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back to article Google Chromecast: Here's why it's the most important smart TV tech ever

The more details that emerge about Chromecast, Google's new streaming media dongle, the more it sounds like you get what you pay for – and let's face it, $35 isn't a lot. But don't be fooled. There's more to Chromecast than meets the eye. When the hardware hackers at iFixit did their teardown of the device, their conclusion was …

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Damn

I thought it was awesome when announced, now I see how much I underestimated the whole thing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Damn

The Register has been wholly and completely suckered. There's nothing unique, new or important about this device *apart* from how it reduces the cost of ensuring the content industry can deliver content to closed controlled devices. .e.g. it is all about restrictions on the free flow of content.

It is a device which is registered against a central server as a trusted streaming target. It is associated with an account - your Google account, and therefore has the potential to be trusted as a target for MPAA member content and can also be disabled by the authenticating authority (Google).

Let's be clear, in an ideal world you should be able to stream video content to any device capable of decoding IP and video running software and video output. But since the MPAA members/content owners won't support doing that and will only support devices where the user can be ID'd. Google have worked to produce the cheapest possible hardware device that can be locked against an account where the user and, more importantly, the user's credit card, is on file. This device is the opposite of open. Everyone seems to be judging it in relation to Google's increasingly unwarranted reputation for openness, when the totality of this devices role is the cheapest way to support video streaming whilst being able to ensure, for content vendors a wholly closed proprietary system where permission has to be granted for anything to take place.

The Register touched on this with ominous realisation Google wholly reserve the right to allow or deny any applications written to use this device, without quite grasping why that is.

The fact this device is closed, Google hold all the keys to all access and that it is not based on Android, should clue everyone in on what it really is - a wholly unnecessary hardware go-between that is only required because content owners want all consumer to wear a tattoo in the fashion of a concentration camp in-mate.

The Register in their rush to support Google and condemn all things Apple have been totally suckered into supporting the most Apple-like Google tech release they have made to date. But then again, Google have only ever really been concerned about their proprietary centralised databases. Support for open standards on edge nodes which increasingly have little role other than to support consumption of content locked to this centralised, proprietary and closed leviathan has always been a deliciously and wickedly successful mind-trick.

Google are throwing out $35 handcuffs and now The Register and Users are excitedly clicking themselves in. This is OK, but just don't pretend this is anything but a technology to see the protection of the pre-internet CD / DVD business models in the age of the Internet.

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Re: AC@12:44

Too bad you posted that anonymously. You should earn the up-vote attributions.

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Gimp

Re: Damn - it's a trap

Look, every time Google drags one of these things out from top-secret development it's locked down in this way and you guys trot out the Google boogie man. And then a little while later Google opens it up because that's the Googley thing to do and you guys complain about that too.

Apple has a similar called AirPlay. It doesn't work with non-Apple stuff. Intel's been trying to get their Windows-only WiDi (Miracast, etc etc) to take off for a while now. Both of them cost a lot more and have compatibility issues with existing kit, doesn't work with legacy OS versions, has drivers to install or other such nonsense.

So on launch day Google publishes the software development kit for this gear and it's still wearing the "no sharing our secret sauce" badge from when it was Top Secret. Boo hoo. It works with iOS, OS X, Windows back to XP as well as our Android kit. The code is out there and they can't take it back. Google knows better than to try and make this a DeCSS issue. It will be open source with a permissive license soon enough. The darned thing is only two days old.

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Re: Damn - it's a trap

" Intel's been trying to get their Windows-only WiDi (Miracast, etc etc) to take off for a while now."

There is a side effect to this, you know that right? Intel is being very active in taking on content licensing within current lock-in/lock-out license agreements between the major cable companies. While I agree with any point of view that this is nothing but another sales pitch to deploy inferior tech. into a market that is existing without it, I also appreciate the challenges it presents to cable companies.

Around my parts, there is only Time Warner. Even worse, Time Warner charges an outrageous fee of 55usd/mo. for 15mb inet (theoretical 15mb, more like avg. ~9mb). I don't subscribe to their "TV", but if I did the rates are literally LOL over priced.

If Intel or Google can put even a crack in their market using these inferior hardware devices, then more power to them. If you live in a more open market, then I can see this being totally worthless or even impacting negatively. But if you live in a market like mine, then ANYTHING non-Time Warner is a god send and the only light to get being able to obtain post 1998 inet speeds at a reasonable rate. So I wish I could bark about new hobbled content management systems by large corps., but sadly I'm still worried about speeds to get content :-/.

OFF TOPIC: Has anyone else noticed that Time Warner now redirects you to Yahoo's search engine when you try to access an invalid domain? Control! Control! You must have control! :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Damn

There is a big tradeoff here. We (well, the few remaining people like me, anyway) want people to produce high quality content. But to do that, people have to be paid. Increasingly, people cannot earn a living as writers, journalists, musicians and film makers, and the production companies and their channels put more and more effort into producing low cost dross like [long list redacted] which is supported by advertising. As the Internet becomes almost entirely a stream of adverts, the revenue from each one goes down and eventually it will disappear up its own rear end as the volume of adverts tends to infinity and the value of each one tends to zero. Actually this may already have happened and we just haven't noticed. Speaking of which, would HHGG have happened if DNA was working in today's world? Far too minority and downbeat. Needs happy ending...and plot needs to be boy-thing has row with girl-thing, eventually get back together. Which in effect is what happened, hence the gulf between the radio series and the eventual film.

So long as my phone/camera can take and distribute photos, sound recording and videos, and so long as I can still write stuff and post it, I don't care about other people's content management. It is almost all stuff that will be forgotten in six months anyway. But if there is a solution that means that the good stuff can be recorded and distributed at reasonable prices, in exchange for my having to tell people who I am, I'm fine with that.

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Re: Content Restriction

That is the whole point, a simple reasonably priced system that allows the content provider to be relatively sure about getting paid by those who watch. I make absolutely no arguments about the controlling nature of the agreement, but I see it as a way to ensure easy portability of content linked to the user through their mobile device or through a web service account using any laptop running chrome. I know a lot of non-technical people who have tablets or laptops that love this idea, they are already members of services that can use the device.

For example, could one not visit their friend and watch something at that location on a suitably equipped screen due to using the smartphone to cue up the paid for service or archived content that said friend could not access prior to your visit, nor after? It solves a problem of you walking around with your purchased content and accessing it.

I think the mobile device integration is the key and there could be some very interesting applications utilizing the TV screen with multiple users concurrently interacting. As a consumer product, it has the potential to seriously preempt Apple's solution and iTunes' lovely controls, so from the aspect of bridging the gap between consumer wants and industry wants, it is not a horrible solution.

After all if privacy is your thing, you can sign up with a fake name for your account and use prepaid cards to top up the account (in United States, Germany, France, and United Kingdom at the moment). Likewise, it is pretty easy to get a phone not tied to one's name. I am sure the technically versed will find many work arounds quickly to address their desires while the general population enjoy their content advertising free.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Damn

90%+ of recent TVs can already stream audio and video without needing to plug something in. Don't see this is anything of note.

imo - the most inventive thing in that space this year has been the Xbox One - which can take HDMI (or streaming in) and process it with overlays, etc to give a different output....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Damn

Once the Chinese copy it, and sell it for less with a configurable serial number to defeat the DRM, and people hack The Borg OS than any Google device comes with to stop it uploading a personal stream to Google and the NSA, then it might be of interest...

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Re: Damn

Although note that a lot of smart TVs don't do so well at mirroring displays or transferring streaming (e.g., you're browsing Youtube on your laptop, and want it to play on the TV, or maybe you want to play Google Music through the TV speakers). You can use the TV's own browser of course, but it's slower if it's already on your laptop. Getting DLNA to work with music can be tricky too (since most players don't support it, and often there are problems such as not getting the track order correct).

At this low a price, I can see it complementing smart TVs, and it's a great way to add the functionality to older TVs that don't have these features at all.

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Re: Damn

Hmm, just out of curiosity, wouldn't this break HDCP?

I thought the whole point of HDCP was so that the video/audio stream COULDN'T be interefered with in any way, no copying, no modifying, etc.

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Of course XBone breaks HDCP!

Microsoft have the keys, so the XBone can do a perfect man-in-the-middle "attack" on it.

I never understood the point of HDCP though.

Like all other forms of intrusive DRM, HDCP only serves to irritate legitimate consumers (why does it go blocky on my Z?) while only acting as a minor inconvenience to miscreants.

- Even if finding a non-HDCP source for the media or cracking HDCP itself was a problem, the data must get decrypted eventually...

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Re: Damn

It shouldn't do. After all, a certain Andrew Huang (AKA "Bunnie") developed/discovered a technique for injecting content overlays into HDMI streams, without decrypting them for his NeTV box project.

I'm assuming that other CE manufacturers are just using a variant of that.

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Re: Damn

If we look at Android which is open to developers and Apple which can be jailbroken then this device will soon have a backdoor entry where you do not need to sign in before using it. If it is hackable which im sure it is, then this device seems the easiest and cheapest way to get streaming media onto a TV set that i have seen.

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Re: Damn

HDCP can be broken by buying the right $10 cable from China...

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Go

Re: Damn

You can also plugin a chromecast and watch netflix for free instead of needing a pay wall lol

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What was not mentioned is what the bluetooth can be used for.

Could there be an optional bluetooth remote to come?

Nothing fancy, just pause, rewind, fast forward, etc?

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Sure, its called a cheap android ebay phone.

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I'd settle for just a pause control for pee breaks.

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It's just a really bad equivalent of AirPlay / DLNA; what's the big deal?

I still don't see why Google's half-baked implementation is interesting. AirPlay does all that and more, plus it's integrated down in the A/V framework of OS X and iOS so it works from any A/V-based app that hasn't explicitly disabled it. With desktop mirroring from an OS X host, *any* visible content can be pushed to the TV. The audio side of things makes it even more interesting given the support for multiple synchronised devices across the home. AirPlay gaming may be a minority use case, but at least you can do it.

Meanwhile any existing DLNA-capable TV, STB, or handheld device, regardless of OS, stands a fighting chance of doing what Google's new toy does and more, though DLNA does seem to be a minefield of compatibility problems so getting it to actually work in the first place can be a big problem! But in any case, it's clear that from a software point of view, Google's offering looks rather sad as it stands.

The only advantage Google have for their very limited device is price, but at $99 an AppleTV does an awful lot more - it even has (shock!) its own GUI, own remote (as well as An App For That) and a whole slew of apps and self-contained ability for playing stuff. And when you can do neat things like using an AirPlay screen as a new desktop extension monitor in OS X Mavericks, it's clear that technology is not being left to languish. Meanwhile for around the $60 mark you can get a similar "HDMI stick" form factor Android 4 "tablet" device which will do far more than Google or Apple's devices, albeit at the cost of some reliability and usability.

You certainly do get what you pay for, but even then, the Google device looks comparatively expensive against existing competition, especially including things like the Raspberry Pi. The software is unimpressive and the hardware isn't interesting either; it recently became very easy to make things like that at such prices and I'm pretty sure we'll see a lot more of them. Google's device stands a good chance of being lost in the noise unless they make very major improvements to its software.

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FAIL

I only regret that I have but one...

...downvote to lay on you, Bro.

Yes, it's not Apple TV. So what? It also works in a totally different way to AirPlay, but I guess you skipped over that minor detail in your rush to Apple-based condemnation?

GJC

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Meh

Re: I only regret that I have but one...

I agree.

But to me, It sounded less like an Apple-based condemnation and more like an Apple salesman trying to sell us on an Apple based solution for something that isn't even a problem. I'm not saying he's schilling, but that post was Apple buzzword heavy and typical of their marketing strategies by making their solutions look easier than they are and by being intentionally vague about competing products to make them seem far more complex than they are.

Not to say I think this is worth anything, yet anyway. Though given Google's track record of keeping niche products alive, I doubt it will last long enough to properly mature. But really, I want some of whatever they're on. I'm not going to pay Google 35 bucks for a dongle to do something that my phone, tablet, laptop, or Playstation can already do, and probably all do better without requiring some kind of stupid dedicated hardware with no UI, when I can plug in an HDMI cable and play Youtube off my phone directly, or from my laptop or from the Playstation.

Then again, call me crazy but I've never had a strong urge to see a silly cat video, FPS Russia, or a "Hitler is informed that..."/Downfall meme video, etc on my TV. I don't know too many people that do, except those which primarily use an HTPC, and I'm pretty sure someone running Windows Media Center or XBMC (or simply Windows 7 or a modern Linux distribution in general) doesn't need a dongle to stream video and audio.

Everything I've read about this product here and elsewhere reminds me of a cheap Nexus Q, and that's really not a good thing.

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Re: It's just a really bad equivalent of AirPlay / DLNA; what's the big deal?

"A bad equivalent" is possibly a bit harsh, but in fairness Apple TV does do all the things you say and does them extremely well.

I use Apple TV/Airplay extensively both at home for all the usual sources:- built-in to Apple TV itself and streaming/mirroring from any number of fruity goodness devices and at work for presentations from iPad or MacBooks &etc. It's so easy to use and so dependable that, for me at least, it is very much worth being inside the walled garden.

Now, if Apple were to respond to this by dropping the Apple TV price...

...however unlikely that may be.

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Big Brother

Re: It's just a really bad equivalent of AirPlay / DLNA; what's the big deal?

"I still don't see why Google's half-baked implementation is interesting."

Ahh, that'll be because it's obvious this will demolish Apple in the TV space the same way Google did with smartphones and is clearly on the brink of doing with tablets.

Once again, time to think different.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's just a really bad equivalent of AirPlay / DLNA; what's the big deal?

"I still don't see why Google's half-baked implementation is interesting."

It's interesting because Google have a large marketing budget to promote it to their marks.

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WTF?

Re: I only regret that I have but one...

People have already got it to cast a full screen, and when you consider it doesn't need to have the same content running on your tablet as well as the TV, and the cost of entry is a small fraction of getting yourself into the Apple ecosystem, it's obvious why iTards are spreading the FUD.

It does a lot more than just play Youtube. Complaining about this product now is like dismissing the first web browser 20 years ago because there wasn't much internet at the time. You can connect a laptop via HDMI and play Iplayer content, but if your TV has an iplayer app, would you bother with the cable and the hassle of having the laptop open on the floor? For such a small price I'm happy to have the convenience of wireless streaming and being able to select and control content from my couch.

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Meh

Re: It's just a really bad equivalent of AirPlay / DLNA; what's the big deal?

I would just like to point out that Apple took at least three attempts with their TV device to make it slightly interesting. Even then better results were to be had by hacking it.

So give it time. Apple has had plenty but still really hasnt delivered.

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Re: I only regret that I have but one...

I do not see how different it is from the Apple TV.

The one thing seemingly different is that Chromecast handles URLs directly (or answers to commands, as stated in the article).

I believe this is the standard way the Apple TV does it.

For local files (from your computer, iPhone or iPad), since the URL is local, generated with the Bonjour protocol, it seems as if the device its pushing to the Apple TV. I believe it is actually the opposite.

For files on the internet, the Apple TV accesses the URLs directly without going through the other device.

You can see this with the excellent Clicktoflash Safari extension (which, among many other things gives you popup menus to push YouTube or other internet videos to the AppleTV) or with the unsupported Airflick app, which allows you to send a URL to the Apple TV.

And, one other thing, it is possible to "send" content from an iPhone or iPad to an AppleTV and do something else on the iPad.

So, I think Chromecast has its chance, and that its price is a very important part of it, but I cannot see what it can do that I cannot do with my iPad and Apple TV.

Apart from that, I quite agree with the arguments in the article, and I really love my iPad (as well as Safari) with Apple TV as a Smart TV interface. (but I prefer to use the Apple Remote for a lot of things, like movie rentals and TV shows)

And I believe that for this part the Chromecast experience can be excellent too.

However, the article title should be "Apple TV (and now Chromecast) Why it's the most important smart TV tech ever"

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Re: It's just a really bad equivalent of AirPlay / DLNA; what's the big deal?

I agree I don't want use the web for anything apart from finding information. Ideally on a computer. (Or a phone / tablet if I am not at home).

The DNLA in my TV (Panasonic Viera - DNLA stack is made by Access is as good as anything I have seen even on my computer or XBMC).

I like the way Media Center Extenders work as well. (Other than Codec Support).

Or like a Windows Projector works.

Or the Intel Wireless technology that you can use with their medfield devices.

Using the Web for stuff is never going to work as well as using something with a UI designed for the specific device.

I think I prefer how the Nexus Q was to this.

If it is not locked down then I might get one. (Need to get my Rasberry Pi back now it has wayland should be more pleasant to use as an xterminal).

I try and use as little Google stuff as possible everything seems to be set up like facebook these days. (Open an app and it reenables tons of stuff that I purposefully disabled. Maps and Youtube being good examples).

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Meh

Re: I only regret that I have but one...

@Jerome Apple AirPlay is not compatible with Windows or Android as a sender. So it's great if you're an Apple person. If you're not, it's not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AirPlay

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Re: I only regret that I have but one...

Are google rss reader and igoogle really niche products? I'm glad i kept my yahoo account at least i can get my content there

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Happy

Re: I only regret that I have but one...

@Jerome Apple AirPlay is not compatible with Windows or Android as a sender. So it's great if you're an Apple person. If you're not, it's not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AirPlay

-not true, I have an android app that can airplay

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.zappotvapple

The one thing I cant do is use my phone as an AppleTV remote unless I hack the AppleTV box.

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Re: It's just a really bad equivalent of AirPlay / DLNA; what's the big deal?

Do you have a link for a $60 Android stick? All the ones I've seen have no indication of what software or features they have - sorry, I don't want to have to faff around seeing if I can find applications on Google Play that might do the "smart TV" features I want.

And that's still almost twice the price of the Chromestick.

As for comparing to Appleflop TV, I thought Chromestick was supposed to be able to mirror any content too. Chromestick seems to be a lot more open and cross-platform too.

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Re: It's just a really bad equivalent of AirPlay / DLNA; what's the big deal?

Not a $60 one, how about £28?

http://www.scan.co.uk/products/nurvo-mini-google-tv-stick-wireless-android-40-ics-full-hd-1080p-coretex-a5-cpu-wifi

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FAIL

Re: I only regret that I have but one...

"Yes, it's not Apple TV. So what? It also works in a totally different way to AirPlay, but I guess you skipped over that minor detail in your rush to Apple-based condemnation?"

Good grief, epic fail doesn't quite cover it.

Congratulations to you and all the other frothing-at-the-mouth fandroids who apparently didn't read past roughly the first sentence of my post, or even read its title. You might want to look at where I talk about DLNA, Android based options and Raspberry Pi.

Meanwhile Google's product is NOT running Android and it is NOT open source.

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WTF?

Re: @Andrew

And, um, at what point did I mention either Android or open source?

GJC

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Re: @Andrew

(It's thread necromancy time...)

You didn't; but as you can see from *actually reading* my reply, I was addressing the *thread*, not an individual.

My final comment in that reply, which I did consider for some time removing but eventually decided to keep, was an attempt to head off the next tired set of arguments of Google vs A.N.Other.Competitor wherein apparently Google aren't evil because they're "open" (FSVO "open"). Fortunately the thread died out anyway.

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Just another thing to hang off the back of my telly

> sends is just a command that tells Chromecast to grab the content stream and render it itself, via a custom receiver application that's loaded and run on the Chromecast dongle.

So basically you use your PC, lappy, tablet or phone to find something you want to view or listen to. You then use an app on that device to send a link to the Chromecast dongle saying "here, suck on this teat". CC then tickles the source and starts to pull the stream with no further interaction from you or your "big" device.

Okaaaay, so the CC dongle is still basically just a dongle. The cleverness is in the two apps and the commercial power of Google who can persuade media companies to develop CC interfaces for their stuff.

So why can't I just have the Chromecast software on the Android TV dongle I bought last year? The app that sits on my tablet would be just the same and since there are already millions of TV dongles out there, the market has been established. It sounds like I already have all the hardware needed to implement this. The tablet/laptop app would be the same irrespective of the dongle used, so I just need a Chromecast for Android app to run on my existing dongle.

Sounds almost yawn-worthy.

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Re: Just another thing to hang off the back of my telly

Not sure on the downvotes. Essentially it is just a dnla receiver (in practice). Xbmc on a rasp pi will do a more complete job and stream from your network.

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Re: Just another thing to hang off the back of my telly

When I looked into using XBMC on the Raspberry PI, NetFlix support was notably absent. Did I miss something?

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Re: Just another thing to hang off the back of my telly

Native? No. With a helper app on a pc such as plex yes. So just like chromecast needing another app if netflix is your bag. Xbmc is still more versatile. Can chromecast stream from any network source? How about music sources?

I stand by my statement xbmc is a better idea overall and the frodo live version is far more mature than versions of old (that needed tweaking)

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Anonymous Coward

Wait, so how is it different from the 1000+ types of Android TV dongle filling the warehouses in Shenzhen and available for similar prices ? Apart from being not as good ?

TheReg may generate a lot of its money from whoring our eyeballs out to Google via doubleclick but there's no need to gush about their underwhelming hardware so floridly. Even an IT organ as allegedly cynical as TheReg should be capable of passing up an opportunity to nosh down on Googles veiny offerings every once in a while ...

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FAIL

If you read the article you would see that it's Not an android dongle

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The op asked why the Google one was better though. It seems worse on the face of things. Does chromecast phone home with viewing habits? Bye bye neilson

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FAIL

How is it different from a Smart Android Dongle?

Because it needs a Host Laptop/Notebook/Tablet etc.

So $35 is basically a cordless connection to replace the HDMI lead from your "host device".

This is not important and simply a Google Walled garden cordless connection to HDMI. An HDMI cable will give more functionality.

It does get round the cost and problems of a pure HDMI wireless adaptor pair.

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Re: How is it different from a Smart Android Dongle?

In what sense is it a "google walled garden" when you select Netflix content on your Ipad and cast it to a Toshiba TV?

The "host device" doesn't host anything - that's where the biggest difference is. RTFA. HDMI is less functional and less convenient.

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Re: So $35 is basically a cordless connection to replace the HDMI lead from your "host device"

Not the way I read the article.

I think a nook simple could be used as the control device. The nook isn't capable in any way of playing any multimedia.

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Meh

Re: How is it different from a Smart Android Dongle?

"The "host device" doesn't host anything - that's where the biggest difference is. RTFA. HDMI is less functional and less convenient."

It certainly does host something, just not local to itself. If it didn't, the TV output would be blank! Being that it doesn't locally, means the difference is less functionality than many alternatives that have existed for years. I don't see how anyone can think this is _NOT_ a Google walled garden when it only allows what Google allows! It just seems blunt and obvious that this is actually being advertised as such for Google Fandroids. But hey, if they want it, I hope they buy it! Beats paying more to major cable companies, that is for sure. I just hope they have a good experience with it and don't fall under the assumption that this device is a benchmark for all other devices of it's kin, which it's certainly not.

I too am curious why TheReg is so hell bent on publishing articles about this device, is it really about the money here, or are some Reg staff really that out of the loop on alternative devices?

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Linux

Re: How is it different from a Smart Android Dongle?

> HDMI is less functional and less convenient.

That would be my main interest in this thing. Already got the HDMI thing going on now and it seems like far too much of a kludge.

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"While you're viewing the content on your TV, you're free to use your fondleslab to browse the web, send emails, play games, "

I'm going to sound old-fashioned here but if you're not going to actually watch the video why bother putting it on?

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