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Google's $35 answer to bringing mobile, computer content to your TV

Posting in Technology

During the same event in which Google unveiled its new Nexus 7 tablet, the search engine giant also introduced Chromecast -- an affordable piece of tech that allows users to bring video and other content from mobile and tablet devices to their TV.

The $35 device is a two-inch fob that plugs into any TV's HDMI port and connects to a home Wi-Fi network. Inside the fob there's a stripped down version of Chrome OS, which is fine because it only needs to do a few things.

Chromecast allows you to bring content from your smartphone, tablet or computer -- think videos and  movies -- to your TV. Chromecast works with Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies and TV, and Google Play Music, according to the company. More apps, like Pandora, are coming soon.

In short, Chromecast is Google's answer to harnessing the massive growth in online videos and creating a better viewing experience. It also puts them in direct competition with Apple TV.

Every month, there are more than 200 billion online videos watched globally, Sundar Pichair, a senior vice president overseeing Android and Chrome, said during Google’s event Wednesday in San Francisco. Google also provided a live stream of the event.

And it keeps growing. The number of online videos watched on a tablet or smartphone in the last year has increased by 2.7 times, says Pichair.

The top two sites -- Netflix and YouTube -- account for nearly half of all peak downstream Internet traffic in North America, says Pichair. And yet, most of us are watching those online videos and movies on the tiny screens of our smartphones, mini iPads and laptops.

Google (and the rest of us) understand that sitting in your living room with friends watching a YouTube video on your big screen TV is a much nicer experience than gathering around your smartphone.

Chromecast stands out because it works on any platform, whether you have an iPhone or Android device, is affordable and doesn't require you to learn another interface. If you know how to watch a video on your smartphone, you can operate Chromecast.

For instance, once you've brought up a YouTube video on your smartphone, you can press a new icon known as the "cast" button. Chromecast receives the instruction from the cast button and communicates with your TV, turning it on and placing it on the right setting. You can play, pause, control the volume from your smartphone or tablet. Users can still multitask, sending texts or browse the web, while the video or movie plays on your TV.

— By on July 24, 2013, 9:12 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure