Google's Chromecast is Mountain View's next foray into the television market. In brief, it's a $35 HDMI dongle that mirrors content being played nearby on a tablet, smartphone or computer. Hrm, that sounds familiar. The 2-inch device runs "a simplified version of Chrome OS" and requires separate USB power; connect it to your local WiFi network and similarly connected devices work with Chromecast. It can be ordered right now on Google Play and will apparently ship in one to two days. Of note, the device seems US-only for now, as our UK colleagues are showing a "not available in your country" prompt. Early buyers get three months of free Netflix with the purchase. Additionally, it's also heading to retail (read: Best Buy) on July 28th. Google ended its presentation with a quick word that Chromecast functionality will eventually come embedded in various other devices, and that it's working on getting other countries access "as quickly as possible." No specs were given during the presentation, but its Google Play page lists the device as HDMI-CEC compatible, and it uses 2.4GHz 801.11 b/g/n WiFi. Given the separate USB power required, the $35 nets you a Chromecast device, an HDMI extended, a USB power cable and a separate power adapter.
Apps that work with the device include a "Cast" button that allows users to push video to their televisions and control various aspects remotely (volume, play, pause, etc.). "Once Chromecast is plugged in, you just go to YouTube on your smartphone," Google reps said. "You'll see the cast button in your UI and you press it -- Chromecast will pull the info you requested from the cloud and play it on your TV." Meanwhile, an on-stage demonstration showed YouTube video being pushed "via the cloud," thus enabling other apps to be used while a video is being viewed on a television screen. Netflix was up next, and it has similar remote control functionality. Google Play movies and television (expectedly) also work with Chromecast, and Google delightedly demonstrated it with Vin Diesel vehicleFast Five. Finally, Google demoedfull Google Chrome projected on a TV and controlled remotely with a "standard $500 Windows 8 laptop." The feature is "still in early days," but a promise has already been made: that users will be able to easily project content to televisions via their web browser.
Update: We've added Chromecast's first commercial (which demonstrates much of the device's functionality) just after the break, and a source link with Google's formal announcement.
Gallery: Chromecast Dongle debut