Along with Android 4.3 launch, Google also unveiled Chromecast, Google Cast SDK and a new version of its 7-inch Android tablet, Nexus 7 at a press event in San Francisco. Here is a quick lowdown at all the announcements at the event:
Chromecast: In what was probably one of the most significant announcements from the event, Google launched a Chrome OS-based wireless HDMI dongle for high definition televisions called Chromecast which allows users to wirelessly stream online content (videos, music, photos) from their phones, tablets and laptops to the television over WiFi.
Its essentially Google’s answer to Apple’s AirPlay technology albeit a few changes – Apple’s AirPlay allows users to stream local content from their iOS devices as well, while Chromecast is currently limited to online content only right now. On the other hand, AirPlay is limited to iOS and Mac devices only while Chromecast is cross platform, in the sense that users can make use of the YouTube app on an iOS device or Chrome browser on Windows or Mac to stream content.
While streaming, it converts the sender device into a remote and users can apparently control playback, adjust volume from the device and in case of videos, queue up several videos into a playlist from the device. Google has currently signed up third party content services like Netflix and Pandora as its content partners for the service. While Netflix is already on board, Pandora is expected to add support sometime soon. It also claims to add more content partners shortly.
What’s also particularly noteworthy is that users can apparently project a tab from the Chrome browser onto the television, although Google noted that this feature is currently in beta. This feature could be quite handy for users to wirelessly project web content like photos and videos, thereby overcoming the initial problem of lack of apps or services in the platform.
The dongle is currently available on the US Play Store, Amazon and Best Buy for $35. although its currently not clear if the company plans to extend this dongle to India in the future. (Video Demo)
Why Chromecast can be significant? While Google has previously failed at its connected device efforts with Google TV and Nexus Q, we feel the opportunity for Chromecast is immense due to its simplicity and lower barrier entry. That is of course only if Google plans to extend the device to India and other countries globally rather than keeping it US-only.
Google, Apple and Microsoft are currently vying to take over the user’s living room with its respective offerings like Microsoft’s Xbox One and Apple’s rumored Apple TV. Chromecast could possibly turn out to be the key for Google to gain a strong foothold in the connected device segment.
However, for it to succeed in India, Google needs to build a strong local content and app ecosystem in the country to attract users, while the broadband conditions has to significantly improve in the country as well. While Google Play had extended its movies section to India in March 2013, the current broadband scenario in India is marred by poor Internet speeds and the annoying fair usage policies by ISPs.
Google Cast SDK: In a possible bid to increase its TV apps and secondary screen apps catalogue, Google has also released a preview SDK for its Google Cast technology, which allows users to send and control content from a phone, tablet or a laptop to a large display and also powers the Chromecast device. The SDK is currently available as a developer preview on the Google Developer website. Interestingly, Google has told TechCrunch that developers will not need to build new apps for this platform, rather they can build these apps on top of their existing web and mobile apps.
New Nexus 7: Besides Chromecast, Google has also partnered with Asus to launch a new version of its Android tablet, the Nexus 7. The device runs on Android 4.3 ‘Jelly Bean’ and claims to be thinner and lighter than the original Nexus 7. It features a 7-inch display with a resolution of 1920×1200 and a pixel density of 323ppi. Google claims that Nexus 7 is currently the world’s highest resolution 7-inch tablet in the market.
Other features include 1.5Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2GB RAM, support for 1080p video playback, a 5MP rear facing camera and a 1.2MP front facing camera, 3950 mAh battery which claims to offer 9 hours of HD video playback and 10 hours of web browsing or e-reading. Connectivity options include NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi (802.11 a/b/g/n), microUSB, 3.5mm headset jack and built-in wireless charging among others.
Nexus 7 will be available on the US Google Play Store and various other US retail outlets in three different variants – a 16GB WiFi version priced at $229, a 32GB WiFi version priced at $269 and a 32GB LTE version priced at $349 from July 30. It also plans to roll out the tablet in the UK, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Canada, France, Spain, and Australia “in the coming weeks”. Google hasn’t however disclosed any specific information on when it plans to extend the tablet to the Indian Google Play Store.