Google yesterday introduced an improved Nexus 7 (yes, the company's still calling it the Nexus 7), along with Chromecast, a $35 dongle that puts new convenience, and Google, into the television-viewing experience.
Chromecast plugs into the High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) slot on an HDTV, enabling users to direct video content to the TV via a smartphone, tablet or PC, whether it's running an operating system from Google, Apple or Microsoft. Plus, while the phone is busy "casting," it can still be used for other things, like emailing.
Chromecast works with Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Google Play Music and, soon, more apps, like Pandora. Content is cast from the cloud to the TV—a user's smartphone or tablet essentially becomes the remote control making this happen.
"It just automatically works," said Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of Android and Chrome, introducing the device at a July 24 media event in San Francisco.
At the event, Google also introduced a Cast software development kit (SDK) to help developers build "intuitive multi-screen experiences across mobile devices and TVs," as it said in a July 24 blog post.
In a fast-growing, increasingly complex market in which Amazon and Netflix are now developing original "television" content, Chromecast is an extremely affordable way in which Google can keep its brand, its hardware and its Google Play app store in the mix. (During the event, it also announced that it is making it easier to discover tablet-specific apps in Play.)
Apple currently offers the $99 Apple TV, which enables users to watch content on their television from iOS devices, as well as from iTunes and content sources such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and Vimeo. It recently made major updates to Apple TV with content from, among other sources, HBO Go and WatchESPN.
It's been widely rumored, of course, that Apple is also developing a television. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has reported that it's likely to come with a display between 42 and 55 inches and be priced between $1,500 and $2,000, making it an aspirational purchase, versus the no-brainer, for some, of Chromecast.
"I just bought two. One for home, one for travel and hotels," a commenter wrote beneath the Google blog post.
Google Nexus 7
As for Google's other new hardware, the Nexus 7, said Pinchai, now accounts for more than 10 percent of the Android tablets sold. The new model, like the original, is made by Asus, and is 2mm thinner and 50 grams lighter.
The display is still 7 inches on the diagonal, but Asus has packed in more pixels, bumping up the resolution to 1920 by 1200, making it the highest-resolution 7-incher on the market.
It's the first device to run Android 4.3, which includes new access limits, so parents can protect kids from inappropriate content, as well as limit in-app purchases. There's a front-facing 1.2-megapixel camera, a 5-megapixel camera on the back, dual stereo speakers, a 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor and wireless charging.
Chromecast is available now, from Google Play, Amazon and BestBuy.com.
The Nexus 7 will go on sale July 30 in the Play store and a handful of other outlets, including Walmart, Staples and Gamestop. It's available to preorder today from Best Buy, for $229 for a 16GB WiFi-only version or $269.99 for 32GB. There'll also be a model with 4G LTE connectivity from T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.
With the Nexux 7, said Pinchai, Google is working with partners to "push the boundaries of what's possible."