February 04, 2014

Coming Soon to a TV Near You: Google Throws Open the Doors for Chromecast Apps

Google (News Alert) has finally unlocked its Chromecast-based software development kit, allowing the wealth of the Web’s third-party developers to write mobile and Web apps that can “cast” to its HDMI streaming video stick.

The hope is that apps customized to send content to the TV screen—everything from gaming to content recommendation engines—will make their way to the public, thus improving the ecosystem for Chromecast and bolstering usage.

From a user perspective, Chromecast users will be able to leverage compatible Android (NewsAlert), iOS and Google Chrome apps/extensions to interact with a TV via smartphone, tablet or laptop. Users simply open up a Cast-supported app, press the Cast button to connect and, voila!

Google announced the SDK last summer but had previously made it available only to large, well-known partners, such as HBO, Pandora (NewsAlert) and Netflix.

“Back in July we announced the developer preview of the Google Cast Software Development Kit (SDK), the underlying Chromecast technology that enables multiscreen experiences across mobile devices (phones, tablet, laptops) and large-screen displays,” said John Affaki, engineering manager at Google. “[Now], the Google Cast SDK is available for developing and publishing Google Cast-ready apps.”

Through the SDK, developers can register devices and apps for testing and publishing.

“The Google Cast SDK is simple to integrate because there’s no need to write a new app,” Affaki said. “Just incorporate the SDK into your existing mobile and Web apps to bring your content to the TV. You are in control of how and when you develop and publish your cast-ready apps through the Google Cast developer console.”

For simple media applications, developers can use the default media player which can play back HTML5 media content, and they can also customize them with branding and style using CSS (NewsAlert).

For non-media applications, or for more flexibility and design options, developers can build their own custom receiver applications using standard Web technologies. With a custom receiver developers can build virtually any application while including support for various streaming protocols, including MPEG-DASH, HLS and Microsoft Smooth Streaming, all of which are available in the Media Player Library.

The strategic concept is familiar to us from Android, where the explosion of apps has been instrumental in driving the uptake for Android devices. Of course, unlike Apple (News Alert), Google maintains a looser grip on app approvals and also provides for third-party app stores, which in turn has led to a rise in malware and security concerns. But overall, Google’s open-access approach has been a wildly successful vehicle in the smartphone arena; we shall see if it can do the same for the TV experience. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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