With a $35 price point, what gadget gift is easier to pick up this year than the Chromecast streaming stick? To make the little stocking stuffer even more appealing, Google has now added support for HBO Go.
Notably, Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) is the first cable programmer to integrate with Chromecast. The Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) streaming stick also enables users to stream programming from Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), YouTube Inc. , Hulu LLC 's Hulu Plus, and other over-the-top (OTT) video services to HDTV sets, as well as tablets, smartphones, and other video devices using the home WiFi network.
Just as with YouTube and Netflix, users can now stream HBO shows to a Chromecast-connected TV directly from the HBO Go app on iOS and Android devices. A supported web app is also available.
The Chromecast stick makes dumb TVs smarter, and it's a lot cheaper than even the smallest flatscreen television set. (See Chromecast Gives Google a Home Run.)
Existing app integrations also prove how easy Chromecast is to operate. With Netflix, for example, a user can select Chromecast for playback from a mobile device, and the streaming stick will automatically turn the connected TV on, switch to the right input, and begin streaming content to the bigger screen.
While Google is the first company to make a splash with an HDMI dongle, it's not the only one investing resources in the streaming-stick form factor. LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) has a similar device targeted at pay-TV providers that's integrated with the Azuki Systems media platform. Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) has also suggested that a streaming stick could be on its set-top roadmap for 2014. (See Azuki, LG Counter Google Chromecast and Arris RDK Boxes Coming Soon.)
Beyond serving existing pay-TV business models, the design and functionality of an HDMI streaming stick could make it the ideal hardware choice for a virtual cable service. Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) has already tested a cloud-based video service in Germany, Greece, and Croatia and plans to start rolling out a commercial offering in the first quarter of next year. While Deutsche Telekom has numerous hardware options to choose from for its upcoming cloud offering, the use of an inexpensive HDMI adapter could make financial and logistical sense for attracting customers to the new TV service. (See Deutsche Telekom Tests Set-Top Virtualization.)
For now, Google is proving how well the streaming stick concept can succeed at retail. With HBO Go added to the list of supported apps, it's a safe bet that Chromecast will figure prominently on plenty of family wish-lists this holiday season.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable