Can Mozilla build a better Chromecast using Firefox OS?

June 22, 2014
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Mozilla Firefox OS Netcast streaming stick #codepo8 on Twitter

According to reports, Mozilla’s mobile-centric Firefox OS has been put to use on a new streaming stick that will directly compete with, and even take over aspects of, Google’s Chromecast.

Google gave users a knockout device in the $35 Chromecast media streaming dongle. The idea behind both devices is to just plug the little guys into an empty HDMI port on your favorite screen to give it some smarts, as controlled by a connected Android device. The whole process is super simple, having you up and enjoying HD content on a large screen in no time.

Based on the success of Chromecast, it is no surprise that other manufacturers have built competing devices. We’ve seen a modified Roku take a stab at it, and, even though I consider it a different category of device, Amazon got into the set-top box ring with their Fire TV. Mozilla’s hat in the ring goes by the name Netcast, and there isĀ a short video showing it in action.

Is it better than Chromecast?

Obviously, we only have the same video provided by GigaOm to work from, so far. Out out of the box, it appears as though Netcast acts as a Chromecast receiver for your cast enabled Android apps. What I find particularly interesting is that the video shows off YouTube functionality, but the interface on the TV appears to be nothing more than a full screen implementation of the same www.youtube.com/tv interface that is available to any web browser. I could be wrong about the interface, but that is a mark against the Netcast, for those keeping score.

Firefox OS  uses YouTube TV Interface

YouTube.com/TV interface on a standard laptop

Let’s turn things around, Google has a tight grip over Chromecast, providing an easy to implement, but limited scope SDKĀ to developers. Just check back in with Koush and his AllCast app history for more info on that. Due to the open nature of Firefox OS, the new streaming stick is left open for anyone to work with. Presumably, any OS or device could be configured to ‘fling’ any content to the Netcast dongle.

chromecast-homescreen vs Firefox OS

If the device proves powerful and flexible enough, this could reasonably mean that we would be able to mirror our Android devices to the big screen, something many users have expected from Chromecast, but have been left wanting. Sorry Google, that’s worth at least 5 points, putting the Firefox OS streaming stick in the lead.

Conclusion

Chromecast is inexpensive, highly accessible, widely supported and already plugged into millions of TVs. Mozilla’s Netcast is a theory, a device that promises to outdo Chromecast, but it has a long way to go before really making an impression.

We really need to wait for specs and a price tag for Netcast, but if Mozilla can launch the itĀ at similar or sub-Chromecast pricing, it may stand a chance. On the other hand, based on current market penetration of Firefox OS, we have a hard time expecting big things.Ā Nothing against Firefox OS, but we’re really not seeing it in the wild – their own sales channelĀ shows just 502 purchasersĀ of the currently available phone with the OS pre-installed.

What do you think, am I being too harsh on the NetcastĀ without seeingĀ specs and prices?

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