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READING FOR PLEASURE was largely extinguished by four generations of not-very-good teaching philosophies. By treating a book as homework and a punishment, we’ve raised people to not look forward to reading. More than once, friends have said, “you should be really pleased, I even finished your new book.” My guess is that no one says that to Laurence Fishburne about his new movie. There’s no real ebook piracy problem because most people don’t think books are worth stealing.
A few years ago I worked on a project to make a video-on-demand service for a big UK supermarket chain. All of the supermarket execs kept saying things like 'our customer' or 'the Sainsco customer'. After a while, I worked out what bothered me about this. I do indeed go to one of their shops - or at least I think I do. I'm actually not 100% sure if it's a Tesco or a Sainsbury. I buy food there every week, but I don't consider myself their customer - at least not in the sense they meant it. Rather, it's one of 10 shops I go to in a week, and one of 20 errands I might run.
In other words, your customers' relationships with you are the only relationships you have as a business and you think a lot about them. But you're one of a thousand things your customer thinks about in a week, and one of dozens of businesses. And they probably have their own ideas about how they want to engage with you (though they wouldn't put it in those words) - assuming they think about you at all.
We got our Chromecast in the mail today from Amazon.
It comes in a nice box. Every new gadget comes in too nice of a box now, doesn't it? I always feel bad about throwing away these nice boxes. They don't really serve any purpose when you buy the devices from an online retailer either. It's not like when I picked out the item on Amazon that the quality of the box put me over the edge and made me want to purchase it.
But I digress.
The device is small. It looks like the picture. It's a little slightly fat USB sized stick. It has a charger, a usb cord and a short HDMI extension cord.
I used my own larger 3ft HDMI extension cord and plugged it in to the tv.
It was already on when I flipped on the TV.
The sceeen tells you to go to a "setup url"
I went to that url on my Android phone. The set-up page, knew I was on an Android phone and presented me a link to the Chromecast app on Google Play. I installed the Chromecast app on my phone and completed the setup. I have two networks in my house, I chose the one I wanted the Chromecast to be on and entered my wi-fi password.
I already had the most recent Youtube and Netflix apps on my phone. I went to each, I chose a movie, I hit the Chromecast button in the apps on the phone and the videos streamed directly to the TV. Unlike AppleTV, once the videos started, I was free to do other things on my phone. Switching back to the Netflix or Youtube apps let me pause or move the scrubber bar forward or back. Easy Breezy.
I had the same experience from my iPad Youtube app to the Chromecast as well.
I went to my computer. I went to the same set-up up page and clicked a link at the bottom to install a Chromecast Chrome browser extension. The little "Airplay" like Chromecast button popped up in the browser header bar.
Toggling the Chromecast button on the Chrome web browser throws the contents of the browser tab up on the screen. I surfed to a few webpages, and I also dragged an mp4 video file to my browser tab. The web pages looked great and the mp4 video file streamed well to the TV as well.
Nearly fullscreen, there were two tiny almost unnoticible slivers of black on either side of the TV while streaming the Chrome browser content. The phone stuff all ran full screen. No idea if those tiny side letterboxes show up for all browser streams or just mine though. (Update: turns out the Chromecast mirrors blows up/shrinks down whatever your browser tab proportion is and tries to make it fit, quite nice actually.)
The Chrome browser tab streaming to the Chromecast is larger and full screen compared to the smaller square presentation of my iPad2 airplay mirroring to the AppleTV.
Do I like the Chromecast? Yes. It's very simple plug and play easy technology. Almost no setting screens, no complicated set-up machinations, in the best Arthur C Clarke sense it is technology indestinquishable from magic. It also works so well that the device itself feels a little unremarkable. You don't notice the device, you just watch your content on your TV.
Do I like the Chromecast better than the AppleTV or Roku? That's more complicated.
The Chromecast is similar but different than those two.
AppleTV and Roku follow a Cable TV box model. There is this box plugged in to your tv, you navigate menus and channels and you play things. The things come from the internet instead of a copper cable line but other than that, AppleTV/Roku are much like a 21st century cabletv model.
The Chromecast doesn't have any of that. The Chromecast is much more a bridge from your other devices, be it your phone, tablet or laptop to the TV. You really feel more like you are projecting content to the TV, more like if you've ever been in an office job where you plug your laptop into a VGA projector. You don't give much thought to the projector unless it's not working. Yes the projector (in this metaphor: the Chromecast) has it's own smarts and is doing things, but the center of your attention, for the controls at least, is the laptop (as well as the phone or tablet in this case.)
That said, I don't want to diminish the Chromecast. it's very interesting, and I do like how, unlike Airplay between the iPad and AppleTV, once you are grooving your content on the Chromecast, you are completely free to do other things with your phone/tablet/laptop device. Even from the desktop, it's only streaming the contents of your one chrome browser tab, so the rest of your computer's programs aren't being projected at all. That's very very cool.
Will I use it? Yeah. Honestly I'm probably going to use my AppleTV a little more, only because the full Airplay mirroring from iPad to AppleTV works better than the iPade to the Chromecast app by app approach. The primary device I use in the living room is the iPad, so the AppleTV is just tighter integrated with the iPad so that's all there really is behind that decision.
However, I do have a Samsung Galaxy S4 Android Phone and the Chromecast is going to work great with that. The Youtube experience (both from Android and iOS) with the Chromecast is also miles better than the pure AppleTV Youtube experience, so if there are a lot of Youtube videos I want to watch from my subscriptions, I'll likely be switching the HDMI input over to the Chromecast for sure.
The real loser is likely to be my poor Roku box. I really like the Roku box, but the poor guy is an island unto itself with only minimal and uneven app support with the phones and tablets. Roku works great as a Cablebox of the future. But Chromecast and AppleTV are Cableboxes of a sort and much much more. I'm not dissing you Roku users. Roku does what Roku does well, but Chromecast and AppleTV have that "plus" thing going for them.
So what do I think you should get?
If you are a mostly Mac based house, get an AppleTV (although at this point you may want to wait for a new model in Sept.).
If you are in an Android or a Mixed OS environment, get the Chromecast (Chromecast does and will work with various iOS apps afterall).
If you really like TV and internet video, get both. The AppleTV can be had for $95. And the Chromecast is $35. Think back 10 years or so on how much this sortof cutting edge tech costed. This stuff is cheap for how much you are going to use it if you are a regular video watcher.
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