At its "breakfast with Sundar Pichai" event today, Google officially took the wraps off the Nexus 7—but of course, we already knew all about that product. More unexpected was the arrival of Chromecast, a $35 HDMI dongle that lets you stream content from a PC, tablet, or phone straight to your TV.
Judging by the promo video above, Chromecast works a lot like an Apple TV with AirPlay—except without the Apple device's other functionality, and for a much lower price. (An Apple TV will set you back $99.) The Chromecast dongle is also tiny, with dimensions of just 2.8" x 1.4" x 0.5", so it just sticks out of your TV's HDMI port without cables or additional protuberances.
The Chromecast dongle is listed here on the Google Play store. According to the specs on the product page, the dongle supports 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi and can output video at 1080p resolution. All major operating systems are supported. That includes the latest releases of Android and iOS; Windows 7 and Windows 8; OS X 10.7 and OS X 10.8; and Chrome OS—although apparently, the only Chrome OS system that works right now is the Chromebook Pixel. "Additional Chromebooks coming soon," says Google.
If I hadn't already bought an Apple TV earlier this year, I'd probably be one of the first ones on the Chromecast bandwagon. $35 is a small price to pay for the convenience of streaming content from your PC or handheld to your TV. The device will be even more appealing if third-party developers can add Chromecast support to their software. I'd love to see a Chromecast button in VLC, for example.