Google today launched a small $35 device, called Chromecast, that lets users send videos and music from smartphones, tablets and laptops to high-definition TV sets.
Chromecast is a 2-in. device that uses a simplified version of Chrome OS and plugs into the rear of a television set's HDMI port, Google officials said at the event in San Francisco, which was was webcast.
The device goes on sale online today on Google Play, Amazon.com and BestBuy.com. It will be available in Best Buy stores on July 28.
A Google blog post on Chromecast notes that it works with Netflix, YouTube, Google Play movies and TV, and Google Play Music. It will soon support Pandora. the blog post said.
Chromecast also allows remote control of TV sets from Android tablets and smartphones, iPhones, iPads, Chrome for Mac and Windows and Chrome for Chromebook Pixel.
After the event, Google posted a Chromecast spec sheet indicating it works with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi over 2.4 GHz. The spec sheet recommends the home broadband be at least 3 Mbps for HD capabilities.
A Google spokesman said that both the TV connected to Chromecast and the remote control device, such as a smartphone, must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network. That means Chromecast won't work if the phone only has a cellular data connection, he said.
Chromecast works by streaming content directly from the cloud.
Google announced Chromecast after officials at the event confirmed that sales of two new 7-in. Nexus 7 tablet will begin next Tuesday. The Nexus 7 supports Wi-Fi and is available in two versions -- a 16 GB model priced at $229 and a 32 GB device for $269. Best Buy began showing specs of the two new Nexus 7 models hours before the Google announcement.
A third Nexus 7 version with 32 GB that will run over LTE will cost $349 and be available for Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile networks in the coming weeks, Google said.
The Nexus 7 offers double the pixels used in the original Nexus 7, which was released a year ago. The new device has a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels compared to 1280 x 800 pixels in the original model. Google increased the resolution from 216 pixels per inch to 323 pixels per inch, meaning that the new Nexus 7 has the highest resolution of any 7-in. tablet, Google said.
With that screen resolution and a fast Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, clocked at 1.5 GHz, and stereo sound, Google said the Nexus 7 is ideal for gaming, video viewing and e-reading.
A textbook rental service in Google Play will be launched in August, Google officials said.
The high screen resolution in the new Nexus 7 will help the device better compete against Apple's iPad mini, a 7.9-in. device, said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Gartner.
With the Nexus 7's high resolution, the $229 starting price for the 16GB version is "justified and still very attractive," she said. The iPad mini with 16GB starts at $100 more -- $329.
The Nexus 7 also runs Android 4.3. It's the first device to run the newest version of Android. The updated OS adds profile restrictions for multiple users, something that Google said can be useful not only for parents, but for businesses using the devices for point of sale purposes with various sales clerks.
The Android update also supports Bluetooth Smart technology (also known as Bluetooth Low Energy) to help connect Android devices to fitness sensors worn on a person's body. Android 4.3 begins rolling out to other Nexus devices today and soon to the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone and more devices.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His email address is email@example.com.