I bought a device just like Google's new Chromecast in a Chinese electronics market more than a year ago, raising questions about today's design pipeline.
When I saw Google's Chromecast launched last week I had a moment of déjà vu. I bought a very similar product for about $40 in June 2012 in Shenzhen while wandering the awesome Huaqiangbei market.
I was drawn to the product because it was a homegrown Chinese product sporting the latest ARM core at the time (Cortex A5). It turned any HDMI TV into a giant streaming display.
I never had much luck making it work because the software and interface (in Chinese of course, duh!) was hard to use. I didn't think much about it until I saw Chromecast and suddenly I had one of those inflection-point moments and a lot of questions.
Why was Google first to mass market a device like this in the US over a year later? Where was Apple, HP, or Sony? How is it obscure Chinese fabless companies (TeleChips in this case) are designing these products, not Viewsonic or Logitech? Was Chromecast the result of some Google engineer wandering the Huaqiangbei video hall like me?
I immediately ordered the $35 product. I will review it when it arrives, but the larger issue for me is about how innovative tech products come to market.
Just as Michael Dell launched a multi-billion dollar company from his dorm room using cheap modular PC parts from Taiwan right under the noses of IBM and HP, we are seeing a new generation of “makers” taking cheap standard parts and creating clever new products. This time though it's the software that will differentiate and deliver winners.
Blaza buys a Chromecast-like device in a Shenzhen market in 2012.