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A smarter idiot box

The Google Chromecast is the latest in the line of add-ons which allow televisions to be connected to other devices with the help of a small dongle.

Published: 04th August 2013 12:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th August 2013 11:53 AM   |  A+A-

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Look and you will see a number of black chunks of glass lying around the house. Computers, smartphones, tablets, TVs—our houses are infested with these black pieces of glass. Thankfully all these black glasses, or rather the devices supporting them are already very smart and are getting smarter by the day. The one piece of glass that is failing to keep up is the biggest of them all, the television in the living room.

As smartphones and tablet computers started to become ubiquitous, reams of news and blog reel has been wasted on the speculation that the TV is dying. The idea was that as more and more people watch video on their mobile devices, the traditional television as we know it will be dead soon.

But on the other hand the television market shows no signs of slowing down. In fact TVs are getting bigger and better, display wise, with 110-inch Ultra HD 4K TVs set to make their debut soon. Understandably many companies have tried to make these devices smarter. Being the most important device in the house which brings the whole family together, the contention was that these Smart TVs, capable of running different apps and accessing the Internet will make us more connected.

But those attempts fell flat as companies found out that people don’t need a TV to check Facebook. Another aspect that manufacturers found out pretty quickly was that these big devices are pretty expensive and so users are not tempted to change them every few years the way they change their mobile devices.

Another approach has been to manufacture cheap add-on devices to your TV through which you can connect your other devices, play games or stream shows from services like Netflix. Apple TV, Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s Playstation are some examples.

Chromecast, released last week by Google as it’s latest attempt to be relevant in the TV space is the newest entrant to the club. The beauty of Chromecast is it’s simplicity. Costing around Rs 2,100, Chromecast is just a small dongle that you plug into the HDMI slot in the back of your TV. In fact it is so simple that Rishi Chandra, the director of product management for Chromecast and Google TV says, “Literally it’s just a browser content shell”. This stripped down version of ChromeOS inside the dongle is capable of running HTML 5 video, audio and flash files for now.

To support Chromecast, apps on your Android device and your Chrome browser on your computer will know if there is a Chromecast device on your WiFi network and will show a ‘Chromecast’ button. For example, if you are watching a YouTube video on your computer, you can just press the button to stream that video on your TV. It also has a beta feature called “Chrome tab projection” using which you can send web pages from your Chrome browser for display on TV. Another aspect is the DRM encryption which allows video streaming services like Netflix to stream movies and shows on your TV in 1080p which you can control using your Android device.

By trying to replace expensive Smart TVs with a dongle that costs Rs 2,000, Google is betting that it will find a foothold in the TV space. Speaking on blog The Verge, Chandra admits as much saying, “Google is making a bet, and it’s a pretty aggressive bet”. With those words Google has announced that it is still in the war to take over your living room.

(The writer is a tech geek. Email: articles@theadarsh.net)



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