Chromecast: Has Google given us the smart TV we've been waiting for?

Google's newest product is a super-affordable portal to Netflix, YouTube, and more

(Image credit: Getty Images)

With a tiny piece of plastic not much larger than a USB drive, Google just seized the fledgling smart TV market by the horns. At a special event held today ostensibly to announce the new Nexus 7, Google revealed a tiny dongle called the Chromecast that transforms any old dumb TV into a powerful and modern streaming media center. This could be huge:

How does it work?

The device is an expansion of the Chrome operating system. Basically, you plug the Chromecast dongle into the HDMI input on your television. After you connect it to your home WiFi, you can use your iOS or Android device (or Windows laptop) to stream media from Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, and more directly to your TV. It's akin to Apple's AirPlay and Apple TV, but all-in-one and without the mirroring.

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If you're watching House of Cards via Netflix on your Nexus 7, for example, you can tap an icon to access Chromecast and have the show play on your TV. Then, you can either use your Nexus 7 as a remote control, or switch over to your iPhone and control it from there.

How much does it cost?

Just $35! For comparison's sake, the cheapest Roku is $50. You can order one today from the Google Play store.

Any perks?

As Farhad Manjoo points out on Twitter, "previous, new, and existing Netflix members" will also get three months of Netflix for free. That means if you're already a subscriber, the Chromecast is even more of a bargain at $11.

So does this mean Google TV is dead?

Probably not — but then again, it's certainly not doing the Google TV or Nexus Q folks any favors.

The Chrome team has been on a roll lately. Cheap Chromebooks have been gobbling up PC share. And, from the looks of it, plenty of people are already snatching up the Chromecast. As Slate's Matt Yglesias notes: "Seems like Google's getting on the Amazon zero profit margin bandwagon," a reference to Amazon's dominant strategy of flooding the market with low-priced products.

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