Google today launched notable new challengers to the Apple TV and iPad families, starting with Chromecast ($35), a plug-in dongle for accessing online videos and music on an HDTV. Chromecast is compatible with iOS devices — it uses the device as the remote, and to stream content to the TV. Users plug Chromecast into an HDTV, connect it to Wi-Fi, and the device controls streaming of content from the Internet, offering some of the functionality of an Apple TV at a much lower price point.
Power is supplied to the dongle via an included USB power adapter. Content for the dongle comes from services such as Netflix, YouTube, and Google Play, as well as mirroring of one tab from Google’s Chrome browser. Customers who purchase Chromecast from Google Play, Best Buy or Amazon have an offer for three free months of Netflix — the offer extends to current Netflix subscribers, meaning that Netflix subscribers with the $8 a month streaming plan can get Chromecast for a net cost of about $11. Chromecast is available now.
Google also debuted its new Nexus 7 tablet as an improved rival to the iPad mini. The 7” tablet display comes in at 1920×1200, with a 323 ppi pixel density — almost twice that of the iPad mini. Nexus 7 also packs dual-stereo speakers, a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2GB of RAM, and two cameras — 1.2MP for the front camera and 5MP for the back. It will ship with Android 4.3 and will hit the market July 30. A 16GB model with Wi-Fi is $230, or $99 less than the comparably specced iPad mini, and the 32 GB model is $270, undercutting the $429 mini. A 4G LTE 32GB model is $350, or $209 less than the comparable iPad mini LTE version.
Google also announced it will bring textbooks to Google Play Books, mirroring Apple’s addition of textbooks to the iPad in the iBookstore. All five major textbook publishing houses have signed on to the service, which lets users purchase textbooks or rent for six months. The new service will work on iOS devices, and it should arrive in early August. [via 9to5Google]