currently in-place whitelist restrictions for Google’s new HDMI streaming dongle to create his latest piece of work.

imageThe app is currently available for free for testing purposes. This first apk that can be downloaded will “self destruct” in two days. (Download Link)

Edit:  He has now changed the name to AirCast.

To use it, simply install on any Android device. Then open your Gallery (or Dropbox or Google Drive), locate a video you’d like to play, tap the Share button, and select AllCast. A pop-up will then let you decide which Chromecast (if you have more than one) you’d like to play the media through. Your video should start playing immediately. On-screen controls will appear, plus you can always access the currently playing video through a notification.

As you know, he’s been working all sorts of Chromecast angles, all while posting his success to Google+. And for this industry, having Koush focus this much time and energy into something can only be a good thing. If you test AirCast, be sure to stop off at the G+ thread below to point out errors or provide feedback.

Via+Koush

Updated 8/25/2013: Koush’s earlier appname name was AllCast, a Samsung Trademark for its a term occasionally used in references to Samsung’s AllShare device, a proprietary Miracast look-alike.

Viewphone.com LLC filed for registration of ALLCAST as a word mark for “Telecommunications and broadcast communication services, namely, transmission and streaming of audio, visual and audio-visual content via computer networks, communication networks and the global information network,” inter allia, on 7/6/2013. The USPTO published ALLCAST for opposition on 6/11/2013 in the Communications Services, Personal & Legal & Social Services category.

LegalForce’s Trademarkia trademark search service doesn’t show a registration for AirCast in a similar category, but Michael Linhardt registered an AirCast Mobile service mark on 8/21/2013. Linhardt claimed to be “the owner of the trademark AirCast” in the following message of 8/22/2013 to Koush:

image

I am not a lawyer, but I agree with Koush that Linhardt’s claim to own the “AirCast” trademark is specious. Further, “AirCast Mobile” is registered as a servicemark, not a trademark. Other AIRCAST trademark registrations are in categories unrelated to streaming audio and video transmission.

Stay tuned for my review after I install AirCast to my Android devices and upload some MP4/H.264 video content to Dropbox and Google Drive. See my later Review of Koush’s AirCast App with DropBox and Local MP4/H.264 Videos and Koush Releases AirCast Beta 3 and Explains Cause of Video Stuttering articles.


Leon Nicholls Controls Chromecasting with an App for Kinect

Jon Fingas (@jonfingas) described how a Homebrew Kinect app steers Chromecast streams through gestures (video) in an 8/18/2013 post to Engadget:

Homemade app uses Kinect to steer Chromecast streams video

Chromecast may deliver on promises of sending wire-free video to TVs, but it’s not hands-free — or at least, it wasn’t. Leon Nicholls has unveiled a homemade Kinect app for the desktop that gives him gesture-based control of videos playing through Google’s streaming stick. While there’s just two commands at this point, Nicholls hopes to open-source the code in the near future; this isn’t the end of the road. If you can’t wait that long, though, there’s a quick demonstration available after the break.


Bitcasa Promises Chromecast Steaming Audio/Video Support Added 8/18/2013

Andrew Kameka reported Bitcasa will soon add Chromecast and enable your entire media collection to be streamed to a television in an 8/16/2013 post to the MobilBurn blog:

imageBitcasa [@Bitcasa] has wanted to find a way to make its cloud-storage service available on televisions but it has so far been limited to supporting AirPlay on iOS devices. The company will soon extend support to Android thanks to the inclusion of Chromecast for streaming video, music, and photos to a television. Bitcasa has confirmed to MobileBurn.com that it will soon release a version of its Android and iOS apps that support Chromecast. [Twitter handle and icon added.]

imageBitcasa offers unlimited cloud storage for $99 per year, and the service is designed to support streaming cloud-based content as well as backing-up the files. While Chromecast has so far been limited to streaming from Netflix, Google, and other online streaming services, Bitcasa will introduce a method for members to stream their entire media collections to the television using Android, iOS, or the web. I recently spoke with Bitcasa Product Manager Luke Behnke, who said:

“We’ve been looking to get into the TV market for a while now. We were deciding which platform to go to because there’s so much fragmentation between Apple TV, Roku, Samsung Smart TV, and Google TV. Chromecast seems to be a natural entrance for us given the kind of excitement it’s been garnering already and just the price point for people to start using it.”

The early wave of positive reviews and retailers selling out of their Chromecast stock convinced Bitcasa to adopt Google’s streaming solution. The company plans to support both Android and iOS. On iOS devices, AirPlay will continue to be a streaming option. Behnke explains that Bitcasa hasn’t finalized its iOS app yet, but the current plan is to detect whether a Chromecast or Apple TV is present and then have the UI display whichever button fits the user’s streaming setup. In the event that someone has both, users would be able to choose.

The goal is to have Chromecast-enabled versions of Bitcasa for Android and the web at some point in September. Pinpointing the exact date is difficult because Bitcasa is also upgrading the video transcoding system used to stream video clips. The final product should be a boon to Chromecast and regular subscribers because it will improve speed, resolution, video format compatibility, and seekability.

The decision to position itself as a cloud streamer could potentially make Bitcasa appealing to Chromecast users and others in need of online storage. Behnke wrapped-up a conversation by saying:

“Our product was built with streaming from the cloud in mind…whether it be a movie or music, or just streaming your photos and documents to you from our servers. For us, I think supporting Chromecast helps prove [we are different]. Some of our competitors are very good at file storage but you don’t necessarily go store all of your media, all of your music, and all of your videos with them. The cost might be prohibitive and they’re not really associated with that. We’re kind of hoping that Bitcasa will be associated with the place to store all of your media.


Shifty Jelly Plans Chromcast Support for Pocket Casts App

Update 9/12/2013: Richard Devine reported Pocket Casts will be getting Chromecast support in the future in an 8/30/2013 post to the Android Central site:

imageJust as soon as Google will allow, we can have it

Pocket Casts by Shifty Jelly is one of our absolute favorite podcast apps for Android, and it turns out that it’ll be getting support for one of our new favorite devices. Just as soon as Google allows it. We’re of course talking about the Chromecast, and the good folks at Ausdroid have popped along to the Shifty Jelly offices to get a brief look at it in action. 

The issue isn’t that they don’t want us to have it, but that Google is currently forbidding the release of any third-party apps supporting Chromecast while some final details are finished off. But Pocket Casts works just fine with it, as the short video after the break shows. What better way to listen to the best damn Android podcast in the world than on your big screen TV?

As I noted in a comment to the above post, Google “strongly recommends” not releasing but doesn’t prohibit third-party apps.

Andrew Kameka asserted Pocket Casts developers plan to support Chromecast for Android, and announce new iOS 7 features in an 8/13/2013 post to the MobileBurn blog:

imageShifty Jelly’s Pocket Casts is one of the better podcasting apps available for Android since a massive update several months ago introduced an all-new interface and capabilities. Those features will soon come to Chromecast, and other upgrades will make their way to the Pocket Casts iOS app.

imagePocket Casts for iOS will not support Chromecast yet, but it will gain several upgrades. Pocket Casts will add a completely redesigned interface based on the iOS 7 UI that Apple previewed earlier this year. The design will modernize the app, place an emphasis on large thumbnails and better navigation, and include support for iPads. It will also support automatic downloads of podcast episodes and the ability to filter through a list; in other words, users will be able to see a list of new video podcasts or a list of downloaded podcasts that were partially listened to but never finished.

The most intriguing feature is the introduction of Sync, which creates a cloud-based back-up of not only the list of podcasts that users subscribe to, but also maintains a save state of the last listening position. Someone can listen to a podcast on an iPhone, pause and then switch to an iPad, or even switch to an Android device and still have the position bookmarked in each podcast episode.

Android users will also be pleased to know that Pocket Casts plans to support Google’s Chromecast soon. I recently contacted Shifty Jelly to find out the company’s plans for the media streaming dongle and Co-founder Russell Ivanovic sent the following statement:

“We’re planning to support it as long as it works ok in our testing. We’ve ordered two ChromeCast sticks and are just waiting for them to arrive. That’s for our Android app; if there’s demand from iOS users we’ll add it to iOS too.”


Third-Party Chromecast Support Spreadsheet as of 8/18/2013

Here’s the latest Chromecast Support spreadsheet from Google+’s Chromecast community with 29 entries, less the URL column:

ChromcastSupportSpreadsheet20130818


Promoters of Forthcoming Lima (nee Plug) USB-NAS Dongle Plan to Support Chromecast

The GCC Team posted Update #5 – A Surprise for You to their dramatically oversubscribed Lima (née Plug) Kickstarter project on 8/15/2013:

Thanks a lot for all the support you’ve shown us since the last update! It really warms the heart to see how much people joined in to make Lima a reality.

We’re working day and night on polishing the product and on planning the production of the device. And… we’ve decided to make you a little surprise!


Lima gets compatible with Google Chromecast

Do you know Google Chromecast? 

It’s a small device engineered by Google, which enables you to stream any content on your TV, directly from your phone & tablet.

We’ve felt in love with the device. It totally fits with what we like in Lima: it’s a small and affordable product dedicated to making your life easier. So we decided to make them work together.

Using the Lima app on your smartphone or tablet, you’ll now be able to stream any movie, music or photo album to Chromecast.
We’ll make it as easy as the push of a button.

Lima was already compatible with connected TVs and set-top boxes. Now with Chromecast, it’s also compatible with any TV having a HDMI port.

You can now start a movie on your tablet, press the Chromecast button in our app, and continue watching it on your TV. Or you can show pictures to your family in the living room, and control the slideshow with your mobile phone.

We are thrilled to join Google in its efforts to make your TV experience more easy. Chromecast was already awesome to watch content from Netflix, Google Play or Youtube. Now with Lima, it’s also the perfect device to watch all of your personal content on the biggest screen of the house.

According to their main Kickstarter page, the device’s retail price will be $150. Following are its technical specs:

Your Lima will come with a power supply and a cable to keep it connected to Internet. We’ll also include simple instructions on how to set it up. 

Technical specifications

  • Embedded Linux (OpenWRT based*)
  • x86 compatible processor
  • Port for you hard drive: USB2
  • Port for Internet: Ethernet port 10/100 Mbps
  • Average transfer speed: 30 Mbps
  • Supported file systems: NTFS, HFS+, Ext3/Ext4, FAT32
  • Number of drives supported (using an external USB hub): 8
  • Dimensions: 70mm (W) x 33mm (D) x 25mm (H)
  • Weight: 200g
  • LED Display: Power/ Action
  • Operation Environment: 0 – 95 °F
  • Storage Environment: 0 – 120°F
  • US or EU power adapter 110V/220V (included)
  • Ethernet cable (included)

To reduce manufacturing risks, the Lima device hardware is based on the Wanser-R, a commodity device produced by MRT Communications. We’ve partnered with MRT to change some components of the Wanser-R, so it meets Lima’s performance requirements. The firmware, which gives its main functions to the device, is fully reprogrammed. [Emphasis added.]

The Lima apps

Lima interacts with your devices through free Desktop and Mobile apps. These apps are the essence of Lima: they are the ones that make everything transparent and intuitive to use. 

After getting your Lima, you’ll be able to install our apps on your iPhone, your iPad, your Android phone or tablet and your computers – either Mac, Linux or PC. We’re planning to support Windows Phone as soon as possible after launch. 

We have a passion for simplifying the life of non-geek people, and we made sure that installation is as easy as it can get. We also built it so you can stop the installation or the use of Lima anytime, without doing any harm to your data.

* According to OpenWrt.org:

imageOpenWrt is described as a Linux distribution for embedded devices.

Instead of trying to create a single, static firmware, OpenWrt provides a fully writable filesystem with package management. This frees you from the application selection and configuration provided by the vendor and allows you to customize the device through the use of packages to suit any application. For developers, OpenWrt is the framework to build an application without having to build a complete firmware around it; for users this means the ability for full customization, to use the device in ways nor originally never envisioned.

MRT Communications, Ltd. of Shenzhen, China offers the following information about the Wanser-S:

  • Product Overview

  • Turn your USB Storage into NAS instantly!
    WANSER-R is one of the smallest NAS product in the market, simply connect USB storage box into NAS dongle and build up your personal File server, FTP server, Bit Torrent server, and XBOX 360/ Apple-iTunes music server in a few clicks. NAS Dongle also act as a USB printer server, connect your printer in to [the] NAS dongle and share the printer resource in the network environment. It is a cost-effectively and high performance product.

Features:

  • File Server (SAMBA)

    Allow server manager to create user ID and password and define the authority for each user.

  • FTP Server

    Allow user to manage the access authority of the FTP server and share files with friends through internet.

  • USB Printer Server

    Share USB printer over network by simply connecting USB printer to USB port.

  • XBOX 360/PlayStation3 Media Server

    iTune Music Server Work as media center when connected with XBOX 360/PlayStation3 and iTune.

  • Bit Torrent Download Engine

    Work as a continuous Bit Torrent download center without turing on your PC.

  • Sharing files across Windows, Mac, Linux

    Designed for different users to share files across the Windows, Mac, Linux environment.

Apparently the GCC Team has garnered close to a million dollars of investment commitments for a project that plans to write software for a Chinese dongle with fewer capabilities than the average MiniPC or TVBox. The Lima might be able to overcome the quality problems of tab-casting HD video by direct casting from disk drives but, as I mentioned in a comment to Kevin Dunseath’s post to Google+’s Chromecast community:

[The Lima] doesn’t appear to have WiFi connectivity, so it must be hardwired to the user’s Internet router. I’m not sanguine about its chances in the market with a $150 retail price.


Larry O’Brien Created a Xamarin.iOS Chromecast Binding

Larry O’Brien (@lobrien) posted ChromeCast Xamarin Binding and Sample Source Code on GitHub on 8/11/2013:

image_thumb1Due to popular demand… Here is source code for a preliminary Xamarin.iOS binding for Google’s ChromeCast and Here is C# source code for a simple iOS app that casts a video URL

In order for this to work, you’ll need:

This is just source code, not a step-by-step walkthrough. Everything associated with this is in beta and I don’t want to invest a lot of time making things just so at this point.

You can read an overview of the programming model here.


Updated Chromecast Support Spreadsheet

Following is the unofficial crowd-sourced Chromecast Support spreadsheet with 27 entries as of 8/12/2013 without the URL column:

ChromcastSupportSpreadsheet20130812


Chromecast GitHub Repos and StackOverflow Tags

imageChromecast (@Chrome_cast) is gaining a sizable developer community. Check out Chromecast repos here and StackOverflow’s chromecast and google-cast tags.


Koushik Dutta Reports Adding a Chromecast Feature to CyanogenMod

Koushik Dutta (@koush) described the Chromecast feature he added to his CyanogenMod Android application in a 00:02:05 video clip:

Koush says:

imageThe demo I have is how I built Chromecast in to CyanogenMod so that any app that’s running on CyanogenMod, if it uses video or audio, it can not be Chromecast, whether or not the app supports Chromecast natively.

Koush is building up a substantial backlog of Chromecast apps for the Google Play store and elsewhere.


Ben Lc Made a RemoteCast (Beta Version) Available from the Google Play Store

Ben Lc, the author of the Co Tasks and Saev Mah Battery Android Apps Offered RemoteCast (BetaVersion) from the Google Play Store on 8/3/2013. From the Description:

RemoteCast is the first unofficial Remote application for ChromeCast and is currently in Beta until the end of August

RemoteCast lets you :

  • Control applications respecting standard ChromeCast controls
  • Control the Volume of your ChromeCast devices
  • Pause/Play media
  • Seek in track/video
  • Quick launcher to ChromeCast app by sliding thumb to the right
  • Double Tap on the large image to open the associated app

Known issues :

  • Netflix is not fully supported ( yet! )
  • Sometimes RemoteCast doesn’t pick up on ChromeCast immediately and you need to connect it manually from the topright icon
  • Play button is a bit funky yet functional

*** Reminder ! RemoteCast is in Beta and for testing purpose for now. Wait a few weeks if you expect something stable ! Bug reports are more than welcome ***


BubbleSoftApps Demos Playing Transcoded Videos to Chromecast with BubbleUPnP and BubbleUPnP Server

From a message in Google+’s Chromecast community:

Here is a video showing BubbleUPnP #Chromecast transcoding support with the help of BubbleUPnP Server doing the transcoding.
It also shows subtitle support, also handled by BubbleUPnP Server.
2 videos are transcoded to Chromecast:

  1. MKV with DTS audio and embedded subtitles (both unsupported natively by Chromecast)
  2. WMV (audio: wmapro)

Transcoding also works for music and all local  and cloud media. It can also work if you’re not connected to your home LAN (for example if you’re at a friend’s house and want to cast your media on his Chromecast device).

BubbleUPnP Server runs on any LAN machine on which Java is available.

I plan to install BubbleUPnP Server on my Surface Pro tablet this weekend and try it with my various Android devices running the current BubbleUPnP client until the beta becomes available from the Google Play store. I’ll report my results.


Leon Nicholls Describes His Chromecast Video Tracking with HTML5 App

Leon Nicholls (@entertailion) posted Chromecast Video Tracking to Google+’s Chromecast community on 8/9/2013:

imageI’ve written an app for ChromeCast that demonstrates some interesting video tracking features. Information displayed on the mobile device is kept in sync with timed positions in the video playing on the ChromeCast device.

Metadata associated with the video is stored in the subtitle track associated with the video. The technical details of how this is done is explained in this article: http://www.html5rocks.com/en/tutorials/track/basics/

This technique opens up some interesting options for developers and advertisers since this can be done very easily for any video displayed on a ChromeCast device.


Koushik Dutta Wrote an HTTP Server for Chrome in JavaScript That Streams Video from Your PC to Chromecast

Koushik Dutta (@Koush) announced Chromecast: Cast movies on your Desktop Computer in an 8/7/2013 (3:37 AM PDT) message to Google+’s Chromecast community:

imageAs the title says… if you have a movies on your desktop computer, you can now cast them straight to Chromecast.

image_thumb4This is highly efficient, as there is no encoding/decoding taking place. It streams at full quality, with no lag. And since it is a Chrome app, it works on all platforms. No binary installation necessary; it will be available on the Chrome store. [Emphasis added.]

Technical Details
I spent tonight writing a mini HTTP server in JavaScript that runs in Chrome. Full featured enough to handle requests and stream movies.

Yes, that means there is a web server running in my web browser. I’m insane.

Yes, Koush, you are insane! Hopefully, the Chromecast community won’t have to wait to long to give it a test drive, because this app doesn’t depend on the Google Cast API. Stay tuned for details.


Koushik Dutta Writes His Second First Chromecast App, Keeps It Private for Now

imageKoushik Dutta (@koush, a.k.a. @ClockworkMod), creator of  the ROM Manager and Helium apps in the Google Play Store and developer on the CyanogenMod project announced on Google+ that he has written his first Chromecast app:

image

imageIt’s not clear if Koush misread the SDK beta’s Terms of Service or that Google rewrote it after he read it, but here’s the version that was current on 7/30/2013 at 8:45 AM PDT:

image

A strong recommendation that developers “not publicly distribute any application using this preview SDK” is not the same as a prohibition. Hopefully Koush will change his mind and post a preview of his app.

Update 8/2/2013: Koush posted Dropbox streaming to Chromecast on 8/1/2013:

I wrote an app that allows you to share files from the standard Dropbox app to Chromecast. Browse, cast, watch.


A First Look at EZCast App for Android v2.0 and Firmware v10972

Contents:

Related EZCast v1.0 Articles:


Upgrading EZCast Software for Windows, Mac OS and iOS

Luscious Wong posted the following Release Notes to a message of 1/3/2013 to the Google+ WiFi EZCast community:

iOS (v1.1.121):
image1. Support auto language sync between dongle and EZCast App
2. Support Cloud Storage (Dropbox) Photo/Music/Document/Video casting to TV
3. Improve web video playing by supporting both EZAir/URL-Click.
Windows (v1.0.56):
1. Support EZCast 2.0 UI
2. Improve Wifi performance for connection
3. Support Windows version detection
Mac (v1.0.32):
1. Support local Music/Video streaming
2. Improve performance for Mac OS 10.9

imageDownload these updated apps from http://www.iezvu.com/index.php?m=download&a=index&id=29&l=en.

Winner Wave Co., Ltd. updated the Android app on 12/31/2013: 

1. Support auto language sync between dongle and EZCast App.
2. Support Cloud Storage (Dropbox) Photo/Music/Document/Video casting to TV.
3. Fix minor bugs

imageDownload this update from Google’s Play Store.


Upgrading EZCast Device Firmware to v11281

Simon Lee reported EZCast firmware version 11281 released in an 12/30/2013 post to the Google+ EZCast community:

imageUpdate note:
1. Improve Miracast to support Win8.1, Samsung S3/Note2/Tab2 (multiple firmware versions), Sony Z1
2. Improve DLNA compatibility
3. Compressed OTA to speed up OTA
4. Support Multi-Language SSID name
5. Speed up AP setup
6. Support Sony DV video (AVC-HD) streaming
7. Auto language sync between dongle and EZCast App
8. Improve EZAir to support iOS7.0.4
9. Improve Web divert for some websites
10. Improve Buffering/Volume UI
11. Show Mac address for mac filtering internet AP
12. Fix minor bugs


Acquiring and Installing the EZCast App v2.0 for Android

Action Microelectronics Co., Ltd. (Beijing) affiliate Winner Wave, Co. Ltd. (New Taipei City, Taiwan) published EZCast v2.0 software to the Google Play App Store on 11/2/2013. I installed this version on my Samsung Galaxy S4 phone and ASUS Nexus 7 tablet (original version) on the same date. As noted in this screen capture from the App Store, the new software isn’t compatible with my Tronsmart MK908II MiniPC:

image

Here’s the accompanying description:

EZCast devices, in the forms of dongles or boxes, are the remote-free cross-platform (iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac) wireless display products, which receive and display the contents you love from internet and your own portable devices (smartphones, tablets, notebook and Mac).

EZCast App for Android, developed by WinnerWave, displays documents and multimedia from Internet or your Android Pads/Smartphones wirelessly in cooperation with EZCast devices.
In addition, EZCast App switches wireless display standards (DLNA, Miracast…) and control[s] the setting through remoting the EZCast devices.

Check www.iezvu.com for complete user manual and related information.

Requirements:

  • Android 4.0 [or] above (1GHz CPU and 1GB+ DDR are preferred)
  • An EZCast dongle or box

Supports:

  • Local photo display, Local Music/Video Streaming
  • Web browsing and Internet Video Streaming
  • Office document presentation
  • DLNA as a render (DMR)
  • Miracast mirroring
  • Setting control for the EZCast devices

Problem: imageAccording to a reply by Jerome Yu of Shenzhen Joystar Technology Co., Ltd., a seller of WiFi EZCast devices, to Google+’s WiFi EZCast Community (edited for style and clarity):

EZCast APK  NOT [suitable] for Android MiniPC.

The previous app version installed to my Ugoos UG007 and Tronsmart MK908 and MK908iii Android MiniPCs.

When you start the Android app for the first time, you see two splash screens:

EZCast 2.0 - Start Splash Screen 1 270px    EZCast 2.0 - Start Splash Screen 2 270px

Problem: The two “help” screens don’t provide users a clue as to how to set up their Android device with the EZCast device or where they can find the required information. Although graphically attractive, they are more confusing than helpful.

The most evident change to v2.0 is the EZCast home screen, shown here from my Galaxy S4:

EZCast v2.0 Main Screen (S4) 270 px

Update 11/11/2013: W Lucious reported in a Google+ Wifi EZCast thread of 9/30/2013 that the v2.0 software:

Fix[es] the problems as follows [minor edits for style]:

  1. Optimize the Miracast latency
  2. Supports Tencent APP DLNA function
  3. Fixes critical problem when AP List number is 0
  4. Optimizes streaming seek
  5. Fixes that when the AP SSID string is too long, the connection fails
  6. Tips when new versions release
  7. Supports video/music on Airplay
  8. Other UI issues


Upgrading the EZCast Device Firmware to v10971 for EZCast 2.0

After connecting to the EZCast device with the new v2.0 app, open the device’s Settings page in your supported Android device, navigate to the Upgrade button, and click OK to test for availability of new v10971 firmware. Select Yes:

Firmware-v10971 Do You Want To Upgrade

and click/tap OK to begin the download and installation process:

EZCast Local Version 10971 Downloading

When complete, the Setting screen appears as shown here:

EZCast Local Version 10971 for Android 2.0

There’s no apparent change to the device’s home screen:

EZCast 10971 Home Screen

Note: No information about the v10971 firmware upgrade was available when this article was written.

Problem: The Settings screen’s Back button doesn’t return the user to the home screen (or do anything else):

EZCast 2.0 Back Button 270px

imageYou must use Android’s Back button.

There is no explanation of the Key button’s purpose.


Upgrading the EZCast Device Firmware to v10972 (Bug Fix)

Jerome Yu recommended in a 11/6/2013 thread in the Google+ WiFi EZCast Community upgrading to firmware version 10972 for a bug fix:

image

image

The upgrade process now has a progress indicator for updating after downloading the firmware:

image

Jerome hasn’t disclosed what bugs were fixed. The Netflix button still returns an HTTP 404 error and I continue to be unable to watch Netflix videos with my Samsung Galaxy S4.


Testing the App’s Video Cloud Feature with Netflix and You Tube

Tapping the Cloud Video button opens a screen with Google Search, You Tube, IMDb, Vimeo and Netflix buttons and the EZCast 2.0 logo:

EZCast 2.0 - Cloud Video Screen 270px

Problem: Tapping the Netflix button returns an HTML 404 error:

EZCast 2.0 - Netflix Not Found 560px

Problem: Tapping Netflix Home enables signing into an existing account if you don’t receive an error message:

EZCast 2.0 - Netflix Sign In Screen 270px    EZCast 2.0 - Netflix Connection Timed Out 270px

Otherwise, you can request a month’s free trial. Here’s a part of Netflix’s Recently Watched page for my subscription. Problem: Tapping a thumbnail opens a screen that describes the requirements for Netflix Watch Instantly videos, not the selected item:

EZCast 2.0 - Netflix Recently Watched 270px    EZCast 2.0 - Netflix System Requirements

Problem: It doesn’t appear that you can watch Android-compatible Netflix videos on this path.


Update 11/10/2013: W Lucious reported the following on 11/10/2013 in a Google+ WiFi EZCast community thread:

Sorry, EZCast can not support Netflix unless get license. Another way, you can use Miracast to play Netflix video.

I assume Luscious meant EZMirror, not Miracast™, because the EZCast dongle and firmware is not certified Miracast compliant by the WiFi Alliance. I believe EZMirror is limited to 720p resolution.

Update 11/11/2013: W Lucious updated the preceding thread as follows:

Now we plan to support Netflix.


Fortunately, EZCasting You Tube videos is more successful. Tapping the You Tube button opens a scrollable list of popular videos; selecting one displays a thumbnail and list of related videos:

EZCast 2.0 - You Tube List 270px   EZCast 2.0 - You Tube Thumbnail 270px

Tapping the play button displays the video in 720p or 1080p on the connected HDTV, depending on the Setting screen’s Resolution setting:

EZCast 2.0 - CuttleFish in 720p 560px

Here are the playback controls on my Galaxy S4 while the video is paused:

EZCast 2.0 - You Tube Playback Control S4 270px


Under Construction: Additional sections will follow on 11/7 – 8.

Google’s $35 Chromecast Might Redefine the Media Player Market

Many items were moved to the following new posts on 8/17/2013 to reduce the size of this article:


Introduction

Google announced general availability of its Chromecast HDMI dongle on 7/24/2013 (click images for full-size screen captures):

image_thumb5

Correction 7/27/2013: Google reneged on it’s “3 months of Netflix” offer less than a day after introducing Chromecast “due to overwhelming demand.”

Following are links to You Tube videos about Chromecast:

Update 8/2/2013: The official Chromecast Support site is here:

ChromecastHelpScreen

Troubleshooting Tip: If your sending devices suddenly are unable to connect to your Chromecast receiver but all else appears operational on your WiFi network, reboot your WiFi router. This works every time for my Buffalo Air Station router. See the A Diagram of the OakLeaf Systems Video Component Test System at the end of this post for a description of my system.

Pictures of Chromecast internals from Google’s authorization application to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for ID A4RH2G2-42 with shields removed (click the Internal Photos link):

image

Update 8/4/2013: The large chip on the left is a Marvell Armada 1500, previously known as the 88DE3100 System on a Chip (SoC), if Marvell’s assertion in this article is correct: Lucas Mearian (@lucasmearian) claimed “The processor enables high-quality audio, video and graphics” in a deck for his Marvell unveils ARMADA, the high-def media chip in Chromecast Computerworld article of 7/31/2013:

imageMarvell today unveiled a high-performance, high-definition (HD) media processor, the ARMADA 1500-mini chip, which it said is the hardware behind Google’s new streaming TV platform, Chromecast.

Chromecast, announced last week, is a $35 stream-to-TV device that works through a two-inch long dongle that plugs into the HDMI port in a high-definition television.

The Chromecast dongle connects to a user’s Wi-Fi network and allows a consumer to stream content from the cloud or from an open tab in Google’s Chrome browser.

imageMarvell said its ARMADA 1500-mini chip is the brain behind Chromecast. The ARMADA 1500-mini platform is designed to enable high quality audio, video, and graphics, while being energy efficient.

“It is designed to provide instantaneous access to applications such as YouTube, Netflix and other cloud-based content, and deliver a ground-breaking multi-screen experience across smart mobile devices, laptops and HDTVs transforming any big screen into a smart and immersive entertainment device,” Marvell said in its product release. …

For more details about the Armada 1500, see the Marvell’s Reference Design for the Armada 1500 SoC Includes a TV/Cable Tuner/Demodulator section of our Personal Video Recorder (PVR/DVR) TVBoxes and PCTV Tuner Sticks post.

image

Note: Some Chromecast users believe H2G2 in the model number is an abbreviation for Douglas Adams’ Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy. The number 42 has special meaning for H2G2 enthusiasts.

Update 7/28/2013: Here’s Fox TV’s “Google Taking Over Your TV” consumer-oriented TechKnowledge segment by Stuart Varney (@Varneyco) on 7/26/2013:


image_thumb[1]Correction 7/27/2013 to Fox commentary: Chromecast does more than stream Internet TV. You also can stream local MPEG-4/H.264 *.mp4 files you’ve saved to your Windows or Apple PC or laptop. See our illustrated Casting MPEG-4/H.264 Video Files with Chrome from a Windows Laptop tutorial.

Here’s a “How to Cast” video from Google’s Chromecast site:

image_thumb4Casting Internet video from a Windows desktop, laptop or Surface Pro tablet requires mirroring a Chrome browser tab to the HDTV with the Chromecast Extension for Chrome. See our illustrated Chromecasting 1080p Netflix Video Streams from a Windows Laptop tutorial.

Update 8/2/2013: Umer Salman (@umer936) reported Extra Settings on the Chromecast Extension for Chrome in a 7/28/2013 post to the XDA Developers site.

Click here for a Google slideshow of the Ready to Cast background images like this one at 3-second intervals:

ReadyToCastBackground-SFO

I’ve downloaded the Chromecast Sender app to my three android devices:

image_thumb8

Installing the Sender app on my original (2012) Nexus 7 required an update to its Google Drive app. Before installing the Chromecast dongle, all three devices displayed variations on the Tronsmart MK908’s screen shown here:

ChromecastNoDevices_thumb2

Update 7/28/2013: The MK908 MiniPC after installing my Chromcast:

ReadyToCastFromTronsmartMK908_thumb[2]

There’s a Music app available also:

PlayStoreChromecastApps_thumb[2]

Here’s my Acer Aspire laptop and Surface Pro tablet running the Windows Chromecast app, after installing my dongle:

ChromecastAppDialog_thumb[1]

Update 7/27/2013: My Casting MPEG-4/H.264 Video Files with Chrome from a Windows Laptop article is an illustrated tutorial for mirroring tabs of the Chrome browser to your HDTV set. Casting a video file is just an example of this capability.

Update 7/26/2013: Removed the “with Miracast phrase” from the title of this article because the Chromecast only mirrors displays of connected Android and Windows devices when casting a Chrome browser tab. (See Brad Linder’s review below.)


New DIscovery And Launch (DIAL) Protocol Registrants Added by dialmultiscreen.org

Netflix, Inc.’s dialmultiscreen.org site includes what appears to be a complete list of 117 registrants for use use of the DIAL multiscreen protocol as of 1/1/2014. The Google Spreadsheet appears to be in registration date order.

The most interesting recent additions are the following 11 Turner Broadcasting properties:

  1. Turner-TNT-Leverage
  2. Turner-TBS-BBT
  3. Turner-NBA-GameTime
  4. Turner-TNT-FallingSkies
  5. Turner-CNN-TVE
  6. Turner-HLN-TVE
  7. Turner-CN-TVE
  8. Turner-AS-TVE
  9. Turner-TBS-TVE
  10. Turner-TNT-TVE
  11. Turner-TRU-TVE


Chromecast is ZDNet’s #8 Tech Product/Trend for 2013

Stephen J. Vaughn-Nichols’ (@sjvn) asserts Chromecast sneaks into the office in the eighth of ZDNet’s top products and tech trends for 2013 of 12/13/2013: Which products, platforms, and big ideas made the most impact in 2013?:

Chromecast sneaks into the office
imageA $35 dongle that weighs less than an ounce, plugs into a standard HDMI port, and streams from the web or a PC? The obvious application in the living room, where sufficiently tech-centric hobbyists can use a Google Chromecast as yet another way to throw Internet videos onto a big-screen TV. But that’s just a sideshow, as far as we’re concerned. This little device has tremendous potential as a useful business tool that will really shine in corporate conference rooms.

For example, you can cast any video stream that plays in the Chrome web browser to any HDTV equipped with a Chromecast. That turns out to be a very effective way to push a web-based video-conference—Google+ Hangouts, WebEx, or GoToMeeting, for example—to that big screen at the end of the conference table. No more awkward huddling around a small PC screen. And as a bonus, you’ll use a fraction of the bandwidth that your office would use if a dozen employees are tuning in to the same conference from separate devices.

The Chromecast is also a potential game-changer for sales and marketing pros who spend their time on the road making presentations to small groups. Lugging around a projector and going through the incantations to make it work can suck the soul from even the most battle-hardened road warrior. But if you know you’re going to be taking your show to a room equipped with a modern TV and WiFi, you can set up the Chromecast in a matter of minutes and deliver your web-based presentation effortlessly, putting the business back into show business.


Janko Roettgers Analyzes Chromecast’s Immediate Future

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) posted Chromecast in 2014: an open SDK, big international plans and maybe even new devices to the GigaOm blog on 12/13/2013:

imageSummary: Google wants to bring Chromecast to a number of other countries in 2014, and make casting a standard that works on multiple devices with thousands of apps.

Google landed a bit of a coup with Chromecast this year, launching a device that no one saw coming but that has proven to be very popular. Next year, the company plans to take Chromecast even further by bringing it to a number of international markets, opening up the SDK to make hundreds (if not thousands) of apps Chromecast-compatible, and partnering with consumer electronics companies to bring cast functionality to other devices.

imageMaking Chromecast more widely available around the globe is one of the company’s biggest goals for the device in the coming year, said Google VP of Product Management Mario Queiroz in an interview with Gigaom this week. “We are going to be launching in a number of international markets,” he said, adding that people are going to be “pleasantly surprised” by the scope of this international expansion.

One reason for this fast move into other countries is that Google wants to encourage publishers in those markets to make their apps Chromecast-compatible, which is part of a bigger goal to bring as many apps as possible to the device. “There will be an expectation from consumers that any and every app will be ‘castable,’” Queiroz said.

More waves of apps, and an open SDK, are on their way

Google has up until now only allowed a few partners to launch apps on Chromecast. Initially, Chromecast users could only access media from Netflix as well as Google’s own YouTube and Google Play services. The company then added support for Hulu Plus, Pandora and HBO Go. Earlier this week, it unleashed a wave of ten apps, including the popular media center app Plex, music service Songza and RealNetwork’s new cloud player.

Google hasn’t opened up Chromecast to every publisher yet because it hasn’t finalized the SDK, according to company representatives. At launch, Google made a preview SDK available to developers, allowing them to build but not distribute apps. Queiroz said that nonetheless “hundreds of developers” have signed up to add Chromecast capabilities to their apps.

Queiroz declined to say when exactly Google plans to release the SDK next year, but he told me that the company has been making progress in getting ready for a public release. Part of these efforts included a recent internal Chromecast hackathon. The company hosted around 40 developers from 30 companies in its offices in Mountain View this past weekend, giving them access to the most recent, still-unpublished version of the Chromecast SDK, with the goal of getting feedback that will shape the final version.

However, even without an open SDK available, there is good news for consumers: Queiroz told me that Google will be making a few more waves of Chromecast apps available in the near future.

Building an ecosystem around casting

As more apps become available Chromecast should become more interesting for consumers, but Google is also looking to momentum from developers to advance on an even bigger goal: The company wants to turn Chromcast’s technology, also dubbed Google Cast, into an ecosystem and work with consumer electronics manufacturers to bring it to other devices. “Our broader goal is for Google Cast to be established as a standard,” Queiroz told me.

Google has been working towards this goal for some time. Even before the launch of Chromecast, it introduced a multiscreen technology called DIAL together with Netflix. DIAL helps mobile and connected devices to discover and talk to each other, and it’s a core component of Chromecast’s technology (for more on DIAL, also check out this video interview with YouTube Product Manager Sarah Ali and Netflix Partner Devices Director Scott Mirer.)

DIAL has been a quiet success story in 2013, and is now being added to TV sets and connected devices from many major manufacturers. But DIAL is only part of the puzzle. Google’s casting technology adds playback and control functionality to the mix, and simple APIs help to add cast functionality to mobile apps on both Android and iOS. It’s that complete package that Google now hopes to bring to devices from other manufacturers as well.

Queiroz expressed optimism that this will happen sooner rather than later, telling me that the company already had “serious conversations” with a number of consumer electronics manufacturers.

The long shadow of Google TV

Of course, this isn’t the first time that Google has tried to bring the consumer electronics industry together. The company’s Google TV software was supposed to become the go-to platform for smart TV manufacturers, mimicking the success that Google had with Android in the smartphone world. That didn’t happen. A number of companies, including Sony, Vizio and Logitech, tried their hands at Google TV, but their products, plagued by complexity and resistance from broadcasters, never became mainstream, and Logitech ended up losing millions of dollars.

Google has now taken steps to merge Google TV with Android and is even getting ready to kill the branding, instead just talking about Google services for Android-based TV devices. And there have been internal shifts: A significant number of former Google TV developers are now working on Chromecast or other products, and the Chromecast team is now in the same building that used to exclusively house the Google TV development. Queiroz declined to comment on Google’s organizational structure, only saying that “both projects will continue.” But with long-time Google executive Sundar Pichai in charge of both Android and Chrome, it’s no accident that Google TV stick is now called Chromecast.

The difference is in the numbers

There are significant differences between Chromecast and Google TV, even beyond the fact that Chromecast is simply a whole lot easier to use. For one thing, Google decided to go out and build its own device this time around, instead of relying on launch partners from the consumer electronics industry.

“This enabled us to be very nimble,” said Queiroz. Without competing interests and a multitude of possible implementations, Google was able to keep its focus on two things: price and usability. “We really tried to build the simplest possible device that we could,” he told me.

That strategy has seemingly paid off. Google hasn’t released any official Chromecast sales numbers, and Queiroz didn’t want to comment on that subject either, other than telling me that Chromecast sales exceeded the company’s expectations. But there are some indicators that sales have indeed been going very well.

After its launch in July, Chromecast quickly became the number one selling electronics device on Amazon, even outselling the retailer’s own Kindle Fire tablets. In recent weeks, Chromecast has occasionally slipped from that number one spot, but only a little, and it has remained in the site’s top 3 ever since.

Walmart.com has been listing Chromecast as a Best Seller, and the Chromecast configuration app has been downloaded between one and five million times from the Play Store. None of these details provide us with hard sales numbers, and the app installs in particular should just be seen as anecdotal evidence — but Google TV never even came close to any of these achievements.

No one at Google would publicly say that Chromecast may be the success story that Google TV never was, but there is a palpable new level of optimism with regards to the company’s plans for the living room. Queiroz told me that the Chromecast team has been “incredibly proud and happy” about the reception that Chromecast has received, and added that everyone involved early on knew Google was onto something with this one. Said Queiroz: “We knew it was going to be something special.”

Related research: Subscriber Content

Subscriber content comes from Gigaom Research, bridging the gap between breaking news and long-tail research. Visit any of our reports to learn more and subscribe.

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst.

There’s little doubt that sales of the Chromecast device have exceeded those of all current and potential competitors combined. The question is whether the vanilla Chromecast dongle’s elementary feature set can be expanded to replace multi-function display devices, such as EZCast and the forthcoming OVO, as well as full-scale Android MiniPCs and TVBoxes. See my OVO Video Player’s Indiegogo Crowdfunding Faltering at 35% with Only 9 Days Left article of 8/26/2013 for more details on that device; I’m expecting the one I purchased via Indiegogo to arrive shortly. (OVO had raised a total of US$37,051 against it’s $100,000 goal when the funding process closed on 8/30/2013.)


Janko Roettgers Describes New Chromecast Apps Post Hackathon

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) reported Chromecast gets Plex, Vevo, RealPlayer, Viki and more with massive app update in a 12/10/2013 article for the GigaOm blog (cross posted):

imageSummary: Chromecast now plays local and cloud content, thanks to support for Plex, Avia and Realplayer Cloud. The streaming stick also added Revision3, Vevo, Viki and others.

A few months ago, a developer source told me that Google planned to release apps for its Chromecast streaming stick in waves. Well, guess what: The first wave is here, and it’s a massive one: Chromecast got support for local media playback, podcasts, Facebook photos and more Tuesday, thanks to newly-added support for apps from Plex, RealPlayer Cloud, Vevo, Viki and others.

Chromecast users will be especially happy about local file playback, a feature that had been requested ever since the device launched in July. Now, there are multiple options available, including the popular media center app Plex.

The makers of Plex had long expressed interest in Chromecast, but never actually announced that they were going to add support for it. However, we reported last week that a user had found Chromecast configuration files within Plex, suggesting that support was imminent.

Ready to cast: Plex users can now play videos on Google’s Chromecast.

Now, Plex is adding Chromecast support to its iOS, Android and web apps, all of which offer access to local content, online video channels and personal media backed up to the cloud. For now, only casting of video is supported, but support for music and photos is promised for the near future. Also, Plex is initially only giving paying PlexPass members access to Chromecast capabilities, but the company usually releases these kinds of features to everyone soon after.

However, Plex isn’t the only option to cast local or personal media. Another app added to the Chromecast roster Tuesday is Avia, a media player for Android that allows users to beam videos, photos and music from their mobile device or any local DLNA server, including network-attached storage drives, to Chromecast. Also clever: Avia indexes photos on Picasa, Dropbox and Facebook, allowing users to show any of their photos on any of these services on their TV. However, Chromecast support is only available to users of the paid version of Avia.

Chromecasting from the RealPlayer Cloud web app.Chromecasting from the RealPlayer Cloud web app.

And there’s one more option for personal media: RealNetworks added Chromecast to its RealPlayer Cloud Tuesday, which is the company’s new cloud storage and playback offering for all your mobile media. Chromecast users can now use it to cast videos from iOS, Android and the web. Users who are logged into the same account can also play content from other devices in the same network, and for example use their iPad to cast videos stored on their phone.

In addition to these three apps, Chromecast also added support for the Android podcast player app BeyondPod, the Washington Post’s PostTV, online music service Songza, RedbullTV, Revision3, VEVO and Viki, the international TV platform that is now owned by Japan’s Rakuten.

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst.

imageGoogle’s official list of Chromecast apps is here. When I updated this post, the New arrow links for apps (presumably to their Google Play store entries) threw HTTP 404 error messages.

Caveat Emptor: Before purchasing paid versions of Chromecast-compatible apps from the Google Play store, be sure to read user comments. Some are reported to require factory resetting your Chromecast before they work.


Liam Tung asserts “Android screencasting looks to be in the works, but it’s a feature that Google is planning to keep to itself for now”

Liam Tung (@LiamT) reported Android 4.4.1 update hints at Android Chromecast screen mirroring ‘very soon’ in a 12/9/2013 article for ZDNet:

imageGoogle appears to be planning to extend screencasting capabilities in Chromecast to allow Android devices to mirror the screen to TVs.

Google released Android 4.4.1 last week, primarily to fix the camera in the Nexus 5, but as with many Android updates from Google, changes to the source code Google submits to the Android Open Source Project often contain clues as to what’s in store.

imageDevelopers at Funky Android over the weekend released a list of changes that were included in the update, including hints that Google is planning to let Android devices mirror their screens with nearby TVs, via Google’s Chromecast.

Chromecast is the company’s $35 answer to Apple TV. The dongle plugs into the HDMI port of an HDTV, which in theory allows the Android device to share its display with a larger screen. However, at the moment, Chromecast only permits screencasting through supported apps — such as Chrome, Netflix, Hulu and a few others.

Koushik Dutta, co-founder of Cyanogen Inc, which makes its own Android firmware, found the reference to the feature in Funky Android’s change logs for the latest Android release, noting: “From the patches I see in 4.4.1, they’ll be adding Android mirroring to Chromecast very soon.”

But, Dutta adds, the feature will be closed to third-party developers (besides OEMs), meaning it won’t be able to support projects that aim to use the same Android screencasting functionality with non-Chromecast hardware. Android owners do have other means of screencasting, however, such as with several dongles that support Miracast.

While Chromecast is available for purchase outside the US, usually at higher prices than in the country, so far Google has focused on its efforts around content deals with US providers such as HBO.

Meanwhile, a group of Danish developers is attempting to build an alternative to Chromecast, but one of the obstacles they face in supporting screencasting from Android devices is that Google won’t permit third-party access to the Android APIs that would make such functionality possible.


Chromecast is Time Magazine’s #1 Gadget of the Year

Harry McCracken (@harrymccracken) listed Chromecast as #1 in his Top 10 Gadgets article of 12/3/2013 for Time Magazine:

1. Google Chromecast

chromecastathomeJared Newman for TIME

imageInstead of trying to do everything — like Google’s famously ambitious and unsuccessful Google TV — this thumb-sized gizmo does one thing, does it as simply as possible and does it for the impulse-purchase price of $35. Plug it into one of your TV’s HDMI ports, and you can fling videos and other content from your laptop, tablet or phone to the big screen, no wires involved. Lots of companies have built devices to do this; Chromecast is the first one that gets it right.


Stephen J. Vaughn-Nichols Describes Great Things You Can Do with a Chromecast

Stephen J. Vaughn-Nichols’ (@sjvn, pictured below) summary of his 5 great things you can do with a Google Chromecast article of 12/3/2013 for ZDNet reads: “Some people wonder what in the world they’d do with a Chromecast. Friends, there are a lot of great things you can do with a Chromecast besides watching funny cat videos on your 42-inch HDTV.”

imageMy buddy David Gewirtz bought a Google Chromecast and now he’s blaming me for it. The Chromecast, for those of you who don’t know it, is a USB flash-drive stick-sized device that enables you to send anything you can see with the Chrome Web browser to your TV. David, however, isn’t sure what to do with his latest gadget. Well, I have five great things that he, and you, can do with a Chromecast.

zdnet-cnet-google-chromecast-1-600x399Say howdy to Chromecast, the smallest and easiest way to bring Internet video to your HDTV.

imageLike David, I have far more cord-cutting Internet-TV devices than any normal person would ever fill their home theater with. I’ll see his Apple TV, XBox 360, PS3, directly connected Mac mini, and Roku box with my two Apple TVs, pair of Roku boxes, TiVo Premiere, and Internet enabled Sony and Samsung Blu-Ray DVD players. Even with all that gear between us, there are still good reasons to buy the $35 Chromecast.

1) Watch any Web content on the big screen.

Not all Web content is created equal. The ordinary run of Internet media extenders, such as the Roku line, can show Internet video channels such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, and YouTube. But, some Internet TV shows are only available via websites, such as Hulu-only content and many of CBS’s prime-time shows. If you want to watch these shows on your HDTV you need a Chromecast and any device that can run the Chrome Web browser, or a late-model Apple TV paired with a newer Apple computing device that can support AirPlay Mirroring

Yes, it would be nice if we could just easily stream everything and anything to our “smart” TVs, but we’re still long, long way from being able to do that. For the next few years, if you want access to all Internet-enabled video you’re going to need several devices but you’ll not be able to see everything that’s available from cable and satellite TV vendors. Darn it!

2) Watch “restricted access” Internet video on the big screen.

Living in the US, I can’t easily watch my favorite current UK television shows like the second season of the BBC’s The Paradise or the fourth season of ITV’s Downton Abby. Were I living in the U.K., I wouldn’t be able to access Hulu. Thanks to Web proxies, such as Media Hint, and virtual private networks (VPN)s, I can set my computers up so I can watch international TV shows.

These work by providing me with an Internet Protocol (IP) address in a country where the content is available. Then, with Chromecast, I can watch these programs on my “real” TV instead of one of my PCs or laptops. It’s a lot more fun watching these shows on a big screen then even on the best of my computer displays.

3) Watch your own videos

For some reason, it’s not well-known but you can use Chromecast to watch videos off your local or network drives. True, Chromecast has no media-server support as such, but it’s easy to get around this. All you have to do is open a video file in Chrome with the command “Control-O.” Since Chrome can natively play AVI, MP4, M4V, MPEG, OGV, and WEBM videos, you can then watch you own videos on your TV with no fuss or muss.[*]

Personally, I’ve converted almost all my DVD collection into MP4 videos. So, almost my entire video library now lives on a mult-terabyte Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. This approach isn’t for everybody, but for a pair of movie fanatics like my wife and me, it works quite well. 

4) Video-conferencing

I’ve been using video-conferencing since the 1980s and ISDN gave us the then remarkable speeds of up to 128-kilobits per second. That part of 80s technology I don’t miss, but what I do miss is the big screens we used for videoconferencing in those days. Now, thanks to Chromecast, I can really see everyone I’m talking to in a Google+ Hangout, my preferred group video-conference service. On my 42″ Sony HDTV, video-conferencing is once more a pleasure.

5) Replace laptop projector

I do some public speaking and consulting. A lot of that is in small meeting rooms. To make my points visually, I’ve used a series of Epson InFocus projectors over the years. These are nice, but, like any projector, they take up room, weigh down my laptop bag, go out of focus, and the bulbs always burn out at the worst possible times. Any business road-warrior knows the drill.

Now, thanks to the Chromecast, I just make sure I can get a modern TV in the space and I’m good to go. It is so, so much easier than futzing with projectors, that I don’t know how I ever managed without it.

So, there you go, three fun and two business reasons why Chromecasts are great, little handy Internet to TV devices. Have fun with yours David and everyone else out there with a Chromecast to call their own. 

Related Stories:

* You probably won’t find “Watch[ing[ your own videos” by tab casting with the Chrome browser running on a PC to be very satisfactory unless the computer has at least a quad-core Intel i5(or better an i7) CPU and you have a modern, high-speed WiFi router.


Walmart Selling Chromecasts from Stock for US$35

James Mosvick (+James Mosvick) reported Walmart’s Chromecast offering in an 11/24/2013 item for the Google+ Chromecast community:

image

Chromecasts were available for in-store pickup on 11/25/2013 at two of three Bay Area stores. From the description:

Everything you love is now on your TV. Chromecast is the easy way to enjoy online video and music on your TV. Plug it into any HDTV and control it with your Android smartphone or tablet, Apple iPhone/iPad or laptop. There are no remotes required. Cast your favorites from Netflix, YouTube, HBO GO, Hulu Plus, Google Play and Chrome to your TV with the press of a button.

With Chromecast, you can easily enjoy your favorite online content on your HDTV — movies, TV shows, videos, music, photos, websites and more. No more huddling around small screens and tiny speakers. Chromecast automatically updates to work with a growing number of apps.

Chromecast works with devices you already own, including Android devices, Apple iPhone and iPad, Chrome for Windows and Chrome for Mac. Browse for what to watch, control playback and adjust volume using your smartphone, tablet or laptop. You won’t have to learn anything new. Get started in three easy steps.

Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player:

  • Plugs into your HDTV
  • Streams media from laptops, tablets and smartphones
  • Compatible with PC, Mac, iOS and Android
  • Plug and Play
  • No remotes necessary
  • Everything you love, now on your TV

What’s missing from Walmart’s propaganda is any mention of WiFi or the necessity of a modern WiFi access point.


James Mosvick Posts a List of Useful Chromecast Links

imageJames Mosvick (+James Mosvick) posted If you are a new user, save the URLs below in your Chromecast bookmarks to the Google+ Chromecast community on 11/24/2013:


Amazon Selling Chromecasts for US$29.99 on Black Friday

Mashable (@Mashable) included a reduced price for Chromecast devices as #7 of its Black Friday Deals on Amazon slideshow of 11/24/2013:

image


Janko Roettgers Reports Wider Retail Availability for Chromecast

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) posted Chromecast now available at Staples, Verizon Wireless and Motorola to the GigaOm blog on 11/22/2013:

imageHot on the heels of the HBO Go app launch, as well as signs that more apps may be supported soon, comes the news that Chromecast is now more widely available for sale. Google’s TV streaming stick started selling at Staples stores as well as through the retailer’s website this week. Motorola is also selling the device through an online store you probably didn’t know existed, and Verizon has begun to sell it online as well as in its flagship store in the Mall of Americas in Minneapolis as well. There’s no word on when Chromecast will find its way into regular Verizon stores, or other retailers, just yet.

As you’re undoubtedly aware, Amazon and Best Buy have been selling Chromecast devices since the git-go.

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst.


Google Adds Chromecast Promotion to the Play Apps Store 

With this screen that doesn’t show any new third-party content providers (other than HBO Go, see below):

image


Brad Linder Claims More Chromecast Apps Coming from Google Hackathon

Brad Linder (@BradLinder) reported More Chromecast apps on the way: Google hosting hackathon in December in an 11/22/2013 article for his Liliputing blog:

imageGoogle’s Chromecast is a tiny, inexpensive device that lets you stream internet audio video to your TV. As of late November, 2013 that means you can stream media from a very small group of sites including Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, Hulu Plus, and HBO Go.

But soon you may be able to do a lot more with Google’s $35 Chromecast device. Google is inviting developers to Mountain View to participate in a hackathon December 7th and 8th in advance of the launch of the Google Cast SDK.

In other words, get ready for a rush of third-party Chromecast apps.

imageGoogle already has a beta software developer kit, and folks have been finding ways to do interesting things with a Chromecast, such as streaming video from officially unsupported sites, sending video straight from your phone (or cloud storage) to your TV, or flinging media from your PC.

But until the official SDK is available, Google has basically stopped developers from widely distributing apps that do those things.

The Chromecast device itself features a low-power processor with support for HD video playback and software which is based on Google Android and Chrome OS. It’s capable of doing a lot more than simply streaming videos from YouTube and a few other sites, and soon it may be able to do much more.

I’ve been using a Chromecast for the past few months almost exclusively to stream videos from Netflix, and it’s more than justified the $35 price I paid for it. Anything extra will just be a bonus.


Koushik Dutta Noted the Release of the Google Cast SDK

From @Koush’s Google+ message: Upcoming release of the Google Cast SDK. Moment of truth, this should be interesting:

image


Ben Schoon Reported on 11/18/2013 that Motorola Is Now Selling Chromecasts

Ben Schoon (@NexusBen) announced Motorola Starts Selling Chromecasts in an 11/18/2013 article for the iTechTriag blog:

Screenshot 2013-11-18 at 6.58.26 PM.png

imageUnexpectedly, Motorola has silently selling Google’s Chromecast on it’s own website for the same $35 as in other places. The Chromecast is listed in the accessory section of Motorola’s shop alongside Bluetooth speakers and charging accessories. The Chromecast is still only available in the U.S. just like the Moto X. Considering the Chromecast is still sold out in several places, it’s nice to see Motorola taking orders for the device.

Screenshot 2013-11-18 at 7.00.58 PM.png

I believe Amazon and almost all Best Buy U.S. stores now have Chromecasts in inventory.


Greg Hortin Describes How to Set Up a VPN and Unblock Netflix Overseas

Greg Hortin posted a Netflix with Android and Chromecast outside the USA (In Australia in my case) tutorial to Goggle+’s Chromecast community on 10/20/2013:

imageDue to fortunate timing and a slip up with Amazon shipping I finally managed to get hold of two Chromecast’s. http://goo.gl/rHgIBR

The Google services (Play Movies, Play Music and YouTube) work great and I’m a huge fan of the radio and get lucky radio feature (think iTunes Genius) with Play Music. Netflix however is not designed to work outside its geo blocked territories and the Chromecast has its DNS settings hard coded so the standard VPN solution doesn’t work.

Through a bit of internet based research I managed to find a combination of solutions to this problem. The information is freely available on the internet but I thought I might put together a guide based on the solutions that worked for me. This may come across as pretty complex but its pretty straight forward once you get going.

How to
Step one: Obtain a Chromecast (not sold in stores outside the USA). EBay is a good source of slightly overpriced Chromecast’s, though with the release of the Chromecast app to all users on the Play store this may point to an upcoming global release.

Step two: Configure your Chromecast using the app from the Play store http://goo.gl/h2IEpX or using the web interface.

Step three: Get yourself a VPN. I was using the Hola unblocker plugin for the desktop Chrome browser to watch Netflix, its free and it works great but for the Chromecast you are going to want a VPN service. I went with unblock US http://goo.gl/fj9Xx .

Step four: Setup the VPN with your router. Log into your router and go to the WAN/ADSL setting page. Un tick “Obtain DNS Automatically” then input the primary and secondary DNS setting from the unblock US guide page (or for your VPN provider of choice) 111.118.175.56 and 118.127.33.48 (these will be different if you’re using another VPN provider). Apply the settings and then restart your router.

Step five: Download the Netflix app. For the purpose of this guide I will assume you already have a Netflix account. The lag free 3.0 version APK of the app can be found at +Android Police http://goo.gl/6OkGDf . If this is the first time you are using an off market APK you may need to change settings to allow it on your phone or tablet. If your VPN is setup correctly you will be able to log into and use the Netflix app on your phone or tablet, sending to Chromecast will error out (see hard coded DNS mentioned above).

Step six: re-routing the hard coded DNS setting of the Chromecast via your router. This part is a little convoluted but if you can do step four you should be OK here. There is a guide from a user “rufree2talk” on XDA developers that explains how to trick your Chromecast with pre routing http://goo.gl/3znlyE . My router/modem doesn’t support static route so I was not able to use the setting in the exact way suggested.

Instead I had to send the iptable strings to my router using telnet, I used a guide from user “Blyth” on Whirlpool http://goo.gl/foPQJU to get going with Telnet as I had never really used it before. Per the Whirlpool guide I downloaded Putty (specifically PuttyTel) from http://goo.gl/QGh0sf . Type your router IP address into PuttyTel (Host name) and then press the open button. You will be presented with a command prompt asking for you router username and then password. After you log in you should see a “>” at this point you need to enter the following two strings (if you are using a different VPN provider the destination IP address will be different:

iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -d 8.8.8.8 -j DNAT –to-destination 111.118.175.56

iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -d 8.8.4.4 -j DNAT –to-destination 118.127.33.48

You can copy and paste those strings into Putty/Telnet and will need to press enter after each one. Unless you get some kind of error message you can assume each string was entered successfully. From what I understand these setting will be undone if you restart your router, I don’t need to restart mine often so I have the strings in notepad ready to re-enter them when I do.

Step seven: Its working! At this point you should have Netflix working on your Chromecast (YouTube Play Movies/Music will continue to work fine). I’ve found the picture quality on my ADSL2+ internet service to be fantastic, better than it looks on the browser version by far, it also loads quicker for me too. I’m not sure if the quality and speed has anything to do with not using Silverlight (I’ll restrain my urge to hate on Microsoft stuff at this point).

I hope this guide is of some assistance, having Netflix working has made my Chromecast experience even better and I’m looking forward to more app support on the way. If you try to follow this guide and get stuck or have any questions please let me know.
#chromecast #australia #netflix.


Chris Welch Reported a new Hulu Plus iPhone App for Chromecast

Chris Welch (@chriswelch) posted Hulu Plus for iPhone adds support for Google’s Chromecast on 10/21/2013:

Chromecast (1024px)

imageJust as it promised to do, Hulu has today enabled support for Google’s Chromecast on iPhone. Users can begin streaming Hulu Plus content to their TVs by installing an update for the app that’s available now. Hulu first rolled out Chromecast integration on Android and iPad, joining Netflix as the latest third party to support the miniature $35 streaming stick.

imageAccording to the company, “Hulu Plus integration with Chromecast will convert your app into a custom remote letting you control video on your Chromecast connected TVs, while allowing you to browse the Hulu Plus app directly from your iPhone.” The required update can be downloaded from the iOS App Store.

With two major streaming services accounted for, Google is also reportedly working to enable HBO Go streaming for Chromecast.


Chromecast App Became Available Internationally from the Google Play Store on 10/18/2013

Gaurav Shukla (@gauravshukla) reported Chromecast Android app now available internationally in a 10/19/2013 post to the Android OS India site:

imageGoogle seems to be getting ready to release Chromecast media streamer outside the United States. The company late Friday rolled-out the official Chromecast Android app internationally, which was earlier only accessible to US Google Play users. chromecast

Now, Android users in India and other countries will be able to download the official Chromecast app directly from Google Play. It is good news for Chromecast owners who are not living in the US (and using imported units) and also seems like the first step in making Chromecast hardware available in more markets.

imageThere is no official word on when the Chromecast dongle will be released in other countries but keep an eye out for the availability of Chromecast in your country-specific Google Play store and other popular e-retailers.

Coming back to Chromecast app, it is used for setting up Chromecast hardware in order to make it work with your Wi-Fi network and also to manage your Chromecast settings.

Download Chromecast app from Google Play

Members of Google+’s Chromecast Community have reported availability in the UK, Sweden and Germany also.


Fast Shuffle: Amazon Retracts Chromecast Sales Outside the US

Alex Dobie (@alexdobie) reported Amazon.com no longer taking international Chromecast orders in a 10/9/2013 post to the Android Central site:

… But existing orders seem to be safe

imageFor most of yesterday buyers outside the United States could place orders for Google’s Chromecast streaming dongle through Amazon.com, in a way that’s usually not possible for consumer electronics on the U.S.-based site. The opening allowed international buyers to get hold of a Chromecast before it’s officially available in their country, and often for less than the high prices found on eBay and elsewhere.

Chromecast on Amazon
imageToday, though, Amazon has closed that particular loophole, and attempting to select a non-U.S. shipping address for your Chromecast order produces the error message above. On the upside, orders placed yesterday from outside the U.S. seem to be shipping (we’ve already received our dispatch notification), so quick-witted international customers should still get their devices in the days ahead. U.S. buyers can continue to order Chromecast through Amazon.com, as well as the Google Play Store.

More: Chromecast review

Source: Chromecast on Amazon.com

I found it surprising that Chromecast dongles would be available in locations that couldn’t download required Chromecast apps from the Google Play store (see post below.)


Amazon Expands Geographical Availability of Chromecast Dongle without App Access

Neils Bosch (@NielsBoschh) reported Google Chromecast now available in the UK, Europe and Australia in a 10/8/2013 post to the AmongTech blog:

image

imageGoogle‘s own video streaming device launched back in July and was only available in the US until now. Amazon is now shipping Chromecast to several countries in Europe (Spain, France, Germany and Finland) , to the UK, Hong Kong, India and to Australia. However, the Chromecast App however is as of now only available in the US and on Google’s official website they still say it is currently only available in the US.

Amazon will sendship your Chromecast to the UK for £22.5960  This is without shipping cost and to Australia for $36.42. You can purchase Google Chromecast from Amazon Here. Google Chromecast actually ranked First in our Top 3 Streaming devices.

Update 1: You can also order Chromecast if you live in Finland, Spain, India, Holland, Belgium, Portugal, Italy and France.

Source : AndroidCentral


Track Proposed and Accepted Updates to the Google Cast SDK

Google’s Cast SDK team publishes a detailed Issues tracking list here:

image

SDK users can add items by clicking the New Issue button, which opens this form with the default Defect Report from User template:

image

Thanks to Google+ Chromecast community member +James Mosvick for the heads up.

Chromecast Remains Top-Selling Amazon.com Electronic Item

imageChromecast has been #1 on Amazon.com’s Top 100 Electronics items list since Google announced it on 7/24/2013. Following are the rankings of Chromecast and two of its competitors on 9/28/2013:

AmazonElectronicBestSellers9-28-2013

Various Kindle tablets took the #2 through #6 positions. It’s interesting that three of the top eight sellers were media players.

Chromecast Gains a Wikipedia Article

Wikipedia’s Chromecast article, last edited 9/24/2013, begins:

imageChromecast is a digital media streaming adapter developed by Google. The device, a 2.83-inch (72 mm) dongle, plays audio/video content on a high-definition television by streaming it via Wi-Fi from the Internet or local network. Users select the media to play on their television from the Google Chrome web browser on a personal computer or from a supported app on their mobile device.

imageThe device was announced on July 24, 2013 and was made available for purchase on the same day for US$35, along with a Netflix promotion that provided free access for three months.[3] As of July 28, 2013, Chromecast is available only in the United States but will be released in other countries as well.[4]

“It’s not real if it doesn’t have its own Wikipedia article.” –rj


John Dietrich Posts a Third-Party Review of Chromecast

John Dietrich (@MichlinMetals) posted Chromecast Capabilities & Owner Review to his GPlusGeek blog on 9/23/2013:

Google Chromecast

imageGoogle Chromecast is a $35 Netflix and YouTube casting device that allows you to watch videos from your Android or iOS device directly on your TV. All that’s required is a TV with a free HDMI port. It’s also nice if you have a free USB port on your TV as well because Chromecast requires external power, which it can get from either being plugged into a wall outlet or a free USB port.

There are five officially supported apps for Chromecast at this point with more coming ou[t] in the next few months. Currently these are Netflix, YouTube, Google Music, Google Video and Google Play Movies & TV. While the Google Cast API is not fully released, it’s still marked as a developer preview, there will be many more Chromcast apps coming out once this moves out of developer preview.

What Else Can You Do With Chromecast?

You can currently stream your local content from your device, running the Chrome browser, to your TV using Chromecast. This is done using the Google Cast extension for the Google Chrome browser. Currently file types such as mp4, m4v, avi and mpeg can be streamed. However mkv files don’t stream with audio. Just open your Chrome browser, once the Google Cast extension is installed, then type Ctrl+O (commend+O on a Mac). You can then navigate to the local content you wish to stream.

Using the Google Cast Chrome browser plugin you can also, “Cast this tab”. That is you can stream any tab you have opened locally onto the big screen! Not only this, but you can even “Cast entire screen”. While this second feature is still experimental take a look for yourself.

Chromecast Owner Review

I’ve owned the Chromecast device for several weeks now, and absolutely love the device. Setup was not difficult, there was one step I had to re-try, but I was up and running in very short order. Streaming YouTube and Netflix couldn’t be easier to do, and the quality is surprisingly high. It’s also very fast. Going from opening the Netflix app to actually casting full HD content takes less than 60 seconds.

Chromecast Plugged InI have noticed that my play controls sometimes disappear while streaming Netflix. Basically if I exit the app, to check an email or text message, the play and pause controls may disappear. To get them back I have to close, and re-open the Netflix app. While this is a bit inconvenient at times the video content never stops streaming so there’s no interruption in content viewing.

Over all I highly recommend the Chromecast device, and am looking forward to more app releases. I’ve also recommended it to friends and family who are also loving their new Chromecast. If you own one, or have any questions about owning one, leave us some comments below we’d be glad to hear from you!


Google Begins Adding Chromecast Compliance to Embedded You Tube Videos

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) asserted “YouTube is starting to let users beam videos to their Chromecast devices from any website” in a summary of his YouTube starts testing Chromecast support for third-party websites report of 9/15/2013 for the GigaOm blog:

imageYouTube quietly started to add support for Chromecast to its embedded web player, allowing users of Google’s TV dongle to beam videos displayed on third-party websites straight from their browser to their TV. Previously, casting was only supported from YouTube.com.

imageSome Chromecast users started reporting in recent days that they had seen the dongle’s play to TV button popping up on embedded videos on Google+ as well as other sites. Testing this, I was able to cast videos from a few third-party sites, including GigaOM.com. However, the button seems to show up randomly, and may not be available for everyone, or for every video, as it is part of a test. Here’s what a YouTube spokesperson had to say:

image“With more videos coming to YouTube every minute we’re always experimenting with ways to help people more easily find, watch and share the videos that matter most to them. As always, we’ll consider rolling changes out more broadly based on feedback on these experiments.”

Adding Chromecast support to videos embedded on third-party sites does make a lot of sense for YouTube, as it could get people to watch videos for longer periods of time, and in turn display more ads. YouTube already lets users beam any video from YouTube.com as well as from its mobile apps to a Chromecast device.

Check out our video review of Chromecast below:

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst.


Chromecast Bootloader Exploit Package available from GTVHacker.com

The GTVHacker.com site’s Google Chromecast wiki page includes the following Bootloader Exploit Package section:

Items Needed:

  • imageBlank USB Flash drive (at least 128MB) –Your drive will be erased–
  • Our USB Image
  • Google Chromecast
  • Powered Micro USB OTG Cable
  • If not a Powered Micro USB OTG Cable, then find a way to rig up a cable that does just this. We will not provide instructions, it’s simple, but still. Just buy the cable.

Pre-Setup:

  1. Download .zip and extract the “gtvhacker-chromecast.bin” file. [Link added; see below.]
  2. Install our USB image as a whole to your USB flash drive with dd:

Syntax: dd if=gtvhacker-chromecast.bin of=/dev/sdX bs=1024

Root Process:

  1. Plug the flash drive into one female “A” end of the USB OTG cable
  2. Plug the other end into the Chromecast
  3. Hold down the button on the Chromecast while plugging in the power cord.
  4. Watch the screen, and any blinking light on your flash drive. The Chromecast will power up, execute our unsigned kernel, kick off to a script that replaces /system with a rooted one. It will then wipe /data, and reboot back to the normal system. All of this should take about a minute. Don’t unplug anything while it is installing.
  5. When it is complete, your box will reboot, and you will see a new splash screen, and then the Setup screen. Just re-set up your Chromecast, and you can telnet to get a root shell on your Chromecast on port 23!

Bootloader Exploit Package Download

The Software section includes the following details:

At its core Google Chromecast is Android. Items below can be found that help describe the Chromecast operating environment.

  • Chromecast Build.prop – A build.prop that details all the config props setup on the device in its shipped configuration.


Chromecast Workaround for IPTables-Enabled Linux Distributions

Wikipedia defines iptables as follows:

iptables are the tables provided by the Linux kernel firewall (implemented as different Netfilter modules) and the chains and rules it stores. Different kernel modules and programs are currently used for different protocols; iptables applies to IPv4, ip6tables to IPv6, arptables to ARP, and ebtables to Ethernet frames.

iptables requires elevated privileges to operate and must be executed by user root, otherwise it fails to function. On most Linux systems, iptables is installed as /usr/sbin/iptables and documented in its man pages which can be opened using man iptables when installed. It may also be found in /sbin/iptables, but since iptables is more like a service rather than an “essential binary”, the preferred location remains /usr/sbin.

The term iptables is also commonly used to inclusively refer to the kernel-level components. x_tables is the name of the kernel module carrying the shared code portion used by all four modules that also provides the API used for extensions; subsequently, Xtables is more or less used to refer to the entire firewall (v4, v6, arp, and eb) architecture.

Matthew J. Smith explained Using Google Chromecast from Fedora 19 (and other IPTable-enabled Linux distributions) in a 8/25/2013 post:

imageUsing Chrome’s Google Cast with the Google Chromecast from an IPTables-enabled Linux distribution can be a bit tricky.

The extension starts by issuing an SSDP request from a local ephemeral UDP port to 239.255.255.250 port 1900.  The Chromecast will respond from its IP and another ephemeral UDP port, back to your source UDP port.

IPTables cannot track this simply as “RELATED”, given that the target of the first packet is the multicast address, while the source of the response packet is the Chromecast’s IP.  And unfortunately, there is no SSDP conntrack module (at least, not that I am aware of, at the time of writing this post).

Therefore, the best we can do for now is to open the ephemeral port range on the client machine.  The list of ephemeral ports, as defined by your Linux machine, can be found by:

cat /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_local_port_range

Fedora19 uses firewalld, so you will want to use the following:

firewall-cmd –permanent –add-port=”32768-61000/udp” firewall-cmd –reload

On non-firewalld systems, use this IPTables one-liner:

iptables -A INPUT -p udp -m udp –dport 32768:61000 -j ACCEPT

Launch Chrome, click the Cast extensions, and it should now “Just Work”.  And if it doesn’t …. please let me know in the comments on this post.


Spotify Connect Mimics Chromecast for Music

Spotify.co.uk described Spotify Connect: the new way to play at home:

Spotify Connect: the new way to play at home

image
Introducing Spotify Connect – the seamless way to fill your home with music. This clever feature lets you play and control millions of songs across your phone, tablet and speakers.

Bring your music home. You walk through the door, listening to a great playlist on your phone. With Connect, just hit play on your living room speakers and the music instantly fires up, right where you left off. You won’t miss a beat.

Then pick up your tablet to control the music from your sofa. Or switch the sound to your iPod Touch in the kitchen’s docking station. Keep the music flowing with Connect.


Here are just some of the amazing features of Connect.

  • Play & control music on any device. Choose music on one device, listen on another.
  • Music is seamless. Switch devices, and the music keeps flowing.
  • No interruptions. Plug in your headset, make and receive calls, play a game – no problem.
  • Battery-friendly. Using Connect won’t drain your device’s power.

Choose your home speaker system. Spotify Connect will be available soon on a wide range of speakers and home audio systems from music hardware specialists. Look out for the Spotify Connect logo on compatible systems.

partnerslogos
Spotify Connect will be available soon to Spotify Premium subscribers on iPhone, iPad and home audio systems over the coming months, with Android and desktop updates to follow.

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 11.08.04 AM

Spotify and Google appear to be reading from the same playbook. Hopefully they’ll join forces with a Chromecast-compliant app.


Corey Bergman Describes How His Kids Adapt to Chromecasting

Corey Bergman (@corybe) described How Chromecast fundamentally changed how my family watches TV in a 9/3/2013 to the Lost Remote site’s Second Screen column:

imageAs soon as Google unveiled Chromecast, I was lucky enough to scoop up a couple of the $35 devices to connect the two TVs in our home. After a few weeks, it’s fundamentally changed how my family watches TV. It’s also changed some of my perceptions about the evolution of the “second screen.”

Most of the TV viewing in our house is dominated by our kids. Ages 3 and 5, they immediately grasped how to “cast” their Netflix shows from our phones (iPhone and Nexus 4) and iPads to either TV. After all, they were already watching Netflix on their devices, and simply tapping an icon to play it on TV turned out to be an extremely natural act. For them, devices are the starting point to watch video, not the TV.

imageFor me, the remote control has been my historical starting point, but Chromecast is liberating because it’s invisibly tied to my omnipresent devices. I can leave both TVs on Chromecast (why should we have to turn TVs on and off?), then pick up any phone or tablet in my home, find a show and cast it instantly. I always have my phone in my pocket — but not remote controls — and our tablets are always sitting on the couch or next to the bed. Finding a show on a tablet is much easier than tapping up/down/left/right on a remote, and the multitasking wizardry of Chromecast makes it a snap to play something and do something else at the same time.

Of course, the MVPDs are playing an aggressive devices strategy, too, enabling you to browse and control TV content from your devices. The difference with Chromecast is it works across any app that has integrated the SDK. The more apps add it, the more powerful it becomes. While Chromecast is just wired into Netflix and YouTube for now, it’s coming to Hulu Plus, Pandora and reportedly HBO Go. You could imagine TV Everywhere apps like Watch ESPN could integrate it as well, assuming MVPDs don’t object. But in the divisive and confusing world of digital rights, that’s a big assumption.

That’s because Chromecast and Apple TV have the potential to become disruptive with scale. Devices, not TV, become the starting point. Apps become the channels. Google and Apple become the gateways, not the MVPDs. Screens become seamless. DVRs become pointless. And the internet becomes the cable.

While TV Everywhere preserves revenue streams, new habits are forming. Kids are growing up on devices and apps, and even my 5 year-old (sadly) knows how to make an in-app purchase. If someone wants to watch HBO, it’s natural behavior for a younger viewer to punch up the HBO Go app on a device and instantly play it on any screen. As the show plays on TV, the app could serve up supporting “second screen” content, which could also cast on TV in some way. Or you could switch off to another app, or watch the show on the device to begin with. The second screen is the starting point, and in many cases, it becomes the first screen.

Just look at the new NFL experience for Xbox, revealed in more detail this week. With on-screen scores, fantasy updates and conversations, the first screen is the de facto second screen,

As Kevin Spacey said at the Edinburgh Television Festival, “The audience wants control. They want freedom.” Of all the second screen technologies I’ve tried, Twitter and Chromecast are the two I use the most. Our kids even engage in “Chromecast wars,” casting their favorite shows over the top of everyone else’s shows, much to our chagrin.

By the way, Chromecast is still sold out on Amazon and sold out again on BestBuy.com. By all appearances, Chromecast is quickly growing enough scale to encourage widespread adoption by developers. Stay tuned…



Paul Thurrot Reads the Riot Act to Chromecast in an Uncommonly Scathing Review

Paul Thurrot (@Thurrot) asserted “The easiest way to watch online video on your TV? Not even close” in a deck for his Google Chromecast First Impressions and Photos Windows Supersite article of 8/27/2013:

Google’s third stab at the living room is small, cute and inexpensive. But my initial experiences with this device are underwhelming so I’ll be testing it over the next week or so to determine whether it lives up to the hype. In the meantime, here’s a quick peek at the device and some initial thoughts.

You have no doubt heard the old adage “you get what you pay for.” That’s never been more true than with the Chromecast, a $35 device that seeks to compete with such products as Roku (four models, $50 to $100), Apple TV ($100), and WD-TV (three models, $70 to $260). This device is so bare-boned and so barely functional I can’t see myself recommending it to anyone. We’ll see, but that’s the initial impression. This thing is a joke.

First, it’s not a standalone device. To use the Chromecast—to even set up the Chromecast—you need another compatible digital device. This can be a PC, an Android handset or tablet, an iPhone or an iPad. This device needs to be in front of your TV, ready to go at all times, like a glorified remote control. You cannot use Chromecast without it. So what you’re really paying for is a way to blast a limited range of content from that device to your TV. Chromecast isn’t a digital media set-top box. It’s a dumb wireless display dongle. For $15 more you can get a complete, free-standing Roku box that comes with its own remote control. No brainer.

Second, as alluded to above, Chromecast is extremely limited. You can stream content from the Google Play Store (music or video), from Netflix, and from YouTube only. By comparison, Roku sports over 750+ channels of entertainment, including all the heavy hitters: Netflix, HBO GO, Vudu, Crackle, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, MLB.TV Premium, Disney, EPIX, SyFy, NOOK Video, and many, many more. 750 vs. 3. Do the math.

(OK, it’s going to be 750 vs. 4 soon. Google has built beta support for Chromecast into Chrome as well, so you will soon be able to reliably stream from Google’s browser too. It’s a bit rough right now.)

Third, those pictures where you see this USB-dongle-looking-thing sticking out of the side of an HDTV, creating a clean look? Completely fake. The Chromecast requires a USB-based power cord and, on most TVs, an HDMI extension cable. The real look of this thing is in fact worse than putting a Roku or AppleTV under the set, though arguably some will be able to simply hide it.

Fourth, it’s Wi-Fi only. Where you can get an Ethernet-equipped Roku or AppleTV for $99, Chromecast requires you to use that device plus whatever is controlling it on the same Wi-Fi network. And I had to set up a new Wi-Fi network because I couldn’t get it to connect to the one every other device in the house uses without issue.

Which brings me to number five, the deal-breaker. We can quibble over my technical acumen, but I couldn’t get this thing set up properly for days. I almost gave up. There are almost no instructions—I’ve seen more details on a cereal box give-away promotion—and no indication why things aren’t working. The Chromecast is simple, yes. But not the good kind of simple.

And you know what? I’m not going to review this piece of crap. And you shouldn’t buy it. There are just too many viable alternatives out there. A Roku is about 100 times better than the Chromecast and it’s not much more expensive. Don’t be dumb.

Pictures follow. If you’re lucky, this will be the last time you ever see this thing.

My comment on Paul’s post was awaiting moderation when I posted this article; I’ll add it when and if the comment appears.

Update 9/6/2013: You can read my comment here.


Google Acknowledges Chromecast Uses Microsoft PlayReadyTM Digital Rights (DRM) Management Software

Google’s Chromecast Product Information booklet contains a Licenses and End User Notices section, which states the following:

This product contains technology subject to certain intellectual property rights of Microsoft. Use or distribution of this technology outside of this product is prohibited without the appropriate license(s) from Microsoft.

Content owners use Microsoft PlayReadyTM content access technology to protect their intellectual property including copyrighted content. This devices uses PlayReady technology to access PlayRead-protected content and/or WMDRM-protected content if the device fails to properly enforce restrictions on content usage. Content owners may required Microsoft to revoke the device’s ability to consume PlayReady protected content. Revocation should not affect unprotected content or content protected by other content access technologies. Content owners may require you to upgrade PlayReady to access their content. If you declice to upgrade, you will not be able to access content that requires the upgrade.

Chromecast was designed by Google, Inc. of 1600 Amphitheater Parkway, Mountain View, California 94043 and assembled in China.

It’s always interesting to read the fine print. Netflix is the primary cause of adopting PlayReady DRM for Chromecast. Click here for more information from Microsoft PlayReady technology.

Nicholas DeLeon (@nicholasadeleon) reported Netflix goes with Microsoft PlayReady DRM for upcoming streaming devices in a 5/10/2010 TechCrunch article:

imageLooks like Netflix has decided to go with Microsoft’s PlayReady DRM for all upcoming Netflix-ready devices. If all goes according to plan you shouldn’t even notice the DRM being there, but we all know how well DRM has worked in the past.

imageNetflix already uses PlayReady for its Mac and Windows PC instant streaming services, so both companies already have a convivial working relationship. More importantly to end-users, I don’t recall any big DRM dust-ups vis-à-vis Netflix streams.

imageThis announcement also confirms a host of new Netflix-ready devices. The press release mentions “Internet TVs, Blu-ray disc players, home theater systems, video game consoles and other devices.” What could “other devices” mean? Something like Google TV, or maybe the Boxee Box? A Netflix-equipped Google TV could do well for itself.

Netflix says the move to PlayReady DRM will make it easier to get content providers (movie studios and the like) to supply a steady stream of, well, content. If there’s one complaint against the Netflix streaming service is that there’s not as wide a selection of content as there is with disc-based Netflix. That should begin to change with this move.

The first devices making use of this new DRM should hit stores early this summer.

Needless to say, your ability to stream Netflix on your Xbox 360 (or PS3 or Wii) won’t be negatively affected by this transition.

Obviously, “other devices” ultimately included Google’s Chromecast.


Google TV Engineer Warren Rehman Says Google TV will Support Cast

Warren Rehman replied as follows on 7/24/2013 to a Google TV announcement:

image


Google’s Minimum System Requirements for Tab-Casting from Chrome to Your TV

The Chromecast team has published Cast from Chrome to your TV: Minimum System Requirements to its Chromecast Support site:

image_thumb4The Google Cast extension can be used on any platform running Chrome 28 or higher to enable integration with sites such as www.youtube.com and www.netflix.com. To download the Chrome Browser, visit www.google.com/chrome. If you already use the Chrome Browser and need to check your version number, type “about://chrome” into your URL bar.

imagePlease note: Casting a tab has specific requirements depending on your chosen quality settings. Systems that do not meet these minimum requirements will be limited to projecting web pages, images and slideshows, and will not work for streaming video content.

image

If you are unsure of your computer specs, please see our CPU & GPU Help Center article here.

Note: If you’re having trouble, please try our Chromecast Troubleshooting tips here.

See our Casting MPEG-4/H.264 Video Files with Chrome from a Windows Laptop article for a detailed tab-casting instructions.


Ossama Alami Describes Chromecast Developer Relations Jobs Open at Google

Ossama Alami (@ossamaalami), a Google Developer Advocate, asked if you’re Interested in working on Chromecast and the Cast SDK? in an 8/13/2013 post to Google+’s Chromecast Hacks community:

imageI’m looking for Developer Advocates, Developer Programs Engineers and Tech Writers to join the Cast Developer Relations team! Find out more at https://developers.google.com/jobs/ Ping me if you want to learn more!

It’s interesting that the above Jobs page reports it was last updated on 3/25/2013!


Ross Rubin Asserts “Chromecast is very much in keeping with the Chrome ethos” in His Switched On Column for Engadget

Consumer technology analyst Ross Rubin (@rossrubin) posted Switched On: Casting light on the Chromecast on 8/11/2013 to his monthly Switched On column for the Engadget site:

DNP Switched On Casting light on the Chromecast

imageSold out for weeks after its launch, everyone seems to be in love with the Chromecast — the ultra-cheap, ultra-small, interface-free, HDMI-toting TV appendage that stole the show from the new Nexus 7. Building beyond the DIAL device-discovery protocol that Netflix and YouTube have supported, Chromecast is a client of Google Cast, which enables the kind of second-screen control for volume and other features implemented by the device.

imageGoogle has gotten the jump on similar products such as the Plair TV dongle by natively supporting three of the most popular services to use on televisions — Netflix, YouTube and Pandora. Furthermore, it has also enabled a backdoor to many other services by building in support for displaying Chrome tabs on a Chromecast-connected TV. In doing so, it treats the TV as an extension of the browser just as Apple’s forthcoming OS X Mavericks can treat an Apple TV-connected set as another Macintosh screen. [Plair Media link added.]

The Chrome brand may not mean much to consumers at this point (at least compared to Android), but it’s shaping up to represent a few things to Google, which marked the metallic name’s focus on simplicity. But unlike other competitive products that marry simplicity with sophisticated, premium industrial design, the Chrome brand connotes affordable simplicity. For example, in their marketplace ascent, Chromebooks have become the new netbooks — truer to that name, in fact, than the Windows-based versions ever were.

Chromecast is very much in keeping with the Chrome ethos. It runs on Chrome OS, which means that its software layer is essentially a browser. It also encourages HTML-based development, which — despite the strong software support that Android has received — remains Google’s desired endgame. Chromecast is cross-platform, but very much tied to the Chrome browser. In fact, Google’s introduction of Chromecast portrayed the mobile device universe as consisting only of Android and iOS products, the only ones on which Chrome is available.

But Chromecast is more than a cross-platform play; it’s a countermove against WiFi extensions such as AirPlay, which will likely never move beyond the iOS ecosystem; it also does this without using Miracast, the Wi-Fi Alliance’s attempt to build its own answer to AirPlay, and for which Microsoft recently announced support in Windows 8.1.

Two years ago, Switched On discussed some of the key challenges of smart TV. At least three different approaches — including the disastrous Nexus Q — have tried using Android to crack it. But recent findings from Reticle Research show that the feature consumers are most interested in from a smart TV is the ability to send content from a smartphone or tablet.

Perhaps frustrated by Google TV’s slow adoption, Google has launched Chromecast as a hedge, a bet that TV may not enter into a robust app ecosystem the way that Samsung and others think it will. While it continues to play both sides of that bet, it has just tipped the scales a bit in favor of a solution that’s simpler, more focused and — assuming you have the requisite second screen — much cheaper.

I wasn’t familiar with the US$99 Plair TV dongle until Ross mentioned it in this post. Plair emulates Chromecast’s Chrome browser tab-casting feature, not DIAL-based native Chromecasting. The Amazon App Store for Android lists the free Plair app for Android, as does the Google Play Store; here’s one of several screen captures:

image

It will be interesting to learn how Plair Media intends to compete with Chromecast.


Janko Roettgers Analyzes Google and Netflix Efforts to Co-Opt TV Makers’ “Smart” Features with the DIAL Protocol

I paid about $100 extra for the “Smart” features of the 46-inch Samsung UN46D6050 HDTV my wife and I purchased from Amazon for about US$700 on 5/5/2012. After connecting it to the Internet with AT&T’s commercial DSL service, I was quite disappointed in the usefulness of these features. I subsequently connected other HDMI-enabled devices, such as a Roku 3 streaming player, an Acer Aspire 5750-6690 laptop and an Ugoos UG007-II MiniPC to an open HDMI port (see A Diagram of the OakLeaf Systems Video Component Test System topic below.) I’ll add a Chromecast when I receive my second unit in September or October.

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) asserted “Chromecast was just the beginning: Google and Netflix have both been working on making smart TVs better, and we’ve chronicled their work and the problems it is meant to address in a series of long-form stories” in a summary of his Netflix and Google want to save TV article of 8/4/2013 for GigaOm:

imageNetflix and Google have both been trying to save television. And we are not talking about YouTube and Arrested Development for a change, but on the actual TV set – the device that’s in your living room.

imageNetflix has been talking behind closed doors to TV makers to make their so-called smart TVs less painful to use, Google has worked to replace the on-screen keyboard with voice search and both companies have cooperated to establish an open AirPlay competitor – work that eventually led to Google’s Chromecast device, which launched a little more than a week ago and immediately sold out online and in stores around the country.

imageThis week, we chronicled these efforts to make TVs suck less in a three-part series called Making TVS smart that featured interviews with developers, executives and more. Here’s your chance to catch up in case you missed it:

Related research

Subscriber Content comes from GigaOM Pro, a revolutionary approach to market research without the high price tag. Visit any of our reports to subscribe.

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst.

GigaOm is just one of many sources reporting that the Chromcast uses Netflix’s DIscovery And Launch (DIAL) protocol, which second-screen can use to discover and launch apps on first-screen devices:

image

From Netflix’s Overview page:

For example, suppose you discover a video on your mobile app and want to play it on your connected TV.

Without DIAL

  1. Launch the apps menu on your TV with the normal remote control
  2. Navigate to the TV app
  3. Launch the TV app
  4. Navigate to the pairing screen on TV app
  5. Launch and navigate to the pairing screen on Mobile app
  6. Input 9-digit pin on Mobile app. 
  7. Tap the Play on TV button on the Mobile app

With DIAL

  1. Launch the Mobile app
  2. Tap the Play on TV button on the mobile app

For consumers, DIAL removes the pain of having to launch the required app on the 1st screen before interacting with it from their 2nd screen. DIAL does not have any significant impact on the 2nd screen’s battery life and the only requirement is that both 1st and 2nd screens are connected to the same home network.

For device manufacturers, DIAL increases usage of applications on their 1st screen products (TV, set-top, Blu-ray, etc.).

For app developers, DIAL helps link their 2nd screen app to their 1st screen app without requiring a manual launch or pairing process by the user.

See the DIAL Protocol Specification for more discussion of typical use cases.

The DIAL Name Registry is a listing of DIAL Namespace names reserved by content providers. The first two entries are YouTube and Netflix. Other familiar content providers with registered namespaces include:

  • Hulu
  • Pandora
  • Disney
  • Redbox Instant
  • Sling Media
  • Vimeo


CNet’s John P. Falcone Laments: The $35 Chromecast seemed like the perfect alternative to expensive hotel pay-per-view; unfortunately, the hotel’s Wi-Fi didn’t cooperate

John P. Falcone (@falconejp) described How hotel Wi-Fi killed my Chromecast travel dreams in an 8/5/2013 article for CNet.Reviews | Home Theater:

Chromecast fails on my hotel Wi-Fi (Credit: John P. Falcone/CNET)

imageLast week, I visited San Francisco for a long-overdue trip to the CNET home office. In anticipation of the four-night stay, I added my new Chromecast to my luggage. (I managed to get in on the first wave of Amazon sales before it quickly sold out.) My thought: I could queue up some Netflix rather than watch the random 20 standard-def cable channels on the hotel TV feed.

It seemed like a perfect use of Google’s new ultracompact streaming dongle. And lying on the bed and watching my own choice of Netflix programming on the TV across the room seemed far more preferable to watching it on the screen of a 13-inch laptop balanced precariously on my stomach.

Unfortunately, the idea was a no-go.

I was able to physically set up the Chromecast in about 30 seconds; it was dead-simple to plug the Chromecast dongle into a free HDMI port on my room’s LG TV, and power it from the television’s USB port. Switching to the right input was a snap, too.

But I hit a wall with wireless.

Two aspects of the hotel Wi-Fi kept the Chromecast from being my on-the-road entertainment solution. And both of them would’ve flummoxed competing devices like the Apple TV or Roku.

Problem 1: Wi-Fi log-in
I was staying at the Galleria Park in San Francisco, which offers complimentary Wi-Fi. In order to authenticate, however, the network splash screen asks for a room number (call it your “username”) and a last name (“password”).

hotel Wi-Fi password screen (Credit: Screenshot by John P. Falcone/CNET)

In other words, the Wi-Fi network at the hotel is “open” in that you don’t need a WPA or WEP password to log in. But without the proper credentials (network username and password), you can’t get past the log-in screen.

That’s fine for anything with a browser — laptop, tablet, smartphone, even some e-readers, like the Kindle — but it utterly fails for any “entertainment device” that doesn’t have a browser. So my browser-enabled $69 Kindle worked fine, but the Chromecast didn’t. (I didn’t have an Apple TV or Roku on hand, but they wouldn’t have worked, either.)

Indeed, the hotel’s Wi-Fi was a lot like the security on my corporate network, which requires my company username and password. That’s exactly why we have a separate CNET Labs network for testing entertainment devices that don’t have browser-based log-ins. (Let’s face it: no home network is going to have that layer of security.)

Problem 2: Wi-Fi speeds
Even if I’d been able to log in to the hotel’s network, it wouldn’t have been smooth sailing. The Galleria Park’s free Wi-Fi was advertised as 1Mbps, and Speedtest on my laptop verified that was exactly the speed I was pulling down. That was perfectly fine for e-mail, Web surfing, and even some short inline videos, but for sustained video streaming at HD resolution, you really want upward of 3.5Mbps (if not much more).

Speedtest, Chromecast (Credit: Screenshot by John P. Falcone/CNET)

4G hot spot: Not always an option
I know what you’re thinking: both of these problems could be solved by using the hot-spot function on a 4G LTE phone (or a standalone hot-spot device). However, even if I was going to pay the premium for that service, I would’ve been out of luck on this trip: my phone was barely getting two bars on Verizon — probably because my room was in the interior ring of the hotel. When I was making calls, folks on the other end of the line were complaining that I was dropping in and out — so cellular-based data service just wasn’t reliable in that particular location.

Is there room for hope?
One has to wonder if this situation will improve. After all, hotels no more want to provide you with a “free” alternative to their pricey in-room pay-per-view movies than they want you to know that there’s a nearby drugstore with the same items as the minibar available at a fraction of the price.

That said, all is not lost. Wi-Fi is a key amenity, and touting faster, better wireless is certainly a big green light for travelers shopping in an increasingly competitive market.

Chromecast password screenshot (Credit: Screenshot by John P. Falcone/CNET)

On the Chromecast front, I think we could see progress as well. Because the Chromecast setup program uses a Mac, Windows PC, or Android device to “upload” a network Wi-Fi password to the unit, it certainly seems possible that Google could update the setup software to accept a username/password combo. That’s just a guess, though; one suspects that’s exactly the sort of workaround that could be exploited by clever hackers. (I can see the headline now: “Chromecast password exploit used to hack hotel network.”)

But I’ll hope for the best, and add a username-compatible log-in to our wish list of the several upgrades we’re hoping for Google to add to the Chromecast.

In the meantime, it looks like a tablet remains your best bet for on-the-road entertainment. …

If your tablet has a MiniHDMI, MicroHDMI, DisplayPort or MHL connector and you have the right HDMI cable/converter, you can emulate the Chromecast at 20 times the cost. One commenter recommended a travel router plugged into the room’s Ethernet connection (if it has one.)

Read the full CNET Review: Google Chromecast

The bottom line: Google’s $35 Chromecast streaming-TV dongle is certainly cheap, but its limited initial app support and total reliance on mobile devices keep it well behind the Apple TV and Roku — at least for now. Read Full Review


Adriana Lee Notes that Chromecast Doesn’t Support 5-GHz WiFi

Adriana Lee (@Adra_La) asserted “Google’s new device can do a lot of things. Supporting the faster 5GHz Wi-Fi frequency favored by streaming fans isn’t one of them” in a deck for her Another Chromecast Gotcha—It Hates The 5GHz Wireless-N Band article of 8/7/2013 for the ReadWriteWeb blog:

imageThe cheap, compact Chromecast streaming device can do a lot of tricks—from smartening up dumb TVs to turning our mobiles and laptops into handy controllers. It can even do a few unintended things, like letting us play the media stored on our laptops.

But what it can’t do is function without Wi-Fi. Since the device has no ethernet port, all that streaming action comes courtesy of your wireless network, the beating heart of which is your trusty router. But merely having one doesn’t ensure decent streaming. In the Chromecast’s case, the experience relies wholly on a few specific factors.

A Word About Routers

Chromecast supports the faster 802.11n Wi-Fi standard, along with the older b/g standards. This is great news for people with dual-band routers, the most common type of consumer-grade wireless-N router. Unfortunately, it only works on the 2.4GHz band. …

The 2.4GHz band is the one most devices use, and for good reason. It offers more wireless coverage over a greater distance, and can even work better through walls than the 5GHz band. But because of its popularity, more devices and appliances can interfere with this signal—including certain landline cordless phones, microwaves and baby monitors, among others.

This is partly why 5GHz has a reputation for faster performance, and as a result, some people deliberately move gaming and streaming activities onto 5GHz whenever they can. If nothing else, there’s simply less interference.

Too bad the Chromecast doesn’t work with this frequency. In fact, it can’t even recognize it. I tested this at home on my trusty Linksys WRT610N dual-band wireless-N router. The network name for my 2.4GHz frequency showed up, but Chromecast couldn’t detect the 5GHz band at all.

Even though my mobile devices and the Chromecast were on different frequencies, they were still on the same network, so they were able to communicate. I could remote control the YouTube and Netflix Web streams from my mobiles, and also tab cast from my laptop. …


Wikipedia Erroneously Reports HDMI Ports with MHL Will Power Chromecasts

Wikipedia’s Chomecast topic’s “Features and Operations” section read as follows on 8/9/2013 (emphasis added):

imageMeasuring 2.83 inches (72 mm), Chromecast plugs into a television’s HDMI port and can be powered directly from an HDMI 1.4+ port with MHL support.[5][6] For televisions without MHL, power can be supplied by connecting the device’s Micro-USB port to a USB port on the television or an external power supply. The mobile apps supported at release are YouTube, Netflix, Google Play Music, and Google Play Movies & TV. Additional apps, such as Pandora, TWiT.tv, HBO Go, and Hulu will be added.[7][8] The device works across several platforms and operating systems, including Android, iOS, Chrome OS, and Google Chrome on Windows and OS X through a browser extension.[9]

However, Chromecast users with recently purchased HDTV sets having MHL-compliant HDMI find that power must be provided with the USB connector, either from an active USB hub or a USB receptacle on the TV. For example, Kevin Mogee (@kevinmogee) started this discussion in the Google+ Chromecast community:

imageI have a Sony TV that is less than 2 months old.  It has HDMI 1.4 and MHL.  I was under the impression that with HDMI+MHL, I would not need the power cable for the Chromecast.  However, when I plug it in without the power cord, the Chromecast does not power on.  As soon as I add the USB cable, it turns on.  I’ve checked the settings on the TV and the HDMI port that I’m using specifically says HDMI + MHL.  Am I doing something wrong, or is my TV just not capable of providing power to the Chromecast?

Phil Nickinson (@philnickinson) posted Did Google gloss over Chromecast needing USB power? Not hardly to the AndroidCentral site on 7/26/2013:

imageA … certain segment of fans … have gotten it into their heads that Google played down the fact that Chromecast needs USB power to work. They are wrong.

Here’s Google’s Mario Queiroz, describing Chromecast at Wednesday’s event:

“Once you take it out of its beautiful, clean box, all you have to do is plug it in to, ah, any HDMI input on your TV, power through USB, connect to your home Wifi, and you’re ready to kick back and watch.”

The only MiniPC/TVStick that I’ve heard will support MHL is Dell/Wyse’s forthcoming “Project Ophelia” that’s reportedly in the hands of developers but won’t be generally available until later in 2013. See my Comparing Dell/Wyse’s “Project Ophelia” with the UG007 MiniPC article for additional details.



Netflix Fix for Problems with Android 4.3 Devices

Jerry Hildenbrand (@gbhil) reported Netflix updated to address issues with Android 4.3 in an 8/8/2013 post to Android Central:

imageIf you were experiencing issues running Netflix on your phone or tablet with Android 4.3, you’ll want to grab this one. Netflix has been updated, and the words everyone wanted to hear are in the change log:

  • Fixes and optimization for devices running Android 4.3.
  • On the new Nexus 7 HD, this version requires all Android 4.3 system updates to be installed.

imageThis is of special interest to everyone using a Chromecast with their Android 4.3-powered device, and an update we’re happy to see. Give it a try, and let everyone know how it works out for you in the comments below. You can grab the update from the Google Play [here.]

One commenter (BobbyBeans) reported:

I just got a new Nexus 7 (2013) and Netflix was running fine but I updated anyway. So far just grief. The update seemed to go fine. The app opened and I could see my queue but every time I tried to start a steam I’d see an error that said “unable to contact to netfix try again later”. Remember it was just working fine just prior to the update. So I removed the app and tried it again, but now I can’t even install it because of “invalid package” error. Many others are complaining of the same. DON’T UPGRADE!


Jared Newman Described Seven Browser Tricks to Get the Most Out of Your Chromecast for PCWorld

Jared Newman (@OneJaredNewman) wrote 7 browser tricks to get the most out of your Chromecast for PCWorld magazine on 8/2/2013:

imageFor $35, you might not expect much from Google’s Chromecast. As it turns out, this little TV dongle can do a whole lot more than just stream video from Netflix and YouTube, or view browser tabs on the big screen.

Unlocking the true potential of your Chromecast, however, requires a little ingenuity and some deep digging into the Chrome browser’s Cast extension. With these hints, tips, and secrets for Chromecast, you’ll be able to improve streaming video performance, mirror your entire PC screen, display locally stored files, and more. Not bad for a device the price of a few pizzas!

Here’s a list of Jared’s tricks:

  1. Reduce streaming quality to improve video casting
  2. Keep the full-screen video going
  3. Stream local files from a Chrome tab
  4. Mirror your entire PC display
  5. Stream audio from iTunes, Windows Media Player, and other desktop programs
  6. Check out the hidden cast settings in Chrome
  7. Use the TeamViewer app as a makeshift remote

Most of these tips are covered by other articles below.


Robert Nazarian Explains HDMI’s Consumer Electronic Control Feature, HDMI-CEC

Robert Nazarian (@RobNazarian) posted the following message to the Google+ Chromecast on 8/2/2013:

imageI will eventually do a post on some tips for the Chromecast, but here’s some stuff involving HDMI-CEC.

One of the things I loved about Google TV was the HDMI pass through. So if you were watching satellite TV, you didn’t have to switch HDMI inputs to access the Google TV. The Chromecast is lacking an HDMI pass through, but if you have HDMI-CEC, you get an improved version of it.

CEC stands for Consumer Electronics Control and allows the automatic control of devices through HDMI. If you remember, during the Chromecast presentation, they said it would automatically turn on your TV and/or set it to the proper input. It is HDMI-CEC that allows this. Many newer TVs and AV Receivers have this control, but most manufacturers don’t call it HDMI-CEC. So if you want to know if either your TV or AV receiver has it, here are the trade names:

  • Sony – BRAVIA Link or BRAVIA Sync
  • Sharp – Aquos Link
  • Samsung – Anynet+ [Added; see Wikipedia’s list of HDMI-CEC tradenames.]
  • Hitachi – HDMI-CEC
  • AOC – E-link
  • Pioneer – Kuro Link
  • Toshiba – Regza Link or CE-Link
  • Onkyo – RIHD (Remote Interactive over HDMI)
  • LG – SimpLink
  • Panasonic – VIERA Link or HDAVI Control or EZ-Sync
  • Philips – EasyLink
  • Mitsubishi – NetCommand for HDMI
  • Runco International – RuncoLink

If you have a device with one of these trade names you are good to go. However, you will probably need to go to your settings and turn the feature on. It probably varies from device to device, but with my Onkyo receiver, it (RIHD) was set to OFF from the factory.

Once you have enabled it, the next thing you are going to need to do is make sure your Chromecast has “always on” power. This way when your TV or AV receiver is off, you will still be able to communicate with the Chromecast. Once you send video to it, it will turn on your TV or AV receiver, and of course, set it to the right input. If your TV or AV receiver was already on, then it will just simply change inputs. When your video is finished, it may or may not switch automatically to the input you had previously. It depends on the manufacturer and how they programmed it. My Onkyo receiver does not. I should also note that if you are utilizing both an AV receiver and a TV, both the receiver and the TV would need to be HDMI-CEC compatible in order to enjoy the “auto on” feature. If only one of them has it, then only one of them will automatically turn on.

For me, I am using an Onkyo receiver. I have the Chromecast in HDMI 5. Anytime I send something to the Chromecast, it will automatically switch the input to HDMI 5 for me. It doesn’t matter what HDMI input I was watching. If my receiver is off, it will also turn it on and switch it to HDMI 5, but my TV isn’t HDMI-CEC compatible so the TV won’t turn on. I just need to make sure both my AV receiver and TV are both on for it to work right. That’s not a problem at all for me.

When I am done with the video, my receiver won’t revert back to what I was watching, but I did find some interesting things. Let’s say I am watching YouTube (via Chromecast) and I pause the video and manually switch to watching satellite TV (HDMI 1). If I unpause the video from my phone or tablet, the receiver will automatically switch back to the Chromecast (HDMI 5). Now if I don’t unpause it from phone or tablet, and instead, I manually go back to the HDMI that the Chromecast is on (HDMI 5), it will actually unpause it automatically. However, it doesn’t work the opposite way. If I am watching a video and do not unpause it, and switch inputs, the video will not pause automatically. I was actually hoping for a simplified way of using my master remote for pausing and unpausing.

HDMI-CEC is pretty slick and makes things a lot easier when you are watching TV and want to quickly throw up a video. You won’t have to fumble around switching inputs. However, in most situations you will have to change the input back manually, but I will take it. It’s going to make things a lot easier for my son when he wants to send a Netflix movie (and hopefully our personal Plex library soon) to the Chromecast.

Wikipedia provides the following list of HDMI-CEC commands:

  • One Touch Play allows devices to switch the TV to use it as the active source when playback starts
  • System Standby enables users to switch multiple devices to standby mode with the press of one button
  • Preset Transfer transfers the tuner channel setup to another TV set
  • One Touch Record allows users to record whatever is currently being shown on the HDTV screen on a selected recording device
  • Timer Programming allows users to use the electronic program guides (EPGs) that are built into many HDTVs and set-top-boxes to program the timer in recording devices like PVRs and DVRs
  • System Information checks all components for bus addresses and configuration
  • Deck Control allows a component to interrogate and control the operation (play, pause, rewind etc.), of a playback component (Blu-ray or HD DVD player or a Camcorder, etc.)
  • Tuner Control allows a component to control the tuner of another component
  • OSD Display uses the OSD of the TV set to display text
  • Device Menu Control allows a component to control the menu system of another component by passing through the user interface (UI) commands
  • Routing Control controls the switching of signal sources
  • Remote Control Pass Through allows remote control commands to be passed through to other devices within the system http://www.samsung.com/ca/system/consumer/product/2011/04/27/un46d6050tfxzc/LED_Series_6050.pdf
  • Device OSD Name Transfer transfers the preferred device names to the TV set
  • System Audio Control allows the volume of an AV receiver, integrated amplifier or pre-amplifier to be controlled using any remote control from a suitably equipped device(s) in the system

Samsung’s Tech Specs for my UN46D6050 “Smart” TV state:

Anynet + (HDMI-CEC) available

I’m at loss to understand the term “available,” which usually implies “at extra cost.” However, the set’s Specification Sheet PDF includes the following section (emphasis added):

CONNECTIONS
4 HDMI™ with Anynet+™ (CEC) Ver 1.3
• 3 USB Ports
• 1 Component Video Input
• 2 Composite Video Inputs
• 1 PC with Audio Input
• 1 Ethernet Port
• 1 Digital Optical Output

I’ll update this section after I test the feature.

My 24-inch Insignia NS-24E340A13 monitor, which I purchased online from Best Buy on 2/23/2013, has 2 HDMI connections but the specs don’t specify which HDMI version or whether the CEC feature is implemented. It’s unlikely that this US$140 “value TV” would offer any upscale features.


Janko Roettgers Reports Blip, Hulu, Vevo and Devour are coming to Chromecast 

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) asked “Chromecast is getting more support from publishers as Hulu, Vevo, Blip and Devour are all pledging to join. But is the platform ready for a lot of new apps?” in a summary of his Blip, Hulu, Vevo and Devour are coming to Chromecast post of 7/1/2013 to the GigaOm site:

imageGoogle’s new smart TV dongle Chromecast is getting more love from video publishers: Blip, Hulu, Vevo and Devour all have pledged to add Chromecast functionality to their platforms. But Google may not actually be ready to add too many apps just yet.

imageChromecast was announced last week with only a small line-up of native apps supporting the platform: Right now, Chromecast users can beam media from apps for Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies and Google Play Music to the streaming stick. A number of other publishers, including AOL and Pandora, will soon follow and, as we reported earlier this week, Vimeo, HBO and Redbox Instant were also preparing to launch on Chromecast.

Now you can add a bunch of new names to that list: A Blip spokesperson told us Thursday that the video platform is definitely adding support for Chromecast, but that the timing for this is still a bit in the air. Wednesday, Variety reported that Hulu is also committing to Chromecast. And a Vevo spokesperson sent us this statement Thursday:

“We will support Chromecast via our web, iOS and Android platforms although we do not have any launch dates to announce at this time.”

We’ve also heard from the video aggregation platform Devour that its app “will be gaining Chromecast support very soon.” However, users may have to wait a bit for Google to enable some of these apps. A Chromecast engineering manager remarked this week on Google+ that publishers may have to wait until the company releases the final version of the Google Cast SDK:

“The primary reason we are hesitant to enable many apps in is that we know that there will be breaking changes in our release SDK, and we are trying to avoid having Chromecast users that don’t need to understand the underlying SDK end up in a state where apps that were working one day stop working the next when we push and update.”

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst.


Janko Roettgers Reports Vimeo and Redbox Instant Will Support Chromecast in GigaOm Post

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) asserted “It looks like Chromecast won’t be limited to playing content from YouTube and Netflix for very long, with a number of media platforms getting ready to support the new device” in a summary of his Vimeo and Redbox Instant are coming to Chromecast. Next up: Plex and HBO Go? article for GigaOm of 7/29/2013:

imageChromecast, the streaming video adapter introduced by Google last week, is quickly gaining support from a number of media platforms. Case in point: Vimeo told us it wants to support Chromecast, and we have learned that Redbox Instant is going to support the device as well.

imageThe makers of the Plex media center are also hinting strongly at plans to support Chromecast, and code found by Chromecast hackers seems to stem from efforts to bring HBO Go to the platform.

Chromecast launched last week with support for a limited number of music and video services. Currently, users can stream media from YouTube, Netflix and Google Play through the websites and mobile apps of these platforms.

Users can also mirror media form additional websites through a Chrome browser plugin, but this feature has been described as beta by Google. A number of additional services, including Pandora, AOL and Revision3, were also announced as forthcoming.

But it looks like that others may be getting ready to join the platform as well. When I asked Vimeo about its plans for Chromecast, I got this reply from the company’s VP of mobile, Nick Alt:

“We’re excited about the emerging opportunities bridging mobile to Connected TV and we look forward to offering Chromecast support in our products.”

I’ve also heard that Redbox Instant, which offer subscribers a mix online content and DVD rentals through Redbox’s kiosks, will bring its service to Chromecast. And when I asked a spokesperson for media center maker Plex for their plans for Chromecast, the response was that the Plex folks are “actively investigating and optimistic.” And then there’s this tweet from the Plex Twitter account:

image

Finally, it looks like pay TV subscribers with access to HBO may be able to stream HBO Go via Chromecast soon as well. Configuration files unearthed by GTVHacker.com last week hint at tests for HBO GO alongside services that were officially announced as partners last week, and an HBO spokesperson has since confirmed to GigaOM that talks are ongoing to bring the cable network’s online offering to Chromecast:

“We are talking to Google but have nothing definite to offer on timing.”

Check out our first look at Chromecast below:

Click here for other links to GigaOm’s Chromecast content.

Here’s an editable Chromecast Content Partners spreadsheet (Source URL column omitted):

image

Full disclosure: I’m a registered GigaOm analyst.

imageMarques Brownlee (@MKBHD) also produced a new Google Chromecast Review:


Matt Brian claims Google’s Chromecast has its roots in Android, not Chrome OS

Matt Brian (@m4tt) claimed Google’s Chromecast has its roots in Android, not Chrome OS in a 7/28/2013 post to The Verge:

Chromecast dongle 1020

imageHaving successfully managed to gain root access to Google’s Chromecast dongle, the GTV Hacker team has identified that it runs a stripped-down version of Android taken from Google TV, not Chrome OS. Google had previously told The Verge that the Chromecast runs a variant of the web-focused operating system, describing it as “just a browser content shell.” [See below post.]

image_thumb4“We had a lot of internal discussion on this, and have concluded that it’s more Android than Chrome OS,” says GTV Hacker on its website. “To be specific, it’s actually a modified Google TV release, but with all of the Bionic / Dalvik stripped out and replaced with a single binary for Chromecast.” Gaining root access will not allow users to install apps like they would on an Android smartphone or tablet but the group isn’t ruling out the possibility that the dongle could take on Google TV-like features in the future.

image_thumb71With an exploit package already available, Android developers may be tempted to experiment with the Chromecast now they know it has roots in Google TV. By offering bootloader source code under a GPL license Google hasn’t exactly tried to stop developers from modifying the device but could move to patch the exploit in the future.


The Verge Quotes Google TV/Chromecast Product Management Director Rishi Chandra on Chromecast

Dieter Bohn (@backlon, pictured below) asserted “Google’s latest foray into the living room may actually have a chance” in a deck for his Keeping it simple: Chromecast, Google TV, and the zen of a $35 dongle article of 7/25/2013 for The Verge:

image_thumb111… Rishi Chandra, director of product management for Chromecast (and, not coincidentally, Google TV), says that Google is “making a bet, and it’s a pretty aggressive bet.” Google has finally found a strategy through which it hopes it can become as ubiquitous on televisions as it is on computers and mobile devices. But will it work?


Chromecast-5602_560

 

 



image_thumb4Chromecast is a device you plug into your TV that runs what Google says is a stripped-down version of ChromeOS, a description that undersells just how simple it is. “Literally it’s just a browser content shell,” says Chandra. All it can do is display content that’s sent to it from the cloud or your computer. It supports HTML5 video, audio, flash, and that’s honestly about it — local files, Quicktime, and Silverlight video aren’t supported yet.

image_thumb71Technically, Chromecast uses a new “Google Cast” standard. Your device’s apps and Chrome are able to know if there’s a Chromecast device on your Wi-Fi network and tell their cloud counterparts to stream to it. That’s one of the reasons that it’s limited to working with Chrome and a few specific apps: each needs to implement the Google Cast SDK to work with it. [Cast SDK link added.]

“Literally it’s just a browser content shell.”

imageBecause of this setup, Chandra says that Google is not tracking which videos you’re watching, despite the fact that much of the Google Cast operation happens on Google’s own servers. “All we will know is that we received something to send to somebody else. We have no information about the actual message itself.” While you can choose to opt into anonymous, aggregated user tracking, Chandra tells us that Google has no intention of turning Google Cast into an ad platform.[*]

Although the vast majority of what you’ll play on Chromecast comes directly from the cloud, Google does have a Beta feature called “Chrome tab projection” that allows Chrome to send web pages directly from your computer to a Chromecast dongle. Chandra tells me that this happens locally over your Wi-Fi network and not through Google’s servers. This feature uses a relatively new standard called WebRTC, which allows web browsers to communicate directly with each other and is the basis for a few video conferencing apps. [WebRTC link added.]

Last, but certainly not least, Chromecast has hardware-level DRM encryption. It’s what allows Chromecast to work with Netflix at 1080p. Google says that Netflix has specific clauses in its content contracts that require any device that receives a full 1080p HD stream to be protected in this way.

Chromecast-hoc1_560

Chromecast is a Google-style solution to the technical problem of getting content on your TV — it’s almost like the Nexus Q, but done right. Where Apple has a unified ecosystem of hardware products that it can test and optimize for compatibility, Google needs to solve for a vast array of manufacturers and software. Faced with a classic cross-platform conundrum, Google is defaulting to a classic cross-platform solution: web standards infused with Google services. …

Unfortunately, Chrome tab projection isn’t really a useful workaround. WebRTC doesn’t have the same benefits of low-latency and high-bandwidth that you get with something like AirPlay or even Miracast. In our brief testing, videos streamed over Google Cast had audio sync issues, and Chandra tells us that “around certain Wi-Fi configurations we’re not as resilient as we want to be.” Although, as Chandra says, “there’s no restrictions on what can be done” with tab projection when it comes to content restrictions, streaming a Hulu video will not be an enjoyable experience. As for future restrictions, Chandra wouldn’t comment on hypotheticals, “Our stance right now, what we’re enabling, is no different than an HDMI cable connecting your laptop to your TV.”

It also only works in Chrome and specific apps, a significant limitation. That means that your local content, like your photos and videos, will be difficult to get on your television. Calling streaming local content an “open question,” Chandra says “I’m not going to say we’re not going to do it.” For now, users will need to find a way to get their content into the cloud where either Chrome or an app can access it and stream it. Chandra believes that this issue will become less problematic over time: “At the end of the day, we’re Google, we assume more and more stuff is going to the cloud.”

Those limitations also preclude any sort of real games from working with Chromecast — for now at least. High latency and the lack of support for direct, local streaming means the kind of tablet / TV gaming combinations we’re seeing on iOS with AirPlay aren’t possible yet. “I think gaming is an obvious use case that we want to continue to invest in,” Chandra says, “but from my standpoint it’s not the number one priority for us.” …

* If you believe Chandra’s statement “that Google has no intention of turning Google Cast into an ad platform,” I have a bridge you can buy on the cheap.

The upshot: The $35 Chromecast won’t replace versatile $70 Android MiniPC/TVBox devices for everyone. However, it’s a good bet that the average consumer with a laptop and home WiFi network will consider Chromecast as a low-cost substitute for dedicated media players, such as Roku,


Brad Linder Posted a Detailed Chromecast Review to his Liliputing Blog

Brad Linder (@bradlinder) added a Google Chromecast streams internet video to your TV (Video) post to the Liliputing blog on 7/25/2013:

image_thumb121Google’s Chromecast is a $35 device that lets you stream internet videos to your television. Just plug it into your TV, fire up a video you want to watch on your phone, tablet, or PC, tap a button and the video pops up on your television.

image_thumb15At least that’s the theory. But how does the Chromecast perform in practice?

A lot better than you might expect for a $35 device. Not everything works exactly the way you might want it to, but the Chromecast is a surprisingly powerful, versatile device that doesn’t cost a lot of money — especially when you consider that customers get 3 free months of access to Netflix when they buy a Chromecast. Since that’s a $24 value, it’s kind of like you’re only paying $11 plus taxes and shipping costs for the hardware.

I ordered a Chromecast for myself yesterday, but while I’m waiting for it to arrive, Google was kind of enough to loan me a demo unit to test.

cc_002

image_thumb4The Chromecast is a 2 inch device that you can plug into your TV. It has a Marvell processor and connects to the internet with its built-in 802.11b/g/n WiFi receiver. Once it’s hooked up, you can start watching videos on your TV just by firing up the YouTube or Netflix apps on your Android or iOS phone or tablet, or any supported website in the Chrome browser on your Windows, Mac, Linux, or Chrome OS device.

There’s also a beta feature that lets you send the contents of any Chrome browser tab to your TV, whether the website officially supports Chromecast or not. The results can be a little hit or miss, but this feature opens the door for Chromecast to become the only internet TV device you need, since it basically opens anything you can access on the web on your television screen.

Google’s Chromecast is the first device to support the new Google Cast technology. But the $35 standalone box might be just the first of many devices to use Google Cast. Eventually you may be able to buy TVs, Blu-ray players, or other devices that have the technology baked right in, allowing you to stream internet content to your TV without a separate device.

Setup couldn’t be much simpler. You open the box, take out the Chromecast and stick it into the HDMI port on your TV.

If your TV can provide power through the HDMI port, that’s it for the hardware. If not, there’s an included USB cable and power adapter to plug in.

cc setup_04

Adjust your TV settings so that you’re viewing input from that HDMI port and in a few seconds a screen will pop up telling you the name of your Chromecast device and a URL to visit to download a setup app on your computer.

That URL, by the way, is https://cast.google.com/chromecast/setup.

You’ll be prompted to download and run the installer, which basically asks you to enter the password to your wireless network, scans to detect your device, and lets you rename it. The process is finished in seconds.

ccset (1)

That’s it. Now that the Chromecast is set up, you can start beaming videos to your TV.

Chromecast is running a simple version of Chrome OS, and when you send a video from your phone or tablet, what’s actually happening is you’re sending a command to the device so that it can grab content directly from the internet.

cc setup_03

In other words, you’re not actually streaming videos from your phone to the Chromecast. You’re telling it which video to start playing, and then using your phone as a remote control.

That means once a video starts playing, you can exit the app and check your email, surf the web, or just put your phone down while the video continues to play.

ctube_01

Supported apps at launch include YouTube, Google Play Movies, Netflix, and Pandora. Google has also released developer tools which means we could see support for additional apps soon.

When an app supports Google Cast and detects a supported device on your network, you’ll see a little icon in the video window that looks like a TV with a few little curved lines in the corner. Tap it, and you’ll have the option to watch a video on your Android or iOS device or send it to the Chromecast.

Once a video starts playing, it seems to be up to developers to decide exactly what happens next. While both the YouTube and Netflix apps let you pause, play, or move around on a timeline, the YouTube app shows a freeze-frame from the video on your phone while the movie plays on your TV.

cnetf_01

Netflix, on the other hand, shows cover art for the movie or TV show.

But Chromecast doesn’t just work with mobile devices. You can also install the Google Cast extension for the Chrome web browser on a Windows, Mac, Linux, or Chrome OS device to use your PC as a TV remote control — or to send content from your PC straight to the TV.

cc yt

Once installed, you can browse the web and any time you see a video with the little Google Cast icon, you can click on it for the option of sending a video to your TV. It’ll show up right in the video box, next to the icons that normally let you maximize or otherwise embiggen a video.

After a video starts playing, you can close the browser tab and go about your business. You can even turn off your computer. But if you want to control video playback, you may want to leave the browser tab open since you can use the on-screen controls for YouTube or other video sites to control playback.

cc nf_02

You can also tap the Google Cast icon in your Chrome toolbar to bring up a menu that lets you play, pause, mute, or stop.

There’s also a “Cast this tab” button which is one of the most intriguing features of Google Cast right now. The feature’s still in beta, but when you hit “Cast this tab,” it’ll send the contents of your browser window directly to the Chromecast over your WiFi network.

cast

Cast this tab doesn’t pull down video straight from the internet. Instead it beams whatever’s on your PC to your TV. That can include videos, games, photos, or other content — although I wouldn’t recommend using this for gaming, since there’s a little lag.

What you can do is stream content from sites that may not officially support Google Cast.

For instance, you can visit Hulu.com, cast the browser tab, and maximize a video to watch it full-screen on your TV. Normally you need to pay $7.99 for a Hulu Plus subscription if you want to stream Hulu content to a TV, but now you can do it for free… at least until Hulu starts blocking Chromecast.

This doesn’t work on every site — Amazon Instant Video didn’t work when I tested it, and your results will probably vary from site to site. And to be honest, the Hulu playback was a little choppy at times.

But the feature’s still in beta. Performance could improve as Google works out the kinks, and since Chromecast runs a version of Google Chrome OS, I suspect it’ll download software updates silently and automatically install them when you reboot the device.

Another fun thing to do with Cast this Tab is stream videos from your local storage. All you need to do is drag and drop a video into your Chrome web browse, and a video player will open up. Hit the Cast this Tab button, and that video starts playing on your TV.

cast_02

Not all video formats are supported, but I tried this with an H.264 video recording and it worked beautifully.

Keep in mind that if you’re streaming the contents of a browser tab to your TV, you need to make sure not to close that window. You can just leave it open in the background while you use your PC to do other things, but if you close that window or turn off your computer, video playback will stop.

Summary

Google’s Chromecast is fast, cheap, easy to use, and effective. It takes seconds or minutes to set up, lets you stream video from Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, and even Hulu to your TV. And you can even use it as a way to send videos from your hard drive to your TV.

There are more versatile ways to turn your TV into a smart TV. But the Chromecast is simpler and easier to use and setup than an Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee Box, Roku, or any other device I’ve seen. That’s because it has no user interface to speak of — you control video playback pretty much the same way as you do on a phone, tablet, or PC, because those devices are your remote controls.

cc nf_01

For about the same price as a Chromecast, you could probably pick up a cheap Android mini PC like the MK802. But those devices take longer to boot, require you to navigate through the Android user interface to find and launch the apps and videos your looking for, and generally take longer to start a video.

If you want to play Angry Birds on your TV, the Chromecast won’t help you. And if you want to stream Amazon Instant Video, you’ll probably want to wait until Amazon releases its own set-top-box (or buy a device like a Roku which currently supports Amazon).

But after spending a little time with the Chromecast, I’m pleasantly surprised at just how well it does what it’s supposed to do: it brings internet video to your TV.

Visit Brad’s post for video content.

Brad Linder (@bradlinder) posted an earlier Google Chromecast roundup: Stream local files, peek at the insides, consider the future of TV on 7/25/2013:

Google’s Chromecast device went on sale this week, and the little $35 dongle could change the way we consume television. Or maybe it’ll just be a toy that folks play with for a little while and then tire of.

One thing is pretty clear: Google’s latest attempt at bridging the gap between your TV and your internet connection is generating a lot of excitement. Amazon is already out of stock, Google Play has pushed back estimated delivery dates to 3-4 weeks, and when one redditor walked into Best Buy and walked out with a Chromecast, his post generated more than 160 comments.

cc_000

What makes the Chromecast interesting is its low price and its ease of use. Sure, you can pick up an MK802 or another cheap Android TV stick and run a full-blown Android operating system on your TV for about the same price. But you’ll still need to figure out how to interact with Android on your TV, and deal with relatively slow boot times, occasionally sluggish performance, and other issues.

image_thumb12With a Chromecast, you’re not really treating your TV like a PC or Android device. You’re treating it like a big screen for your small phone, tablet, or computer. Find a video you want to watch, music you want to listen to, or a photo slideshow you want to display on your small device and with the tap of a button it’s on your TV.

It’s also interesting that Chromecast essentially runs a simplified version of Google’s Chrome OS. In other words, it’s using a type of Chrome web browser to handle your YouTube or Netflix videos, Pandora music streaming, or other content. And that means that pretty much anything you can access in a web browser should (at least theoretically) be available.

Does that mean you’ll be able to stream content from the Hulu website without paying for a Hulu Plus subscription?

Let’s put it this way — Hulu does work… for now. It also works on pretty much any site that uses Adobe Flash for video.

But Hulu and many other online video sites have a habit of blocking access to unapproved apps and devices. But any site that doesn’t explicitly block Chromecast might be fair game, since you can just fire up the Chrome web browser on your laptop, hit a button, and send the contents of any browser tab to your TV.

It could provide a much simpler solution than Google TV, Apple TV, Roku, or just about any other smart TV solution we’ve seen to date — and it’s cross-platform.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to have to pull out your phone or laptop every time you want to watch TV, those other solutions might still be more appealing.

Here’s a roundup of other Chromecast-related news from the past day.

Google Cast extension for Google Chrome

Want to send content from the Chrome browser on your PC to a Chromecast device? There’s a browser extension for that.

Just install the new Google Cast extension for Chrome and whenever you visit a Cast optimized website, including YouTube or Netflix, an icon will show up that you can tap to send video to your TV.

This extension also adds beta support for sending the contents of any browser tab to a Chromecast device, whether it’s an approved video site or not.

via Droid Life

Send local media (music, videos, etc on your hard drive) to Chromecast

While Chromecast is designed to let you stream content from the internet to your TV, as mentioned above it can actually send anything from a browser tab to your TV.

So here’s a neat trick: Open up the Chrome web browser on your computer and type c:/ into the address bar. You should see a list of files and directories on your computer’s C drive.

Navigate to a video file and you can play it through your Chrome browser — and if you can do that, you can also send it to your TV.

This is what the hardware looks like

Remember the Google H840 Device labeled H2G2-42 that passed through the FCC in May? Yeah, that was the Chromecast.

The FCC documents have been updated, and now we can look at the device’s insides.

cc_07

It turns out the Chromecast is powered by a Marvell DE3005 chip and an Azurewave 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g/n WiFi chip.

While full details of that Marvell processor aren’t available, it appears to be a low-power ARM-based processor which is similar to the chip used in Google TV devices. That should be more than enough power to handle most HD video streams, and since there’s no user interface to speak of, there shouldn’t be much of a lag issue with anything other than possibly starting video playback.

via Brian Klug


The Verge Claims “Google TV isn’t dead, will support Google Cast with update this year”

Dante D’Orazio (@dantedorazio) asserted Google TV isn’t dead, will support Google Cast with update this year in a 7/25/2013 post to The Verge:

image_thumb11Google may have released its AirPlay-like Chromecast dongle yesterday, but that doesn’t mean that its fledgling Google TV platform is dead yet. The team behind the streaming TV platform says that “we believe there is ample room for both products to exist and succeed,” and employee Warren Rehman says that many existing Google TV devices will be updated to support Google Cast — the AirPlay-like technology that underlies the Chromecast dongle.

image_thumb3Support to stream content from apps like YouTube and Netflix will come as part of the Android 4.2.2 update for Google TV, which was first announced earlier this year at the company’s I/O developer conference. The update also includes the newest version of the Chrome web browser and it paves the way for quicker upgrades in the future. First-generation Google TV devices like the Logitech Revue and Sony’s first products to use the platform will not get the update, however, as they are based on Intel chips. Products like the Vizio Co-Star and Asus Cube, as well as some newer LG and Sony TV sets will get the update sometime later this year.

image_thumb6Chrome and Android boss Sundar Pichai told CNET yesterday that “Google TV is moving forward in a major way” and “You’ll see more partners announced at CES.” Nevertheless, even with Google Cast support and a long-overdue update to Jelly Bean, there’s good reason why Google TV appears to be on its last legs. The service has failed to catch on in any major way (despite support from several manufacturers), and with the $35 Chromecast dongle and TVs with built-in Google Cast support on the horizon it appears there will be fewer opportunities to get Google TV into customers’ living rooms. Additionally, Google is rumored to be working on yet another TV product, a live, subscription-based internet television service meant to replace traditional cable. While Google Cast support will make Google TV a more complete product — particularly in comparison to the AirPlay-equipped Apple TV — it looks like the struggling platform is getting squeezed out.

I agree that Google TV “appears to be on its last legs” and I’m not sanguine about the prospects for the rumored “subscription-based Internet television service meant to replace traditional cable” that would compete with Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and other content syndicators. Google TV’s competitors are “Smart TVs” that currently carry a substantial price premium for basic Internet streaming services; dedicated TV boxes, such as Roku; and the techie-oriented Android Media Player TVBoxes and PCSticks I described in the article from which this content was extracted.


The Guardian Co. (UK) said “Chromecast is no AirPlay killer, but it does pose questions for smart TVs”

Stuart Dredge (@stuartdredge) asserted “Google’s new Wi-Fi dongle streams music, video and games to the television, but it’s part of a wider battle to control entertainment in the living room” in a deck for his Chromecast is no AirPlay killer, but it does pose questions for smart TVs article of 7/25/2013 for the Guardian Co. (UK):

imageWhenever I think about “smart” TVs, I’m reminded of a quote from Zeebox’s Anthony Rose made during an interview with GigaOm in April 2012.

“In the future, your TV will be a beautiful but dumb hi-res panel that will play the content it is told to by your smartphone or tablet,” said Rose, in response to a question about the significance of internet-connected televisions and their built-in app stores.

imageAccording to Ofcom’s 2012 Communications Market Report, 15% of UK consumers owned smart TVs at the end of last year, although separate research from Analysys Mason suggests that less than half of these people are likely to have actually connected their TVs to the internet.

One of several problems with smart TVs is their reliance on remote controls: an often-clunky experience at a time when touchscreen interfaces on smartphones and tablets have been getting slicker and more user-friendly at a rapid pace.

Hence the appeal of Rose’s theory that these devices will increasingly handle the smarts for our big, beautiful flat-screen TVs. They won’t be dumb, as such: it’s just that we’ll be outsourcing their thinking to the devices in our hands.

That’s where Apple’s AirPlay technology and the Apple TV box came in some time ago, and it’s where Google’s newly-announced Chromecast dongle and its developer SDK are looking to play too.

Chromecast

The device plugs into the HDMI port of a high-definition TV, and enables smartphones, tablets and computers to stream (or rather “cast” in Google’ lingo) music, video and games to the bigger screen in the corner of the room, AirPlay style.

“It works with Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Music, with more apps like Pandora coming soon,” explains Google’s introductory blog post. “With Chromecast, we wanted to create an easy solution that works for everyone, for every TV in the house.”

Unlike AirPlay, Chromecast merely uses the second device as the controller: the actual content is streamed (over your home Wi-Fi network) from whatever digital service you’re using. Google says this will reduce battery strain on your smartphone, tablet or laptop, and also means you can continue using the device while casting.

There is already a Google Cast SDK for Android, iOS and Google’s Chrome browser, with aims of getting developers to integrate the technology into their apps, much like they would AirPlay on iOS.

This, of course, raises the question of whether Apple will approve apps that support Google Cast as well as AirPlay: there’s a chance this will become the latest skirmish between Apple and Google, although the fact that iOS apps are able to use Google Maps rather than Apple Maps is an encouraging sign that it may not.

Apple TV Apple has sold 13m of its Apple TV set-top boxes so far

Apple said in May that it had sold more than 13m Apple TV boxes, with around half of them sold in the previous year, but chief executive Tim Cook has tended to describe the product as a “hobby” for the company – albeit often to deflect question about any grander ambitions Apple has in the TV market.

At $35 a pop, Google may well sell more of its Chromecast dongles, especially if it convinces lots of people to buy several to cover “every TV in the house”. But asking whether Chromecast is an AirPlay or Apple TV killer isn’t the right question. What it means for smart TVs – including Google’s own Google TV initiative – is a more pertinent point.

Smart TVs will continue to sell in droves, because it’s actually quite hard to buy a high-definition TV without connectivity built in nowadays, even if you don’t then use it.

But digital services and app developers mulling whether to invest more time, effort and investment in making dedicated smart TV apps now have another alternative: to focus on integrating AirPlay and Cast into their smartphone and tablet apps instead.

That strategy only makes sense if Apple and Google can sell enough Apple TVs and Chromecast dongles, while possibly striking more deals with TV manufacturers to incorporate AirPlay and Cast into their upcoming products.

Yet with pretty much every big consumer-electronics firm scrapping for control of the flow of entertainment into the living room – Sony and Microsoft’s multi-screen plans for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are just as relevant here – it’s likely to be some time yet before developers and viewers alike have a firm idea of which content-slinging technologies will be here for the long-term.


A Diagram of the OakLeaf Systems Video Component Test System

My Consumers Reluctant to Connect SmartTVs to the Internet, use Standalone Devices Instead article of 5/30/2013 has similar quotes about the Analysys Mason research and related content regarding consumer acceptance and use of Smart TV features.This diagram describes our wired and wireless configuration after adding an HDTV monitor and MiniPCs and PCTVSticks in the office:

OakLeaf Network DSL2

Updated 8/3/2013 with addition of Netgear WN3000RP WiFi repeater and Ugoos UG007-II MiniPC to living room components.

Note that the DISH Networks DVR and Sling Adapter don’t work with the fixed IP addresses for my commercial DSL Internet connection. I use the Acer for playing *.mp4 time-shifted video from two Seagate 3-TB USB 3.0 disk drives and the Roku 3 or Google Chromecast for viewing streaming video from Netflix, Amazon and other Internet syndicators. The Ugoos UG007-II provides Android 4.1 1080P video display capabilities. I have no use for Samsung’s limited “Smart TV” features on this model.

A Diagram of the OakLeaf Systems HDMI Video Component Test System

My Consumers Reluctant to Connect SmartTVs to the Internet, use Standalone Devices Instead article of 5/30/2013 quotes Analysys Mason research and related content regarding consumer reluctance to use Smart TV features. I have no use for Samsung’s limited “Smart TV” features on the model UN46D6050.

This diagram, which appears in the last section my Google’s $35 Chromecast Might Redefine the Media Player Market article, describes our wired and wireless network configuration, HDTV monitors, PCs, Windows and Android tablets, MiniPCs and PCTVSticks in the office and living room:

OakLeaf Network DSL2Click diagram for full-size image.

The office also has an Acer Iconia W3-810 Windows 8.1 tablet and Actions-Micro EZCast TV dongle. The EZCast device has features similar to Google’s Chromecast (see my EZCasting Video and Other Media with a Samsung Galaxy S4 and related articles for more EZCast details.) The office’s Surface Pro tablet, which runs Windows Media Center software, has a second Pinnacle PCTV 80e ASTC tuner.

Note that the DISH Networks DVR and Sling Adapter don’t work with the fixed IP addresses for my commercial DSL Internet connection. I use the Acer for playing *.mp4 time-shifted video from two Seagate 3-TB USB 3.0 disk drives and the Roku 3 or Google Chromecast for viewing streaming video from Netflix, Amazon and other Internet syndicators. The Ugoos UG007-II provides Android 4.1 1080P video display capabilities.

Review of Koushik Dutta’s AirCast Beta v3-1 App with a Nexus 7

Update 8/28/2013: Koush reported a change to the Chromecast firmware that prevents AirCast/AllCast apps from casting local video content. See my Koush Releases AllCast Beta 4 with “Probably Won’t Work” Caveat article of 8/25/2013 for details.

Koushik Dutta (@koush) reported in his AirCast Beta 3 message to Google+’s Chromecast community that he had uploaded in the wee hours of 9/22/2013 a new version of his AirCast (nee AllCast) app for Android devices to http://download.clockworkmod.com/test/AirCast3.apk:

imageChanges:

  1. Fix bug where controls would disconnect.
  2. Add support for more stock galleries.
  3. Fix crashes.
  4. Detect and warn if the the local network is too slow to play back a high bitrate video from the gallery.
  5. Allow setting of the default device, so you don’t need to select it over and over.

The link downloaded AirCast3.zip, which added AirCast3.apk and AirCast3-1.apk packages to my Nexus 7’s Downloads folder. On the assumption that AirCast Beta v3-1 was a later version, I replaced the original AllCast.apk installation and repeated my attempt to cast the MP4/H.264 sample file described in my first Review of Koushik Dutta’s AllCast App with a Google Nexus 7 Tablet.

1. I tapped AirCast3-1.apk to open the Use Your Aircast With tutorial menu:

AirCast - Use Your Chrome Cast With Menu

2. I tapped the Gallery menu button to open a static Camera page:

AirCast - TutorialCameraPage

3. I tapped next to display a static Gallery menu simulation with the AirCast choice emphasized:

AirCast - Tutorial Menu Page

4. I then opened the Gallery app’s Movies Grid View page, which displayed the Borgen test file at the top:

AirCast - Movies Grid View

5. I tapped the top Movie to open the player and tapped its menu icon:

AirCast - Borgen Cast Menu

6. I tapped the AirCast menu choice to open the Connect To Device message, which displayed my active Chromecast device:

AirCast - ConnectToDevice

7. I was then asked if I wanted to make Office the default device:

AirCast - Make Default Device

8. I clicked OK and, after a few seconds, the Now Playing message reported the Borgen file was casting:

AirCast - NowPlayingBorgen

9. The file played as expected on the Chromecast connected to my 24-inch Insignia HDTV/Monitor:

AirCast - Borgen Birgette

Image courtesy of PBS station KCET, Los Angeles.

The video exhibited only an occasional few seconds of buffering despite having been transcoded at 2.7 Mbps. The experience is immeasurably better than casting reduced-quality videos from a Chrome browser tab.

Review of Koushik Dutta’s AllCast App with a Google Nexus 7 Tablet

I installed Koushik Doutta’s (@koush) AllCast.apk on my Nexus 7 original version (updated to Android v4.2.2) to test with the Borgen series 1 episode 1 segment I had downloaded earlier from PBS station KCET. I saved the 1020p MP4/H.264 file with my Hauppauge Colossus HDMI capture card for testing and then uploaded it to my DropBox account. Here’s the MediaInfo app’s file details:

image_thumb[10]

Note: You can expect references to AllCast in the app to change to AirCast in future releases.

I was able to cast as expected from the Dropbox location but not from the local file with my Nexus 7.

Update 8/22/2013: Corrected the Attempting to Cast from a Local MP4/H.264 File section below to change from FileMan to Gallery app for casting.

Casting from Video Streamed from a Dropbox File

1. Open the Dropbox app and folder holding the video, Videos for this example, and select the video file, which displays a share button (highlighted below):

AirCastDropbox - ShareButtonBorgen 1280px_thumb[3]

Alternatively, tap and hold the file item to open the Share/Favorite menu:

AirCastDropbox - ShareMenuBorgen 1280px_thumb[3]

2. Tap the Share button or menu choice to open the Share a Link to This File menu:

AirCastDropbox - ShareLinkToBorgen 1280px_thumb[1]

3. Tap AllCast to start a search for active Chromecast device(s) on your WiFi network, which appear in the Connect To Device list:

AirCastDropbox - ConnectToDeviceBorgen 1280px_thumb[2]

4. Tap the name of the destination to begin buffering streaming video from Dropbox and open the Now Playing message:

AirCastDropbox - NowPlayingBorgen 1280px_thumb[2]

5. After 15 to 30 seconds of data buffering, the video plays on the HDTV with the Chromecast connected:

AircastDropbox - Brigitte2Interview720p_thumb[2]

Image courtesy of PBS station KCET, Los Angeles.

Attempting to Cast from a Local MP4/H.264 File

Updated 8/22/2013 for change from FileMan to Gallery App.

I didn’t achieve expected similar results when attempting to cast from the local file I used for uploading the Dropbox streaming video source. Here’s the procedure I used:

1. Launch the built-in Gallery app and select Movies from the Albums page to open the Grid page:

AirCastMoviesPage

2. Tap the thumbnail of the video to cast (at the top for this example), click the Menu button, and select All from the list to display all destination options:

AllCast -GalleryShowAllMenu

3. Tap the AllCast icon to open the Connect to Device message:

AirCastLocal - ConnectToDeviceBorgen 1280px

4. Tap the device to which connect, which opens the Now Playing message, which displays No Media Playback In Progress permanently:

AirCastLocal - NoMediaPlaybackBorgen

Koush’s AirCast Beta v3-1 solves the failure to playback problem. See my Review of Koushik Dutta’s AirCast Beta v3-1 App with a Nexus 7 article of 8/23/2013 for details.


Casting MPEG-4/H.264 Video Files with Chrome from a Windows Laptop

Although The Verge’s Dieter Bohn (@backlon) asserted Chromecast “… supports HTML5 video, audio, flash, and that’s honestly about it — local files, Quicktime, and Silverlight video aren’t supported yet” in a recent post, you can stream local MPEG-4/H.264 video files with the Chrome v28 or later browser on a Windows PC or laptop after installing Google’s Chromecast extension. You’re limited to a maximum of 720p resolution; depending on the speed of your network, you might need to reduce the resolution to 480p to prevent the video from freezing periodically.

Update 8/2/2013: Umer Salman (@umer936) reported Extra Settings on the Chromecast Extension for Chrome in a 7/28/2013 post to the XDA Developers site:

GoogleCast Extension Options

Hopefully, Google will provide some insight as to the purpose of and recommended ranges for these settings.

Brad Linder reported audio problems with local MPEG-4/H.264 streams he casted in his Google Chromecast streams internet video to your TV (Video) post of 7/25/2013 to his Liliputing.com blog. However, the audio sounded fine on all the files I casted at both 720p and 480p video resolutions. (I have external speakers connected to my Insignia HDTV monitor, which has very tinny built-in speakers.)

After setting up your Chromecast for the WiFi network to which the PC or laptop is connected and installing the extension, do the following:

1. Verify that your Chromecast is ready to cast:

ReadyToCast 1080px

2. Launch Chrome in full-screen mode and type file:///D:/Users/UserName/Path/Filename.mp4 in the address bar to begin streaming the file:

NetflixCast5

3. Optionally, pause and reset the segment to the starting point.

4. Click the >> button at the upper right of the to open the Chromecast gallery:

image

5. Select options to review your choices for streaming video from a Chrome tab:

NetflixCast6

NetflixCast7

6. Accept the default options for now and select your Chromecast’s name, Office for this example. Unlike conventional Chromecast streaming, after a few seconds the TV mirrors the active area of the Chrome browser’s tab:

Annika 1080px

Note: I photographed my 24-inch Insignia HDTV (used as a monitor) with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 camera because the Chromecast won’t sync with my Hauppauge Colossus HDMI capture card. Images appear briefly at about 15-second intervals. The Colossus has a maximum resolution of 1080i and doesn’t have a problem syncing with direct Netflix connections.

Update 7/28/2013: MediaInfo data for the 1080i MPEG-4 AVC-encoded file used for this tutorial:

image

Tip: If your Chrome browser doesn’t find your previously configured Chromecast device, reboot it by removing and reinserting the MicroUSB power connector.

Chromecasting 1080p Netflix Video Streams from a Windows Laptop

The Chromecast app installs on Android, iOS and Windows devices, but on Windows it’s only used for initial Chromecast setup and configuration. After setting up and detecting the Chromecast, the default dialog appears as shown here:

ChromecastAppDialog 

Clicking the Setting button opens this dialog:

ChromecastAppSettings

Clicking Continue redetects Chromecast(s) on the network and redisplays the initial dialog.

Your only option for casting streaming video from an Windows PC or laptop is mirroring a Chrome browser tab to the connected HDTV. My Casting MPEG-4/H.264 Video Files with Chrome from a Windows Laptop article of 7/26/2013 describes the process for local *.mp4 files. Follow these steps to stream MPEG-4/H.264 and Flash video from the Intenet:

1. Launch the Chrome browser and navigate to a streaming video source that supports Chrome, such as Netflix.com, Hulu.com or LinkTV.com.

NetflixCast1

2. Click the >> button at the upper right of the address bar to open its menu:

NetflixCast1Menu

3. Click the Google Cast item to open a gallery and click the Cast This Tab button:

image

4. Open a stream in full-screen mode and click the Chromecast logo on the play bar to display a Play On menu:

NetflixCast3

6. Click the Chromecast device’s assigned name, Office for this example, to start full-screen streaming to the HDTV’s display:

image

7. Control playback with the static screen in the Chrome browser tab:

NetflixCast4

8. The HDTV displays the source stream independently of the state of the laptop displaying the static fan art and playback controls:

P1000571 
Note: Video resolution is determined by the streams source. Netflix streams usually are 1080p. Unlike streaming video from the Internet from Android or iOS devices, you can’t multitask other Windows apps while Chromecasting.