Google Chromecast brings online entertainment to your dumb television

Looking to cross the divide between online video content and the television in your living room, Google today announced Chromecast, a dongle that wants to take over your TV.

Measuring just 2-inches in length, it runs a simplified version of Chrome OS and is designed to be completely cross-platform, working with Chrome, Windows, Mac, Android, iPad and iPhone, because it uses the cloud to create the link between the device in your hand and the TV you're watching.

The Chromecast will connect to your TV via HDMI to supply the video and audio, and will connect to your home Wi-Fi network to pick up that content from its source online. Chromecast thereby provides the interface with the online content you want to watch, so if you have a YouTube video playing on your phone, you'll be able to hit the button and it will be pushed to Chromecast from the cloud and appear on your TV.

This means you can then stream it at the highest available resolution, rather than relying on the local device to push that content over your home network. You get control of the video playback from your device, be that your smartphone, tablet or PC; you'll be able to create playlists and change the playback volume as well.

Because Chromecast is pulling directly from the cloud, and using your device only for control, it won't put a drain on the battery and will continue to stream in the background. Your device can go into standby and things will keep playing - when you want to change something, you simply grab your phone, wake it up and do what you want to do.

Google wants to bring this functionality to a world of different online content, with support for Netflix already confirmed - meaning you can fire up the app and have it play your favourite content on your TV, rather than just on your phone or tablet. Cleverly, it's not dependent on one source device either, as you can resume control from a different device if you need to, with the usual syncing meaning you can pause playback and resume in the same place on a different player.

You'll also get the same functionality for Google Play Movies or TV, meaning your Google content is no longer stuck on one platform. This also means you'll be able to stream your Play Music to your TV, so you can listen to your music through your AV set-up. Google has also confirmed that Pandora support for Chromecast is coming. 

A beta feature also detailed today is the ability to beam any tab in the Google Chrome browser to your TV, so you'll be able to view your favourite content from your laptop, be that a PC or a Mac. Google demonstrated this working with photo slideshows, as well as playing web video, which opens the door for all sorts of things.

There will be a SDK available for Android, iOS and Chrome, meaning that there should be wide app support for Chromecast.

Chromecast will cost $35 (£23) and will be available from today online, and in stores from 28 July. For a limited time it comes with three months' free subscription to Netflix. There's no word on UK availability at this time.