About two and a half years after Evolver.fm started taking Google to task over its lack of a super-simple wireless music solution along the lines of Apple’s AirPlay for zapping music to speakers around the house, Google unveiled on Wednesday what some are calling its answer to AirPlay: Chromecast.
The $35 Chromecast HDMI dongle plugs right into the back of your television, after which you can beam music and videos from YouTube, Netflix, your Google Play account, and anything your Chrome browser can handle. Google says future updates will add native support for more apps, but the mere fact that Chromecast can play music from Android, iOS, Mac, or Windows via the Chrome browser appears to make it a suitable way to play music in the home, except for one thing: It requires a television.
That’s great for the cord-cutters, people who free-ride their friends’ and relatives’ Netflix, HBO, and other video accounts, and anyone else who wants to watch internet video without physically connecting their laptops to their televisions — and it’s cheaper than most of of the other ways to do that.
However, Chromecast is not AirPlay, where music fans are concerned.
Apple AirPlay can send music not only the AirPort Express, which plugs right into your stereo system (no television required), but also to standalone speaker systems and even stereos from Denon, Marantz, and others. A friend of ours even figured out how to put AirPlay in a car.
With Chromecast, Google has a super-attractive new device for watching videos and playing music — however, the latter assumes that you’ve routed the audio outputs on your television to some decent speakers; you don’t mind putting those speakers next to your television; you have a television in the first place; you don’t mind turning on your television to listen to music; and you don’t mind not being able to listen to your music if someone else in your house is watching the television or playing a videogame on it.
That’s a lot of assumptions. For music fans, Chromecast, for all its charm and inexpensive allure, still leaves Google well behind its competitor Apple, when it comes to wireless music playback in the home, and even further behind wireless music specialist Sonos.