Looking back at the original Google Chromecast, which just turned 10 years old – News Block

Ten years ago, on July 24, 2013, Google announced a $35 streaming device called the Chromecast.

I was one of the first journalists to get my hands on the dongle, and it wasn’t yet clear how big of a deal it would be. The demo was choppy! Arguably, it could be classified as a me-too product given that Apple’s AirPlay was already three years old and Miracast was an industry buzzword. (At least remember Miracast? I was in, like, each Smart TV.)


The original reveal of Chromecast.
Photo by Sean Hollister/The Verge

And of course, the Chromecast was compared to the Nexus Q, arguably Google’s worst hardware flop ever.

But $35 to launch the Netflix and YouTube you’re already watching on your TV screen turned out to be a magical idea: the edge‘s Nilay Patel called it a no-brainer for laptop users, and frankly, so was the concept of a cheap streaming device. (Amazon’s Fire Stick and Roku’s Streaming Stick copied the idea.)

Google ushered in the era where streaming devices became an impulse buy, common media filler, and he Be sure to pack up before your next hotel stay, at least until Alex Cranz’s dream of AirPlay in hotels comes true one day.

In September of the same year the Chromecast arrived, I almost predicted that Miracast was dead. Two years later, Nick Statt wrote for us about how the Chromecast had sold 20 million units to successfully become Google’s Trojan horse in our homes. And as of October 2017, the last time Google shared sales figures, the company had shipped 55 million Chromecast devices to the world, including TVs and set-top boxes with Cast built-in.

Sure, the original Chromecast could be a bit of a hassle purchase for friends and family. Even the concept of “Send” takes a bit of effort to grasp: the video is streamed from the Internet, not from your phone. unless you really do because you are reflecting (AirPlay is pretty much the same.) Not all apps had a “Cast” button, and not all of them worked the same.

Sometimes I found that Netflix or YouTube (but usually Netflix) would stop responding to Cast commands when I wanted to switch shows, and not that there were any other good ways to do it, since the Chromecast only had one button and no remote. I also ended up pulling two First-generation Chromecasts because they became extremely buggy over the years; my mostly unsubstantiated theory is that they overheat.

So it wasn’t a huge surprise to me when Google’s second-gen Chromecast became a dangling dongle, complete with a long, flexible HDMI arm to keep it further from the TV. And I think I can speak for everything Edge Personally when I say we were thrilled to see the Chromecast 2020 ship with a full remote and great 4K playback (including Dolby Vision and Atmos) for $50. You can still use your phone and laptop to stream, but that remote means you don’t need it anymore.

I bet Google sold quite a few of those 2020 models, unlike the niche but awesome Chromecast Audio.

But even without the 2020 Chromecast to cement its legacy, the original left quite the mark. We ranked it 39th on our “devices of the decade” list for making “streaming video a normal part of many homes,” in the words of my colleague Barbara Krasnoff. Google also kept updating the OG Chromecast for almost a decade.

The Chromecast wasn’t the cheapest game in town for long. These days, Walmart has a surprisingly good $20 drive, and even Google’s recent $30 Chromecast that’s limited to 1080p playback shares hits with streaming devices from Roku and Amazon. But each of them has a simple conversion solution like the one Google presented, enough that there’s even talk of Matter unifying them.

However, there is a shadow hanging over the Chromecast legacy. The official story behind Chromecast, as shared in an official Google blog post in 2015, is that Google engineer Majd Bakar came up with the idea in 2008 after watching his wife repeatedly use her laptop to choose movies, then switch to your game console to watch them on the big screen. He pitched the idea sometime between 2011 and 2012, it seems.

But a company called Touchstream Technologies argues that Google stole some ideas along the way.

This week, a jury in federal district court in Texas returned a unanimous verdict that Google owes $338.7 million because Chromecast infringes three Touchstream patents. In its legal complaint, the company claims to have met with Google and discussed a partnership in December 2011 for its Shodogg technology, says it signed confidentiality agreements, and suggests that Google suddenly decided not to pursue that partnership in February 2012.

It may just be another case of patent trolling. Texas courts are notoriously friendly to companies suing over technology they never tried to produce. But at least it looks like Shodogg was looking for deals in public. It will be interesting to see if the Texas verdict stands.

Correction, 5:50 p.m. ET: The jury’s verdict was reached on July 21, not the 24th as I originally wrote. The news of the verdict was revealed on the 24th (today).

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