Chromecast is a $35 HDMI dongle that mirrors content played -- or rather initiated -- from a nearby smartphone, tablet, or computer. We use the term initiated because, once the content begins playing, it's pushed directly from the cloud to Chromecast, rather than being streamed from the local device. That means that the device itself doesn't have to do the work of streaming, freeing it up for other tasks.
Rather than saying they are streaming content, Google calls it "casting."
It can even span devices. A user can launch the playback of a movie via his or her smartphone, then turn off that device and launch the app on your iPad to pause the movie.
As a perk, and for a limited time, you also get three months of Netflix included.
For now, the device supports Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, and anything you can find on the web through a Chrome browser (yes, this apparently includes Hulu). Google promises more to come.
Chromecast is already available in the Google Play Store. It has already proven quite popular, as initially it showed a one-to-two day wait before it shipped, and as of Thursday morning, that has risen to three-to-four weeks.
It's also available from Amazon.com, where it's shown as "temporarily out of stock," but at least it's a Prime item. The Netflix freebie is included, too.
Best Buy is also selling the device, and that could be your best bet to find one since the online retailers seem already out of the device. It's supposed to hit stores on July 28, but there have been reports of people being able to buy the units now.
Chromecast's first commercial, which shows off a lot of the device's functionality, but also, different use cases for it, is embedded.