Time will tell whether Google’s new Chromecast dongle wins the tech giants’ intensifying battle for the living room, but one thing’s for certain: in a crowded field that includes Apple TV and Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One, the Chromecast is definitely the smallest hardware in the category.
That’s because the Chromecast doesn’t need to pack a whole lot of components into its finger-length form—instead, it streams content from mobile devices and PCs to a television via an HDMI plugin. Supported devices include iPhones, iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, and PCs running either Mac OS X or Windows; that device becomes the remote control for whatever’s playing onscreen. Google is sweetening the deal by throwing in three months of free Netflix whenever a customer purchases a Chromecast from Google Play, Amazon or Best Buy.
“In addition to apps like Netflix, you can use Chromecast to bring a broad range of content available on the web to your big screen,” read a note posted on Google’s Chrome Blog, “thanks to a new feature in the Chrome browser that allows you to project any browser tab to your TV.”
But as mentioned above, Google faces quite a bit of competition in the battle for peoples’ eyeballs. Microsoft and Sony are prepping the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, respectively, which are both capable of streaming content in addition to playing games (indeed, Microsoft’s unveiling event for the Xbox One seemed to focus on the console’s television-centric features as much as its next-generation gaming titles). Apple TV continues to sell in respectable numbers, and although Apple routinely says that the palm-sized device is merely a “hobby,” rumors have persisted for years that it has some sort of full-fledged television in the works.
There’s also Roku and other streaming-media boxes, all of which can make their own claims on the living room. So what does Google have going for it?
For starters, there’s price: the Chromecast retails for $35, which is a mere pittance compared to a gaming console or even some of the streaming-media boxes out there. Second, Google can leverage its extensive network of developers to build new apps and functionality for the platform, meaning it could grow even more useful over time. Third, it plays well with more devices than many other contenders in the category, which could help boost its potential audience reach.
And fourth, it’s really tiny. Who doesn’t like their hardware sleek and small?