Google's New TV Gadget, the Chromecast

Chromecast doesn't so much "solve a problem" so much as create a new one: Why can't I put my content, whatever it is, on any screen I encounter, at the touch of a button?
More
barackcast.jpg
What I'm Chromecasting

For the past couple days, I've been playing with Google's new $35 device for your TV, the Chromecast. It works simply: You plug it into the back of your TV and a power source, hook it up to the wifi through your computer, and thereafter, you can toss ("cast") anything from a Chrome browser tab to the television.

While friends of the blog like Wired's Mat Honan are excited about the "miracle device," others like Buzzfeed's John Hermann think it's no great shakes. John Gruber argues, "I just don't get why anyone would want this."

Viewed largely as a video transmission gadget, Gruber's point is well taken. There are at least two good options for getting computery video onto a TV: Apple TV (at $99) and Roku (at $50). Chromecast is $35. The Apple TV has Airplay and is all-around a bit more capable (though no Flash allowed). The Roku lets you access Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, and it works fine.

But I don't think Chromecast is just for video. It's for anything. It's fun and a little magical to be able to cast literally anything to your biggest screen. Sure, there's Netflix or a streaming music service like Rdio or Spotify. But there's also a random YouTube video embedded in a blog post. There's the New York Times. There's pornography and the Prelinger Archives and your Gmail and big old PDFs and barackobamaisyournewbicycle.com. You can put anything on that screen, and Google makes it feel effortless.

I know putting stuff from your computer or phone screen onto your TV is not novel. I've had a Roku box and plenty of display adapters for a long time. But when something works as easily as Chromecast does, the capability becomes more real. You think of it.

To me, Chromecast doesn't so much "solve a problem" so much as create a new one: Why can't I put my content, whatever it is, on any screen I encounter, at the touch of a button? After only two days of using Chromecast, I feel like that's how the technological world should work.

Will the Chromecast be a commercial success? I have no idea. Google's marketing thus far has been a little boneheaded. But I like it, and it works as advertised, and it makes me feel like I'm a little further into the future. For $35, that's a good deal.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In