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Google Takes On Apple With Chromecast, Android 4.3

It may be a multi-screen world but Google's new Chromecast streaming TV hardware brings it all together. Android 4.3 debuts for Nexus tablets.
Mobile apps for Google Play Movies & TV, Google Play Music, Netflix and YouTube currently can send content to TVs via Chromecast. Other apps such as Pandora are expected to support Chromecast soon.

Android 4.3 includes four major new features: Restricted Profiles, which improve the Android tablet experience in multi-user environments by supporting parental controls and usage limitations when devices are used as point-of-sale hardware; Bluetooth Smart, otherwise known as Bluetooth LE, a low-power mode suitable for interfacing with wireless sensors; OpenGL ES 3.0, the latest generation of open mobile graphics display technology; and Media DRM APIs, for presenting content with hardware-based encryption.

Android 4.3 arrives on the revised Nexus 7. Powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and 2 GB of RAM, the new Nexus 7 is available at three different prices: $229 for the 16-GB Wi-Fi model, $269 for the 32-GB Wi-Fi model and $349 for the 32-GB model with global 4G LTE support. The tablet weighs 0.64 lbs (290g) and promises nine hours of HD video playback and 10 hours of Web browsing. Its 1920-pixel-by-1200-pixel HD screen (323 ppi), Google claims, has the highest resolution of any 7-inch tablet.

Google says it will be distributing Android 4.3 as an over-the-air update to previously released Nexus 4, 7, 10 and Galaxy Nexus devices.

Google tried to conquer the living room with Google TV, hardware from Google's partners for running Android applications on a television. But Google TV has been poorly received, partly due to pricing and partly due to the fact that running Android apps on dedicated TV peripherals (or integrated hardware) doesn't really improve the TV experience or the app experience.

Google isn't yet ready to abandon Google TV. Company engineers at Wednesday's press event insisted Google TV will continue. But Chromecast reframes the nature of the competition. It puts television inside Chrome, where Google has a home field advantage.

Smart TVs — TVs with connected processors for running applications locally — look like they will continue to struggle in the living room. But dumb TVs — screens that just display what they're told, regardless of source — appear to have a bright future.