As TeleRead readers will be well aware, Chromecast, Google’s neat HDMI-compatible AV streaming dongle and its associated programs, has been around for a while now; but it’s only just made it to certain European markets, and courtesy of my parents, I may still be Hungary’s pioneering Chromecast owner. And though I love the technology, my first impressions are mixed – in a way that might be down to the usual Big Media interference in simple user-friendly propositions.
Yes, it’s straightforward no-brain plug-and-play. Yes, it streams content to your TV screen or HDMI-compatible monitor over your WiFi network – (mostly) pretty seamlessly. Yes, it delivers functionality that basic Android didn’t really have before, such as the ability to stream audio on video from Youtube while still multitasking on your Android device – at least as far as I can see. Yes, it has a bunch of associated programs that are already taking advantage of its functionalities, with more on the way now that its SDK has been released.
But there are still many annoying restrictions on it for an Android tablet user. For instance, Google Play Music won’t stream locally sideloaded music to Chromecast (though third party programs like EZCast will). Android’s own onboard video playback capabilities won’t either. Google Docs and Google Drive aren’t yet fully equipped with Chromecast functionality. And needless to say, Kindle and my other favorite ebook readers aren’t Chromecast-enabled either – yet.
Fine, Google may have rushed the device out too far in advance of its SDK – not the first time a manufacturer has done this. And as a basic entertainment accessory, it’s great. But the Holy Grail for me – mirroring my Android tablet to a big screen so I can switch to a big display for work, reading, etc. – is still not there yet. Yes, it can be done – but only on a Nexus 5, for now. Yes, there apparently is some implementation of streaming Chrome browser tabs to Chromecast in Chrome Beta for Android – though I haven’t been able to make this work yet.
And apparently, according to one poster on the Google product forums, this level of functionality “is being built into the next version of Android, which will allow you to stream anything on your screen via chromecast.” But, as the same poster adds, ” This should have been built in and out before the product was released though. Shame on Google.”
And I do wonder if pressure from traditional media held Google back on this. Media providers have been concerned since Day One about the threat that Chromecast supposedly poses by – g’doh – substituting for something you can already do by attaching a cable to your laptop or tablet. No wonder some of the earliest Chromecast-enabled apps were from the likes of Netflix. Traditional Big Media is still clinging to its outmoded TV-based windowing model, and is trying to make life as inconvenient as possible for everyone else for as long as possible. That’s my take anyway. But if I’ve misrepresented anything, or missed out anything through being just a few days into Chromecasting, I’d welcome tips and feedback.