Will Google's Chromecast Revolutionize Your Living Room -- and Conference Room?

Will Google's Chromecast Revolutionize Your Living Room -- and Conference Room?
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Google wants you to be able to stream video, pictures and other content online from any device straight to your TV. The tech giant held a press conference today to announce, among other things, the release of its new Chromecast device. A small dongle that plugs into a TV's HDMI port, Chromecast is a strong play by Google to insert itself even more thoroughly into your living room, with wide-reaching potential applications in business settings as well.

The Chromecast device is essentially an app-driven gadget that lets users watch content from any number of devices on their TV. Much like the Apple TV or Roku, it allows users to connect to streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix using their smartphone, tablet or laptop like a remote control to watch that content on their TV. Unlike Apple Airplay and Apple TV, however, Chromecast will work with all sorts of mobile devices, so even if you're a platform-divided family, everyone can play.

While Chromecast communicates with the user's mobile device, it actually pulls the content itself from the cloud, leaving the smartphone free for other tasks. So even if you decide to watch a YouTube video, you can leave it running on the TV and tweet about it to your friends at the same time. Chromecast will also sync between all devices with the app. When you pause a show, you can pick up exactly where you left off -- even from another device.

The Chromecast's versatility in an office setting has many businesses taking notice as well. The possibilities for in-office presentations are obvious, but there are other applications as well. One might use Chromecast to take a demo to a customer, and play it on their TV without a mess of wires or worrying about compatibility. While it's just a beta feature to start, Chromecast also includes screen-mirroring capabilities for anything that's on your Chrome browser, allowing easy demonstrations and training, for example.

The $35 price, which includes three months of Netflix might be a challenging shot across the bow to Apple and the other companies in the streaming video and music market. Roku streaming players start at $49.99, and an Apple TV will set you back $99; Google stays well south of those numbers with the Chromecast. Of course, you'll need Wi-Fi and a TV with HDMI inputs to use Chromecast, but that includes pretty much every TV manufactured in the last 10 years. And the fact that it works with almost any Wi-Fi-enabled smartphone, tablet or PC means it might be the last streaming video device you need to buy.

Related: Google Releases New Maps App for Smartphones and Tablets
 

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