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back to article Typical! Google's wonder-dongle is a solution looking for a problem

From the reaction to Google's latest contribution to TV technology, you'd think the Chromecast dongle was as revolutionary as a new method of nuclear fusion. While the wee $35 USB stick is more practical than the last Google TV gadget - and hopefully less catastrophic to Google's supply chain partners - it's a typically Silicon …

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Google falls foul of most modern businesses big error.

Forgetting the internet exists!

The internet really is such a game-changer that even Google misses the point sometimes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google falls foul of most modern businesses big error.

There's quite a few devices that get your phone display onto the TV. They're all £90-100. This one is at least a useful price, although what's the betting that $30 is about £40 here.

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Re: Google falls foul of most modern businesses big error.

"There's quite a few devices that get your phone display onto the TV."

Yes, it's called an MHL cable. I got mine for a fiver.

So what do I need Google's gizmo for?

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Boffin

Re: Google falls foul of most modern businesses big error.

I think MHL is interesting but it still has something of a dependency on human interaction which might be awkward, if the TV supports CEC remote pass through correctly then your remote might work to control your phone, but how many apps work with that logic?

The Chrome stick is cheap enough that it is fit + forget, I could buy one (if they were sold in the UK!) and know that whenever I want I can send content from my phone or laptop to the TV.

I don't think it is a game changer, but I do think it is a low cost way of showing the way forward to the market. It addresses the millions of non-connected/smart HD TVs there are in the world. It is a simple proposition but also it might boost Google's sales on their Play Store. People are more inclined to pay for content on screens of 7in or larger (inc TVs) than on phones, this device bridges the gap between phone store and TV.

I wish them luck, it certainly isn't a folly.

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Re: Google falls foul of most modern businesses big error.

Tom, I assume this is the finest irony and fit of an upvote.

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+1

I was wondering what all the furore was about. If you've got a game console or smart TV you can get most OTT providers, YouTube, and local content.

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Re: +1

Yeah I give this article a +1 as well. It's a well reasoned piece of work. Doesn't matter if you agree with the cnclusion, we need less bullshit and more of this.

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Re: +1

I don't have a games console. I don't have a smart TV in the bedroom. I do have a smart TV in the living room, though it'd still be much easier to transfer a Youtube video from my laptop to the screen, rather than have to renavigate to it through the TV (similarly for things like Google Music - it does work through the TV's browser, but it's much quicker to access it through a laptop or indeed my phone). The smart TV will remain great for playing local videos via DLNA, but it doesn't do everything that it seems Chromecast will.

So that's a mere 2 potential devices that I'll be buying then, despite having a smart TV already. I also have a PC plugged into the TV - yes, I can VNC into it and control it from the laptop, but clicking a button would still be much easier, not to mention that for most people this is not something they've got set up at all.

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"From the reaction to Google's latest contribution to TV technology, you'd think the Chromecast dongle was as revolutionary as a new method of nuclear fusion."

Really ? Most of the reactions i've seen have been along the lines of either "Meh" or "Will it run XBMC ?" - perhaps i've been looking at tech pages rather than tabloids to get information about technology news... dunno.

"British telly broadcaster BSkyB touts an even cheaper TV dongle (£9.99, $15), but it received a fraction of the coverage even though it may have a greater impact on its intended market. Why?"

I don't know - perhaps the media didn't write about it, did you or El Reg ?... I certainly can't find anything here. As for cheapness, the thing about the Sky dongle is that the "intended market" need to have a NowTV account - it's quite nice IMO, especially on the £ 15 for 6 months deal they had a while back, but it's a regular outgoing - so hardly comparable on CapEx (which is what you did).

They've both got their place, it's just that their revenue streams are different. Personally, i'll probably not get either, although i'm tempted by the Google one just to play with... not something you can do with the Sky dongle currently as far as I can see from the information on NowTV. Even though I have a (temporary) NowTV account it probably won't be worth an extra £15 per month on top of my cable subscription to just get Movies, for me, when that subscription runs out... and i'm not certain whether it's even worth a tenner to just have a small box attached to the telly rather than my laptop or Pi now.

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"the thing about the Sky dongle is that the "intended market" need to have a NowTV account "

Update on this - apparently you only need to have an account, which does not need to have an active subscription, to access the free on-demand services. That said, they are doing another '6 months for £ 15' offer here (NowTV link) which is well worth a punt if you don't already have Sky movies. Quality is not bad at all, even if not full HD - i've had no issues with streaming (buffering etc) on a VirginMedia 20Mb link.

You can also side-load applications from the Roku channels in dev, in particular Plex - which turns this into a 720p network media streamer for a tenner.

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Give away

Sky are also giving away what looks like an equivalent product.

http://www.sky.com/thankyou

Though quite why they can't just get their Sky boxes to receive net content anyway?

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h3
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Re: Give away

The Sky product is a Roku of some sort with another firmware. If there is a way to put it back to the Roku firmware or sideload Netflix etc then you save £40.

Much more likely in the short term than it will run XBMC well.

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Analogy overload

As usual, Orlowski cuts through the bull and hype and tells it like it is. It's akin to releasing a bestseller with blank pages for you to fill in yourself.

Let's be honest, though, the TV we already have is dull, dreary, repetitive, shallow, judgmental propaganda aimed at the lowest common denominator. Can you really see savvy people paying for more of it? Christ, I might be tempted to give 'em a fiver if they make the existing stuff go away for a couple of hours a day.

Of course, they will get their payoff anyway. What's in it for Google? The same currency you pay them with now: They get valuable data on your interests. The hype just makes it easier for them.

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Re: Analogy overload

"Christ, I might be tempted to give 'em a fiver if they make the existing stuff go away for a couple of hours a day."

Give me a fiver and I'll tell you how to make it go away.

(Hint: it's called a power button. DAMN! I'll never get my fiver now!)

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Re: Analogy overload

Give me a fiver and I'll tell you how to make it go away.

(Hint: it's called a power button. DAMN! I'll never get my fiver now!)

You're not married, are you? Thought not.

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Re: Analogy overload

"You're not married, are you?"

No, not until February.

As to your point: Yes, she does watch a bucket load of manure. I, however, always have the option of leaving the room. I'll go read a book, do some work on my bike, or even use a TV in another room.

OK, I do put up with watching some TV I would rather not with her, but she does the same, so I can't really complain.

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Coat

Re: Analogy overload

To be fair, books of blank pages for you to write your own bestseller - or just the shopping list - do outsell any printed book you care to mention.

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I bought the Chromecast, it arrived yesterday in the mail. For $35 it is very good at what it does, which TBH is not an awful lot, but it is good at it! It is a piece of hardware screaming for someone to write a couple of decent apps for, local media streaming would be a start.

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I'm confused...

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/07/27/why_chromecast_is_important/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/07/30/google_chromecast_fail/

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: I'm confused...

The Reg is a broad church. It is possible for two writers to have different opinions: we're not going to hammer through a simplified narrative for the sake of convenience.

C.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm confused...

Me too, but not about the difference of opinions.

Why, oh why all the downvotes for comments that say they're not impressed? Are we not allowed to be unimpressed by Google?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are we not allowed to be unimpressed by Google?

Are you new around here?

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Re: I'm confused...

Unless it's about climate change or Nokia, eh?

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Re: I'm confused...

Exactly - the articles written here, often with tongue in cheek, don't tell me what to think, but give me the information to allow me to think for myself, and I will always welcome two different viewpoints.

That's why I've been reading El Reg for over ten years now.

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It is simply a remote controlled chrome browser window, isn't it?

Which means if you can create a webpage that chrome displays to play your media, and and app that tells the device to go to that page, you are sorted.

Presumably you could have a simple tablet, like a Nook simple, and use that as the control and have a browser on screen. Not sure what it makes of links though.

Definitely is interesting. (But a shame about the official OS support)

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ubiquity

The targets here are airplay and miracast.

Chromecast will work across platforms, and leave your device free to use.

PC under the TV? That's so twentieth century.

Mobile devices and the cloud combined are where the future lies.

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Re: ubiquity

I fear you are correct. I for one will still stick with a pc under the tv though. Or rather under the dirty great 19" CRT monitor!

Disclaimer: I do not pay the electric bill. If I did... yeah, it would change :)

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Anonymous Coward

Selective pricing quotes?

Watch the Ashes on the Sky dongle? For £9.99? No.

Dongle... £9.99, 3 month subscription £8.99 p/m, then another £15 if you want the £8.99 offer (small print at the bottom). Then add a Sky Sports day pass at £9.99 PER DAY! 5 days test match.. £49.95. 5 test matches and that's £249.75 just for Sports.

Total... £307.71

Not saying Chromecast is a wonder product, although I may have a use for it, depending on apps developed for it, but to trumpet the Sky dongle as a cheap alternative way to watch the Ashes is a joke.

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Headmaster

Re: Selective pricing quotes?

Actually the easiest way to watch the Ashes is get a cheap ($10) VPN, tunnel into mainland Europe and get the legit streams that ecbcricket is making available to users on the continent via YouTube.

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Happy

Re: Selective pricing quotes?

Just do what everyone else does and find a stream on the net. I watched the last F1 race streamed from someplace in HD with a Spanish comentary and as I'm learning Spanish I killed 2 birds with one stone (not paying and fun learning). The internet is lovely.

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Re: Selective pricing quotes?

The point is Google don't have the Ashes at any price, they have cat videos, and if Google did have the Ashes they wouldn't offer it for just $35 anyway. Chromecast doesn't offer you any content that you couldn't get anyway with other providers, traditional or OTT (via mainstream hardware like game consoles or smart TVs and their OTT app).

Maybe Chromecast's SDK will be used by everyone and fantastic ecosystem will come about, but that still doesn't give it any advantage over anything else that's out their at the moment - OTT content is already sorted out because you pay them money and they make sure you can get to see it and hackable stuff is already catered for by XBMC.

If they had some exclusive YouTube content when running via Chromecast then that would be a selling point, but they don't.

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Re: Selective pricing quotes?

On the other hand, there is no way to watch the Ashes using Chromecast, so the cost is irrelevant, or only to be compared against the 'standard' way of getting Sky Sports. It's still a little pricey; if you want to watch every second of every Test, get a Sky box, if you want to just watch the final afternoon of each Test, get a dongle.

This is what this article is trying to get across, Google can be as "disruptive" as they like, unless they've got the content people want it is irrelevant. I'm not sure he's right though.

A lot of commenters on Chromecast have been saying things like "Woohoo, now I can get Netflix without Xbox Live", so maybe they are banking on enough people giving them content. There is every chance that Sky will happily provide a chromecast interface for everything on their catch up service - they only care that you are paying, not how you are watching.

It seems to me that chromecast offers everything that a broadcaster would want from a service - they control the user interface for selecting content, they control what items are made available to you to choose, they get all the analytics about what you are watching, and someone else is responsible for ensuring the playback quality, interface issues and so on.

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Re: Selective pricing quotes?

The Sky dongle also requires contributing to Murdoch which for many would be too high a cost even if the dongle was free.

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Re: Selective pricing quotes?

"There is every chance that Sky will happily provide a chromecast interface for everything on their catch up service - they only care that you are paying, not how you are watching."

I suggest you pop over to the Sky Go On Android forum.... you may change your mind.

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Re: Selective pricing quotes?

I suggest you pop over to the Sky Go On Android forum....

Sky Go on Android suffers from the one problem that this never will - too many devices, too many configurations, too many problems. This is one device, with no UI. You push a URL to it, it consumes it. This means the interface to do so can be a simple web interface, no need for a custom app, or even for anything resembling playback.

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Re: Selective pricing quotes?

The point is that they're not comparable.

The Sky thing will be great for many people, but it seems to be locked to Sky content, and you have to pay the Sky subscription fee. If that counts as being like Chromecast, then why not mention a bog standard Sky or Virgin Media TV box? Hey, I can watch iplayer on my TV already, it turns my TV into a smart TV, and it's completely free! (Not including the monthly fee I pay to Virgin Media.) Can the Sky dongle give you a standard web-browser, do playing of local content, or mirror another laptop's display, or stream from any web address sent by another device?

Chromecast works with anything. For Youtube alone, the price would be worth it for many, but last time I looked, there were plenty of Internet TV services you can subscribe to. Yes, that costs too, but you've got the freedom to go to who you want, rather than being locked into Sky or Virgin Media.

I don't want exclusive content - I don't want content to be exclusive.

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Re: Selective pricing quotes?

That would be acceptable if there weren't other streaming services that do not suffer from the problems Sky have made for themselves.

iPlayer, TVCatchup, Flixster. All work on my phone running Android 2.3, something I know Sky will never support.

Sky made the mistake of releasing a version last year, that had the device checking removed/disabled. This was shown to work on just about anything, as was the cracked version that XDA served up.

Sky choose to make the app not work on devices, purely because they can't be bothered to test them, and because they refuse to remove the device/OS version checking. Not 1 10" Android tablet supported. Pathetic.

When the Nexus 7 was upgraded from 4.21 to 4.22, it took Sky weeks to allow it to run Sky Go. When they did, all they had to do was update a setting on their servers, and it worked. There was no new app release, it was done at their end.

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Meh

Re: Selective pricing quotes?

Most people who want to see YouTube content on their TV already can. The same goes for Internet TV services too, otherwise they'd be dead in the water. Chromecast still doesn't have the content that Sky and Virgin do, nor will it. Yet it doesn't have its own content either.

Am I being really dense here, but what's so great about Chromecast? It only lets you view content you can view with other hardware anyway. Well, some of it, you have to jump through hoops for local content and there's no NAS/SMB/DLNA streaming. Oh, and everyone in the house needs an iOS or Android phone unless they want to fish the computer out.

If you read the help you'll find that Chromecast has the same problems as AirPlay Mirroring when using a "non-optimised app" (computer must remain on, two times the bandwith required on the local network) and one of its own (Silverlight and QuickTime aren't supported). An "optimised app" means basically NetFlix, Google Play, or YouTube.

I'm sure there will be more "optimised apps" soon, but if an "optimised app" for Internet TV service comes out for Chromecast you can be sure it's already come out or it will come out for games consoles or smart TVs, it'll be commercial their suicide otherwise. Yet it doesn't bring anything of its own and it's fiddly to use.

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Unhappy

Re: Selective pricing quotes?

The point is Google don't have the Ashes at any price, they have cat videos

I am no fan of the Google device (just how much info will Google be collecting about me?) but I will point out that although they may not have the Ashes, they certainly have a lot of content I am interested in. For example they have the America's Cup, and the Extreme Sailing Series. At the moment I have to download those using get_flash_videos so that I can play them on my TV streamer -- direct YouTube access (at a low price) is a major selling point.

mainstream hardware like game consoles or smart TVs

Games consoles are mainstream hardware? I think not -- gaming is a limited market. I suspect that this device (with Google's name attached and its cheap price) will outsell any games console once it is available. Smart TV's are more mainstream but are expensive (and bring a big concern over whether the software can/will be upgraded over their full lifetime).

It is just a shame it is Google doing it, with their hidden price of tracking everything you do. I would rather pay double for the same features without the tracking.

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DRM

What I find crazy is that none of these "Smart" dongles (as far as I am aware) allow users to access their "legal" movie libraries, such as Ultraviolet or Digital Copy. If something like the Chromecast could play content from these "digital lockers" it would be a huge leap forward for both the technology and the services. Instead, both are crippled by the restrictions of DRM and forcing the average Joe to ignore the potential of these devices, and the tech savvy down the path of creating their own DRM-Free media to use with flexible media software such as XBMC or Plex. You could give these things away but without access to all of your legal media, the novelty will soon wear off.

iPlayer is a DRM solution done right - it is restricted but open enough to be pimped onto every device going, accessible to all. Ultraviolet for example is far too locked down to be of any practical use. If the Chromecast could tap into the Play Store to stream purchased content, or even on a rental basis, it would be a winner.

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Re: DRM

Chromecast does tap into the Play Store! You can own or rent movies (and TV in the States) and you can upload your own music collection to play via Chromecast. Being able to upload DVDs in the same way would be great (they'd use their matching service rather than upload 4Gb I hope).

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Thumb Up

Re: DRM

If the Chromecast could tap into the Play Store to stream purchased content, or even on a rental basis, it would be a winner.

It does. From the Google Movies app description:

"Send what you’re watching to your TV screen (when used with Chromecast)."

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ST7

Re: DRM

"If the Chromecast could tap into the Play Store to stream purchased content, or even on a rental basis, it would be a winner."

Can it not do that right out of the box ?

I buy a movie on the playstore on my mobile, watch it in a chrome browser window and send the output to the chromecast for the kids to watch on TV whilst I do more important stuff like read the Reg.

(isn't that what it's for ?)

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Re: DRM

But an HDMI cable works better. Most will not able able to deliver HD on WiFi. Especially if other users of the WiFi.

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Go

Re: DRM

Chromecast supports two UltraViolet DRM technologies: Google's Widevine and Microsoft's PlayReady. So it's built in. Just needs implementation in the digital lockers.

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Re: DRM

What I find crazy is that none of these "Smart" dongles (as far as I am aware) allow users to access their "legal" movie libraries, such as Ultraviolet or Digital Copy.

Oh yes, please. Otherwise I don't download the video software to view the "free" digital version of a movie that's included with a dvd. I just rip the movie from the dvd instead.

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Dongles all round

If everything is a dongle then the remote control is a dongle. Most are awful but Chromecast doesn't have one, so Chromecast wins.

Why should the Premier League have to go through broadcasters to get to users? (Broadcasters are just another dongle!) With Chromecast it doesn't - it could stream direct to the consumer. So for a £20 (or so) up-front cost and a payment per game we could get all the football we want. For consumers to get the same thing via Sky, BT and whatever other rights buyers there are, what's the up-front investment, is there a subscription, what do they pay per game and what would their TV stands look like with all those boxes? A service which lets content creators cut out the middle man would give us a wider selection at a lower cost, would it not? And it would be a dongle.

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FAIL

Re: Dongles all round

"Why should the Premier League have to go through broadcasters to get to users? "

Because folk like Sky pay them far more than they could hope to sell direct.

Ask J.K. Rowlings about "self publishing" vs established Publisher.

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WTF?

Re: Dongles all round

Why should the Premier League have to go through broadcasters to get to users?

Because the Premier League sold the exclusive rights to those broadcasters for £3bn?

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