Up to CastAway, the Chrome OS plugin to your phone

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We are talking to ages now about the intersection of Chrome OS and Android and the indigenous ways that two Google primary platforms work together.

However, for all overlaps, Chrome OS and Android never lived in a single device – living side by side on a multipart system, in other words, and act as a complementary half of a unified experience. But if an inventor gets ambitious his way, this could be about to change.

Ken Mages is the name of the man, and is consistent with a product called CastAway. It is described as “the second screen for your smart phone” – one that runs Chrome-OS-like software and adds “the world's smallest Chromebook” right side to your phone.

The CastAway went on to Indiegogo last week and has been very well received since then, with around 800 people supporting the project for almost $ 140,000 in funding from this moment. (The original target of the project was $ 50,000 more moderate.)

The concept was immediately interesting to me, as you can imagine, but I had lots of questions – questions about how this whole thing would actually work, and how it would really be useful, and, critically. , if see it in production.

So, rather than speculating, I decided to sit down with his creator to get some answers. Android Intelligence Platinum members can listen to our conversation as a special bonus program of my weekly podcast. Here, meanwhile, 10 things are interesting to learn from our conversation.

1. In fact, CastAway is a tiny tablet run by Chromium.

It is easy to talk about this product as Chrome OS and be like Chromebook, but technically, the Chromium is it really uses – the open source version of Chrome OS which developed Google and is available free of charge. charge to anyone. You can think of a Chrome OS type without a proprietary layer of your Google applications and services. The cake, in a sense, is without the ice. And this has significant implications, and we will talk to them more at the moment.

The device itself is an independent slate that does not require a phone to operate. It comes with a 5.8 "or 6.3" screen and with a case that adds it to a side with your phone, with a detachable 360 ​​degree hinge between em – but there is no physical connection between the CastAway and your phone, and the only case there is only a case.

CastAway Chrome Phone Case OS Thrown out

2. The interaction between CastAway and your phone relates to a customized application.

Mages and his team are finishing the work of an app that allows the CastAway to interact with Android and iOS devices through a direct Wi-Fi connection or Bluetooth.

The app will have two main objectives: First, on the phone, an Android or iOS version will create a series of folders. Any images or files that you open while the connected CastAway will be copied into one of those folders. Then, on the side of CastAway, Chrome's custom extension will be informed of any activity within those folders – and any time displaying something new, the extension will return to the CastAway so that you will be able to find it there.

This means that if you take a photo on your phone while running the application and the CastAway is connected, the photo will show the second on CastAway – where you can view, edit or manipulate it as necessary.

"It happens almost in real time," says Mages.

The second purpose of the app is to serve as a clipboard where you can paste anything – text, photos, videos, or any other file type – and copy and paste it immediately to the CastAway ( or vice versa).

3. The CastAway can boot into a unique mode that allows it to function as a Blupooth keyboard and trackpad.

In addition to its Chromium capabilities, you will be able to turn off the CastAway in a special mode where its screen acts only as a Bluetooth input surface. Mages are still working out the characteristics but he says it is likely to be a longer press on the power button – pushing and holding it down for about five seconds – this will encourage this secondary method.

And since it's a Bluetooth-only function, CastAway's keyboard and trackpad function will work with any Bluetooth-compatible device, either phone, tablet, or even a laptop or desktop computer.

4. The idea for CastAway came from the unusual set-up of the creator.

Mages Chromebooks have long been used alongside its smart phone. Over the years, he says to me, that he came up with some bleak hacks to do both work together.

"I developed my own techniques and wrote some of my own code and I wrote some code professionally to make the two symposia," he says. "You wouldn't think that this was a logical parity, but you can really do a lot about doing their work in a friendly way."

As a result of this experience, he came to the idea of ​​a situation that would bring the two platforms together – in portable form that he could bring there and continue to rely on him even when his computer was not full-sized. present.

"I didn't want to carry my Chromebook around all the time. I wanted to put it near my iPhone," he says.

5. The Chromium CastAway replaces Android mostly due to the simplicity and flexibility that software provides.

Mages was “looking for the best open holiday”, as he explains it, and quickly realized that Chromium had the capacity to “just work” in a way that would not allow other open source operating systems.

"When you are running the Chrome browser on Android or iOS, there are really restrictions that Android or iOS apply to you – mostly related to digital rights management," he says, pointing out an example of the opening of Netflix in a smart phone browser will encourage you to download the Netflix application, but will allow you to open it into a Chromebook so you can sign in and flush right then and there.

And the same type of logic applies to other areas where Mages needed things without any further action or reflection on behalf of the user.

"I like Chrome OS, if you throw a file on it … whatever you wear it, it will know how to open it," he says. "It won't say, 'Go another app' – it won't just do it."

6. CastAway can run Android apps, but it seems to depend on an unofficial team.

It usually features Android app support which is limited to Chrome OS and not available for anyone who uses the open source Chromium code. The reason for this is that the presence of the Play Store depends on the specific features of Google and licensing – which is also true on the Android side of the fence (as we have recently been reminded). Huawei-Google Fiasco app).

And yet, well …

"We found a way to get it to work," Mages says to me. "Google will love that, you love it, or I hate it being TBD."

Mages hopes that a relatively low CastAway size will allow the product to fly under the radar, but only time will tell. At the moment, I will say this: A transparent and transparent feature of a product would certainly depend on unofficial cooperation. me a little nervous.

7. CastAway team made modifications to other parts of the Chromium code to allow certain things, such as Netflix, to operate.

One thing I went with during our conversation was Mages who mentioned Netflix's support streaming on the CastAway device. That's because my experience with another company uses the open source Chromium code, Neverware – an organization we talked to in the previous quarter. Neverware, as you might remember, maintains a Chrome-OS operating system that is available to people who are to install on old Windows laptops or Mac to bring new lives.

But there are some arrests – including the fact that you don't use Netware software. That's because Netflix isn't supported immediately or automatically, and Google's own arrangement to make Chrome OS do is in line with the service's streaming needs. However, this is part of Google's proprietary layer was … not available in the open source Chromium version.

So how does CastAway allow streaming Netflix? Again, the answer appears to be through unofficial cooperation.

"We certainly went into chromium architecture and changed it to make sure all the functions we needed worked," says Mages.

And again, it is difficult not to think about whether this will eliminate the wrong feathers when CastAway goes beyond the prototype stage and becomes actual sales. However, at least, however, that's how this function is impossible.

8. One big question mark is the way in which updates to the operating system will play out.

Chrome OS Google upgrade is fast, often and completely with security and feature extensions corrections – but Google simply does not roll out the software to real Chromebooks that use its software with a full license they need. In contrast, the person using the open source Chromium code, in contrast, is responsible for recovering all updates that arise and then process it and take it out of its own accord.

Given the importance of knowing that these updates can be made – and how often they are delivered – I left thinking about what plan to keep the CastAway up to. date in the months and years after their release.

The answer is, it seems, is still uncertain.

Mages tells me that it is "in conversations" currently with Neverware – the company we talked about just a second year ago – to find out whether it It may handle CastAway updates through its own well-publicized roll-out system. But that option is "expensive," says Mages, and it does not go in size to a current low amount of CastAway.

The other option being considered is to make some arrangement directly with Google it CastAway updates help – but, well, it is difficult to imagine a situation where this could happen realistically outside CastAway in its formal, fully certified Chromebook (which would mean a rather large change from its current location).

The one thing that is certain, Mages says, is that speed management of OS updates without some external assistance would be "too big" for its current team.

9. The CastAway mill has confidence will actual ship.

If there is a one million dollar issue with any crowd-funded hardware product, the simple and simple check is: Will we ever see this thing?

After all, we have certainly heard about our share of promising and highly successful projects with Indiegogo, Kickstarter, or other such services and then failed to emerge. This mages know well, and he says he fully understands the need for doubt. But he also says that this is a serious, professional effort – brought together by experienced staff, including Microsoft and Intel executives and dell's former design director – and is 100% confident that the product will actually ship, .

"One guy got on Facebook morning and said," I promise anyone here on Facebook a thousand dollars by this product that will not deliver it in May, "https://www.computerworld.com/" he says to me. "I got on and said, 'I'll send a thousand dollars in escrow right away and climb that bet." Https://www.computerworld.com/ "(The person didn't accept the offer it.)

Currently, Mages says to me, the main goal is to achieve volume when the cost of materials is low enough to make the production possible. But he and his colleagues are "well on the road" to the manufacturing stage, he says, and he is working hard to achieve his goal in May 2020 on shipping.

10. The ultimate hope is to cast the CastAway to create a network that can be used for 5G access – and for advertising.

Don't forget about it: Mages and his team have ambitions for this device which extends far beyond its current form. They play around the idea of ​​using the product to create a global network with its own proven profit possibilities.

This network would operate on two different sides – the first of which would provide a route for carriers to sell a simple 5G plug-in for existing 4G phones.

"If the 5G lives on a Chromebook side, you have 5G access now," says Mages. "So, let's have my SIM device with a SIM card. Now you don't have to go to a 5G phone that will cost two big."

The second is to use this network of devices to wait for it – wait for ads that may be on the CastAway screen.

"When I reach some critical massage … I will have a network that I can control through my Multitask + app," says Mages.

The hope is, therefore, don't let advertisers pay for the ability to push their promotions through the Multitask + app and have them on CastAway screens everywhere. This would only happen if a device owner chooses explicitly in the program, Mages confirms me – offering a customer that could eventually get the device free of charge if they agree to see some ads per view. month.

"Call the announcement so back on the phone '- because no one is using that space.

And finally, this gives us a full circle – and back to the original role of this widget.

"I can't talk about my ambitions about creating a network unless I have a critical mass, and I can't go to a critical mass without an Indiegogo campaign," Yeah, I'm interested in this, "https: // www .computerworld.com / "Mages." The Indiegogo thing explains to me in 44 days if 1,000, 10,000, or 100,000 people are interested. "

You can listen to my conversation with Ken Mages in special bonus episodes of my part Podcast Information Android Platinum – and you can see more about CastAway's official of the product Indiegogo page.

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(Android Information Videos at Computerworld)

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