Is Chrome OS getting native Chromecast support?


A Chromebook can do almost everything that a regular laptop can do.

Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya

The move would let you stream your entire desktop to Chromecast.

Google may be working on adding native support for Chromecast to their Linux-based operating system Chrome OS. The company has added an option for 'casting' to the system settings area (hat tip to Brandon Giesing who spotted it and posted a screenshot on his Google+ page).

The casting option has been added to the ‘Canary’ channel of Chrome OS. Like any open source project there are different branches of Chrome OS; mainly there are three branches: stable, beta and dev. Stable channel is fully tested and runs on all Chrome devices by default; it receives a major release update every 6 weeks. Beta offers a sneak peak into the upcoming features with minimum risk; betas become stable once they are fully tested. Dev gets updates quickly and it shows what Google is working on at the moment. There is one more channel called ‘canary builds’ which is a bleeding edge channel. It’s released daily as soon as it gets built.

While it’s extremely easy to switch to any of the three main channels, moving to Canary needs extra work (we will talk about that later in the article). To test the native cast feature, I switched the channels on my Chromebook.

chromecast chromebook

A new item added to the system settings area.

You will notice a new item in the systems settings area called ‘Cast devices available'. A click on it will open the list of Chromecast devices available on the wireless network. For it to work, the device must have the Google Cast extensions installed and enabled. The option won’t appear in the system settings area if the extension is not installed.

But, you ask, doesn’t Google already have a ‘Cast’ option through the Google Cast extension? Yes they do, but it allows you to cast only one tab of the web browser. The new feature casts the ‘whole’ desktop to the monitor connected with Chromecast.

There is also a beta branch of the same extension that can ‘cast’ the whole desktop to the connected Chromecast device. Google is apparently baking the capability directly into the Chrome OS.

Where can it be useful?

As excited as I was about it, I don’t see any practical usage for home users. The real potential is in enterprise or education sectors. Clients can easily ‘stream’ presentations or slideshows to projectors or large screens connected via Chromecast. It would be an ideal solution where you can wirelessly stream the content of your laptop to the screen; no more fiddling with the HDMI cables.

How to enable this?

All you need to do to try this is switch to the Canary channel of Chrome OS. Before you do, though, beware it’s daily build, untested channel; things will break once in a while. A developer named Kenny Strawn has written a detailed blog post about switching to the Canary channel.

You will also need to enable the developer mode on your Chrome OS device; different devices have different procedures for that so check this page for your device. Once you are in the developer mode, use ‘Ctrl+D’ keys to escape the warning and then log into your Gmail account. Once logged in, open Crosh by hitting ‘Alt+Ctrl+t’.

Once in Crosh, become root by typing:

sudo su

And then run these commands:

update_engine_client --channel=canary-channel --update

It may take up to 10 minutes for the command to finish. Once it’s done, restart your Chromebook so it boots into the latest OS.

Congratulations you have Canary build installed on your system. Now install the Google Cast extension and start testing the new feature.

Is this feature really useful for Chrome OS users? What are the scenarios where users can benefit? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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