Google Chromecast owners can now stream Google Play music and movie content direct from the web, as well as from smartphones and tablets, thanks to the Google Cast extension for the Chrome desktop browser. Oddly, Google’s own media store isn’t the first to do this, as Netflix on the web can play nice with the Chromecast extension, as can YouTube. But Play media access means Google’s $35 wonder device is everything the Nexus Q was not, and a device only limited by software and time.
When the Chromecast first launched, it was sort of like a knock-off designer handbag: Not the thing you really want, but close enough and so cheap it didn’t matter. Slowly but surely, however, Google has been improving its streaming dongle to the point where it’s quickly becoming a true competitor for Apple’s AirPlay and Apple TV devices, which is a much-needed ingredient currently missing from Google’s ecosystem.
Web-based streaming is also something that AirPlay can handle, thanks to the ability to connect an AirPlay display in the latest version of OS X. Chromecast also still can’t mirror a display entirely, which is something AirPlay can handle that’s incredibly useful for presenters, educators and many others. AirPlay has also been used by many developers as a way to program experiences designed to take advantage of using both a small and a big screen at one time, which is likewise something Google hasn’t really implemented with Chromecast just yet.
Earlier this week, Google added a good list of new content partners to Chromecast’s stable of supported software, and each drove up the value of owning one considerably in my opinion. In the same way that Apple keeps improving the Apple TV via content partnerships and service improvements, Google keeps doing the same with Chromecast, but the short-term potential here is even greater, I think, at least in terms of immediate impact for a huge group of Chrome and Android users.