Why is everyone flipping for Google Chromecast?

The device is cheap and easily connects the Internet to your TV screen

Jaime Henry-White/AP

Everyone knows that television and the Internet are going to melt together, but nobody knows exactly how. From the Xbox to the Slingbox, from Apple TV to Smart TVs, from Amazon to Twitter to Netflix to your local cable provider, everybody has a dog in this fight. Technologically speaking, the problem of getting the Internet onto TV screens has been solved for years. Yet, the vast majority of viewers haven’t done so. Just as MP3 players existed for years before the iPod, online TV still awaits a “Jesus” device that will simplify and streamline the whole experience, from gadget to content and all points in between.

Could it be the Google Chromecast?

Early reports are hopeful. Chromecast isn’t for sale in Canada, and is sold out in the U.S. But those who did get their hands on one are raving.

It’s not that the Chromecast does anything particularly new, it’s just that it apparently does what it does well, very simply, and for a disruptively low price. While other solutions range from $100-$500, Google has put a $35-sticker on Chromecast. With its dead-simple setup and bargain-basement pricing, Google seems to care very little about profit margins, and very much about controlling the bridge to the last uncolonized screens in our homes. If Google could give Chromecast away, it probably would.

But it’s not just the price. Chromecast provides a fresh take on user input, in that it doesn’t have one. Previous attempts to help viewers navigate TV-screened Internet from their couches have been disastrous. Wireless keyboards and remote controls festooned with hundreds of buttons just seemed like work. Chromecast skips remotes entirely, as Google has figured out that you already have one at your fingertips. The device is controlled by your laptop, tablet, or smartphone — devices we already use while we watch TV. These are sophisticated remotes we obsessively clutch, and they won’t get lost in the couch.

So what’s in it for Google? For starters, Chromecast will stream videos from Google Play and Youtube, but not iTunes content. Also, the device works best with Android devices and Google’s Chrome browser. Beyond all that, if Google owns the pipe, it will find ways to push ads through it. More than anything, if Google becomes the company to connect our TVs to the Internet, some other company won’t be.

Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown

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