I've had the Chromecast for a little over two hours, and I'm here to tell you why it's going to completely change the home media game. The Apple TV, Chromecast's main competitor, was built on a notion that media devices needed to be standalone units capable of dishing out content completely on their own. They later rolled out AirPlay as an anemic attempt to harness the power that they were putting in your pocket with the iPhone, and in your man purse with the iPad, which for a while has been a nice novelty strapped on top of what is a pretty solid media hub. Google thinks that model sucks.
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They're sick of ignoring the raw computing ability of your phones and tablets that have more ram, more processors and more flexibility — and they should be. The majority of smart phones on the market today have two plus cores. Remember when you were lucky to have one core? That slim device in your pocket is a beast, which makes the Chromecast the perfect play for two reasons:
It treats your living room TV like the boob tube that it is and stops pretending that it needs to have a brain of its own.
It gets your content on that boob tube in as few steps as possible, while simultaneously turning your device into a one-touch remote control that uses an interface you're already used to.
Those two concepts aren't particularly revolutionary until you price in the fact that they are actually conditioning digital behavior in a way that Apple has really neglected to do. With Apple TV they left too much room for other interaction for AirPlay to ever really catch on. Google is giving you no other option besides using your device as a remote. They are enhancing your experience because you have no choice but to use it in the best way possible. It's a surprisingly un-Google move — the company has a history of options and openness — but now for $35 bucks, anyone with a major smartphone (sorry Windows Phone guys, all 18 of you) or PC is able to enjoy all of their content on multiple screens with minimal effort. Combine that with the $229 Nexus 7 II tablet and you have a sub $300 setup that makes the iPad mini ($299) and Apple TV ($99) a $400 purchase that's a tough package to swallow.