Tag Archives: Google

Is Google Shutting Out Indie Development On The Chromecast?

The Chromecast can’t become a great gadget without developers. And yet one of the biggest indie developers for Chromecast is convinced he’s being intentionally shut out.

When Google released the Chromecast, its USB-flash-drive-sized gadget for streaming internet video to your TV, we wondered why it was so limited. There are developers out there trying to give the Chromecast new abilities–but now, according to one of those developers, Google is intentionally blocking those abilities.

At launch, it could only stream YouTube, Netflix, videos purchased from Google’s iTunes-like Play Store, and, provided your computer was fast enough, it could mirror whatever tab you were viewing in the Chrome browser on your computer. But what about all the videos on your computer already?

In the few weeks since Chromecast has been in the wild, developers have begun to hack that feature together. One developer in particular, Koushik “Koush” Dutta, has been instrumental in all kinds of great work in the effort to make Chromecast do more. Dutta is a member of the team that develops Cyanogen, probably the most popular custom ROM for Android phones. (ROMs are basically hacked versions of regular Android that allow you do do things you couldn’t do before, like overclock the processor or add new features or reassign what the buttons do.) But lately, he’s turned his attention to Chromecast.

His biggest achievement in the Chromecast world is called AirCast, which allows you to play videos through a Chromecast that you couldn’t before–from your Dropbox account, for example. But last night, Koush announced on Reddit that he believes Google is shutting out third-party access so that developers can’t implement all the things the Chromecast is capable of. Here’s his explanation:

Chromecast shipped with no default media player app, or any way to play your own content. As I demonstrated, this is actually very easy to implement. The fact that it did not ship with this by default was likely calculated. They don’t want you playing your own content.

Chromecast had a “GoogleCastSample” app that could be leveraged as a default media player. Many developers started using this. One week after release, GoogleCastSample was disabled.

Chromecast’s tab casting also supported local content. I, and a few other developers, managed to reverse engineer the Chromecast tab protocol to piggy back this to deliver local content. This was not simply “broken” with an update. It was intentionally disabled.Koush believes that Google is intentionally strangling Chromecast development because Google is trying “to placate media companies.” Third-party developers like Koush could enable Chromecast owners to stream all kinds of things, right now, but he believes Google will box out any development that might anger the big players in content–Viacom, Disney, Time Warner, Fox.

Update: Google got back to us with a statement:

We’re excited to bring more content to Chromecast and would like to support all types of apps, including those for local content. It’s still early days for the Google Cast SDK, which we just released in developer preview for early development and testing only. We expect that the SDK will continue to change before we launch out of developer preview, and want to provide a great experience for users and developers before making the SDK and additional apps more broadly available.

It’s worth noting that Koush has admitted that he reverse-engineered the SDK, because it had yet to be released, which is not exactly a guaranteed way to get Google to like you. That said, this seems primarily to be a result of Google’s tendency to release devices early; if Google had simply waited to release the Chromecast until the SDK was ready (and app development could begin), none of this would have happened. So! We don’t really know what Google’s reaction to developers will be, once Google releases the tools that developers need.


What Happens When Gary Shteyngart Wears Google Glass

Gary Shteyngart, author of the lovely Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story, was one of the unlikeliest winners of one of Google’s first test pairs of Google Glass. Super Sad True Love Story is highly skeptical that technology will actually improve our lives rather than imprison us; featured in the story are “credit poles” that broadcast your financial solvency as you walk by and a national obsession with fitness monitoring and life extension. It’s a grim, paranoid technocrat vision of the future, so we were tickled when Shteyngart applied for Google Glass by tweeting “#ifihadglass I could dream up new ideas for the TV adaptation of my novel Super Sad True Love Story.” And now he’s written about his experience wearing Glass at The New Yorker. It’s a great read, and especially moving when he translates “hamburger” into his native Russian.


Google Announces New Tablet And Streaming TV Stick Thing

This might be the cheapest internet-streaming TV device we’ve ever seen!

Today in San Francisco, Google announced a few intriguing new products–two hardware, one software. One is an updated version of our favorite Android tablet, one is the newest version of Android, and one is something that’s not quite like anything else. Let’s get into it!

By far the most interesting thing announced at today’s event was the Chromecast, a very small stick that reminds us a little bit of the Roku Streaming Stick. It’s a two-inch-long dongle that looks more like a USB flash drive than anything else, but in fact it plugs into the HDMI port on your TV. It’s not really like a Roku or an Apple TV, though; there’s not actually an interface, and there’s no remote.

Instead, you find the content on your phone or tablet and beam it to the Chromecast, just like beaming something from a phone to an Apple TV via AirPlay. In the Youtube, Netflix, music, or video app on your phone, there’ll be a little icon on the “now playing” screen. Tap it and a list of places to send the song or video will pop up; hit “living room” (or whatever you’ve named your Chromecast) and bam, it’ll start playing on your TV.

Currently, the Chromecast only supports Netflix and Youtube on iOS, and adds in the native music and video player if you’re using an Android phone or tablet. Google says they’ll try to add more (perhaps Hulu Plus, Amazon, Crackle, or HBO Go?) but given Google’s history with video streamers, who knows. One odd thing: it’s not powered by the HDMI port, like the Roku Streaming Stick (which requires a fancy, semi-rare sort of HDMI port, but still). That means it has to get power from somewhere, and that somewhere looks to be USB. If your TV has a USB port on it, cool, plug ‘er right into that as well. If not, well, you’ll have to run a cord down to your trusty power strip, which is a bummer.

The key thing about the Chromecast? It only costs $35. Yow! And then there’s this: “Once your Chromecast ships, you will recieve an email with a promotional code for 3 months of Netflix. Offer valid for previous, new and existing Netflix members, one per Netflix account.” That means if you’re currently paying the $8 minimum for streaming Netflix, or if you decide to sign up, you can subtract $24 from that price, bringing the cost down to about the price of a decent sandwich and a bag of chips. You can buy it here.

Nexus 7, Part 2
The Nexus 7 is our favorite Android tablet, and Google just announced a new version that looks like it’ll build on everything we liked about it before. The new one has the same sized screen, but trims down the bezel and the body so it’s smaller and lighter than before. The screen, by the way, is a huge upgrade, with a 1920×1200 resolution and a 323 pixels-per-inch density. That’s super high; Apple would call it a “Retina” screen, but we’ll just call it super crisp and clear.

It’s also got a faster processor than before (a quad-core Snapdragon, if that’s the kind of thing that interests you), double the memory (up to 2GB of RAM), dual stereo speakers, both a front and rear camera (the previous version only had a front-facing camera, which we kind of liked), and an array of new sensors and options (Bluetooth 4.0, near-field communication, wireless charging). The battery life has been extended by an hour or so; Google says you’ll get 9 hours of “HD” video watching out of it.

The Nexus 7 also comes with the newest version of Android, another update to “Jelly Bean” with a new version number (4.3) but still keeping the name. Doesn’t seem like a whole lot has changed on the user front; there are new parental controls for multiple profiles, so you can make sure your kid doesn’t use your awesome porn apps, but that’s about all that was announced.

The new Nexus 7 will be available in three models: a 16GB and 32GB model with only Wi-Fi, for $229 and $269, respectively, and a 32GB model with 4G LTE for $349. The LTE model works with any of America’s LTE networks (that’d be Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile), and all the models are significantly cheaper than the equivalent iPad Mini model–with much more powerful specs, to boot.

Read more about the Nexus 7 here.