I’ve had my hands on this Chromecast for almost a week now and I love it. Years ago I hacked my first Xbox after seeing [Kevin Rose] do it on The Screensavers (I did the hardware mod but that’s inconsequential). Why did I do this? So that I could run Xbox Media Center, the predecessor of XBMC. Since then I’ve dreamed of a device which can be hung on the back of the TV with Velcro and run XBMC. We basically got there with the Raspberry Pi, but the Chromecast is the form-factor that I had always envisioned. This lets me watch Netflix, while the RPi runs XBMC. The two are match made in heaven for under a hundred bucks.
That’s why I love the Chromecast device itself, but the bigger picture is that I love what it stands for. Keep reading to see what i mean.
A community of developers
No, it’s not open hardware, or even open software; both things that I value. But Google has invited the community to help guide the device’s future by providing an API and getting some semblance of documentation out for developers right from the start. This is in stark contrast to Apple’s living room business model that has the Apple TV locked out from any third-party app development whatsoever. Granted, Google is imposing an embargo on the release of community developed projects, but as I understand it that’s a product of the SDK not being finalized yet and they don’t want early projects to be broken by necessary changes.
Breaking down garden walls
In addition to this invitation to developers I like it that the weight of the mighty G may force the hand of hardware and software developers. I hate to keep ragging on Apple, but another huge drawback of their system is that only Apple devices will talk to other Apple devices. Google (read: YouTube) and Netflix included the ability to control Chromecast in their iOS apps. Now that Hulu has made the announcement that Hulu Plus support is coming I’m happy to hear that they’ll push out universal support as well. This is coming close on the heels of Google rolling out Hangouts which takes the concept of Facetime — an Apple-device-only experience — and makes it available to all smart phones and computers Hopefully these pushes will result in future hardware and the apps that control them playing nicely with all kinds of devices.
The gist of it
So really it’s the implied direction for the media industry that makes me embrace the Chromecast concept. It’s closed where it needs to be (Netflix is a binary app that protects their assets). It’s open where it can be, giving devs the tools they need to develop what will surely be the new features found in Chromecast V2. And it helps to further justify that expensive smart phone — no matter the brand — you paid for, which does the brunt of the work by controlling the device.
So where’s the hack? This was a rant so there is no hack. But just to make you anxious for Google to drop the developer embargo here’s a screenshot of an Android device ready to cast from several different media sources.