Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Die is (Chrome) Cast!

Talk about the game changer that no one saw coming…all of a sudden $35 hooks you into an endless universe of programming that was previous locked on the “little screen”. I’m talking about Chromecast, of course – the dongle that turns your monster HD living room video delivery device (fogey-speak: “TV”) into a jukebox of video content. How did we miss seeing this one?

Simple. If we rewind several years, we all know that it takes a really big and complex box with a monthly service charge (“Cable TV”) and rental fee (“Set-top Box”) to deliver quality programming. I don’t know about you, but my cable company bill is upwards of $200 a month and I only get a few Premium Channels. Even the concept of Premium Channels now seems sort or quaint and antiquated in light of recent developments. (Aside: The Museum of Once-Cool but Now Useless Devices featuring the Veg-O-Matic, The Atari Game Console and the Digital Set-Top Box) BECAUSE timing is everything, right? Google released Google TV (what?) and some kind of audio cube thing and some other hardware stuff that all went “thud” in the great retail space.

Apple made some inroads with Apple TV and iPad / iPhone connectivity and streaming – but they never posed a real threat to Big Cable. Macs as computers still remained niche and even though the iPad soared in popularity, it was essentially a really big iPhone. Google birthed Android – which could run on anything (harkening back to the original days of Java) and all of a sudden Netflix, Hulu and their brethren rounded the corner with alternative content to Big Cable – but it was hard to make the connection to the LCD in the living room.

I had one of the first Droids in the Littleton area, and as soon as the RAZR came out, I got one! (Big mistake, because as it turns out the first RAZRs had a thirty minute battery life – and insult was added to injury but the release of RAZR MAXX at the same price point three months later.) but the big deal (I thought) about the RAZR was HDMI connectivity. I could now shoot HD video and watch it on my living room screen – and I could watch whatever video was on my phone on the big screen. True confession time: even though I thought I would use this all the time, I used it maybe five times in the last two years, and generally when Grandparents were present. Instead I opted for a combination of Big Cable, a PS3 (when the kid was home) and a $50 Western Digital device called the NEOTV (when the kid wasn’t home). I liked NEOTV, and while it has the stuff I wanted – it also was hooked into some real questionable content AND I couldn’t customize it. It was good for Netflix and that was that.

I purchased some wacky Android devices from China and played around with them. They were cool for doing video playback from MP4 files loaded to a stick – but their performance with Netflix & YouTube was jerky and inconsistent – regardless of browser or app usage. Fun toys – but not ready for prime time.

I just got done watching a promo on YouTube for Chromecast – and I have to say I was impressed, so impressed, I went to Google and typed in “buy chromecast” – where I was immediately linked up with a list of Best Buys in my area that had the device – and guess what I’m doing on the way home from work tonight? I’ve got a Nexus 7 (android tablet) that I use for reading at night, and I’m going to move that into the living room and see what all my online favorites look like on the big screen – without cords!

(More to come…)

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