While Google’s Chromecast video-streaming dongle works just fine with Netflix, YouTube and Google Play content, users who have wanted to stream files that fall outside those approved services have had to use unapproved third-party apps. Given the relative openness of Google’s Android operating system, one might think the company would encourage such apps, but it now appears to be the complete opposite.
Yesterday, the developer of one such app, AllCast, wrote (on his Google+ account no less) that “Google’s latest Chromecast update intentionally breaks AllCast. They disabled ‘video_playback’ support from the ChromeCast application.”
He dubs Google’s actions a “heavy handed approach, where only approved content will be played through the device. The Chromecast will probably not be indie developer friendly. The Google TV team will likely only whitelist media companies.”
GigaOm’s Kevin Tofel says he’s disappointed but not surprised by Google’s blocking of apps it hasn’t explicitly given the thumbs-up to.
“The company likely wants to guarantee a certain user experience on the product that both has the company name on it and is readily available at the retail level,” he writes while adding that Google’s decision is problematic. “[T]he idea of not being able to share user-created content wireless from a mobile device is limiting.”
Google may fear that third-party apps like AllCast might make it difficult to make deals with services like HBO or Hulu, who may be concerned that Chromecast could give pirates an easy way to stream illegally downloaded content on big screens. But is it shooting itself in the foot by disabling an app that also lets the user stream personal videos, photos, and music through their TV?
The Chromecast is rolling out at a time when many new TV sets have built-in Internet access and a larger menu of supported apps. For example, a typical Samsung Smart TV gives the user the ability to strean Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Instant, Hulu, HBO Go, Vudu, Redbox, MLB.tv, and many others. Google needs to decide whether the Chromecast can compete against TVs that already offer more services, or whether the $35 device might be better served by making it open to streaming content directly from the source phone or computer.