It's been a little over a month since
debuted its instantly popular Chromecast
. At $35, the two-inch HDMI dongle has already become one of the
most talked-about and sought-after media devices, buoyed by an
incredibly easy setup, broad compatibility between devices, a
dead-simple interface, and a free three-month membership to
) -- which comes and goes depending on
Although the feature-light Chromecast has been unfavorably compared
by some to the more versatile
), Roku, and the upcoming
), its price makes it a very attractive product, and early
indications point to increased capabilities and support down the
line. Already tackling video streams from Netflix, YouTube, and the
Google Play Store, Chromecast has earned the attention of companies
(OUTR), Hulu, Vevo, Vimeo, Songza, TWit.TV, and Plex, all of which
have expressed interest in being in the Chromecast business.
But as developers continue to tinker with an early version of the
software developers kit, Google released a patch this weekend that
broke third party support for a favorable yet unadvertised feature:
local media streaming.
Developer Koushik Dutta, who also created the popular ROM Manager
and ClockworkMod Recovery for Android, designed an app called
AirCast which allowed Chromecast users to beam videos stored on
their Android devices, Dropbox, or Google Drive accounts directly
to their TV. Dutta accomplished this by reverse engineering the
Chromecast code, effectively exploiting a hole that enabled local
Google went ahead and closed that hole.
After all his work was shot, Dutta was
at the move. "The policy seems to be a heavy handed approach, where
only approved content will be played through the device." Adding,
"The Chromecast will probably not be indie developer friendly."
But it's not like Chromecast isn't able to stream local media.
Early in its release, users found that if they opened video files
in the Google Chrome browser and shared that tab to the device,
they were able to essentially beam their files to the TV. The
quality wasn't as clean as a Netflix or YouTube stream and there
was a noticeable lag, but it was an acceptable workaround for what
many consider to be an essential feature. Fortunately, Google's
recent patch left this specific workaround intact.
However, Dutta raises an interesting point: How open will
Chromecast be? Will local media continue to be a sticking point
Soon after users pitched a fit at the lost feature, a Google
spokesperson released a statement that hints at future local media
support from third party apps. It reads:
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.
At face value, it's a reassuring position, until you notice the
phrase "would like to support," leaving the possibility of, "Oh,
to support local content, but those lucrative deals with Netflix
and Hulu prevent us to." There's no real firm stance expressed
Chromecast debuted without any official mention of local content
support and still managed to draw fervent interest from consumers.
But many users assumed apps like AirCast were not only possible but
also likely. So when the AirCast debuted and worked really well, it
appeared to fall in line with Chromecast's natural progression.
But now, users aren't so sure what the future holds for Chromecast.
To see AirCast's support broken with a patch, albeit during an
early developer stage, is disconcerting. It foretells the
possibility of a rocky relationship between Google, third party
developers, and users who demand an "open" device. What once was a
wonder device with endless possibility now looks like it could be
another product hampered by the contractual obligations to
Of course, this can all be a matter of early-release quirks and
will soon be sorted out once the SDK is finalized. But in the
meantime, Google needs to realize that the enthusiasm expressed
toward the Chromecast was one of possibility, not limitation.
Knowing that, Google should tread lightly with the Chromecast.
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