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Google waves its Chromecast dongle in front of developers

SDK now open to world+dog – but follow the rules, peasant, or risk being cast into the pit

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Google has released the final version of the Google Cast Software Development Kit (SDK), paving the way for broader support for its $35 Chromecast media-streaming dongle.

The first version of the SDK shipped when the device was unveiled last July, but the Chocolate Factory cautioned developers that it was only a preview and that the APIs were liable to change significantly before the final release.

That turns out to have been fair warning. "The Google Cast SDK has undergone a thorough overhaul since the developer preview release," explains the developers guide for the current version. "So even if you're familiar with the technology, you should review all of the documentation here as a lot has changed."

One thing that hasn't changed, however, is Google's desire to maintain strict control over Chromecast-compatible apps. Gone from the new SDK's terms of service is a clause that forbade developers from distributing their apps without Google's express written permission, but in its place is a more formal registration and oversight process.

Developers who want to ship apps that work with Chromecast must now sign up for access to the Cast Developer Console, which carries a $5 one-time fee.

All Chromecast-compatible apps must be registered via the console or they won't actually work. Registration is free, but Google reserves the right to de-register apps for any reason, "with or without notice at Google's sole discretion."

Google has in the past blocked access to apps it didn't like, such as AllCast and Fling. In each of those cases, the developers had reverse engineered the Chromecast APIs to allow direct streaming of media from devices on the local network. That's a no-no, because Google sees Chromecast as tool for streaming from internet sources, not users' own pirated content home movies.

Under the new SDK's terms and conditions, such reverse engineering is explicitly forbidden, and there are a number of other rules besides. But even if you follow all of the rules, Google could still boot your app if it breaks some rule it hasn't thought of yet.

There's also this tidbit, which suggests that Google is planning new ways to extract revenue from its dirt-cheap dongle:

Google may in the future make advertising available via its APIs. Such advertising will appear in connection with your content or service only if you opt in. If Google makes such advertising available, and you choose to serve such advertising, Google may share revenue from that advertising with you pursuant to the advertising terms and conditions made available at the time you opt in to such advertising.

Chromecast devices will need a software update to support the new SDK, but according to a blog post from Google Cast software manager John Affaki, the required code has already shipped and the dongles will update themselves automatically.

Developers can download the Google Cast SDK for iOS as of Monday. Somewhat ironically, however, Android support won't arrive for a few more days, because the new Google APIs require version 4.2 of Google Play Services and that update only began rolling out to devices on Monday.

In the meantime, developers who would like to learn more about building support for Chromecast into their software can check the official documentation, here. ®

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