Google's Chromecast is arguably the easiest way to broadcast mobile content to a big screen, but it's hardly the only game in town. LG has released Connect SDK, an open source software development kit that allows developers to create apps that will have Chromecast-like capabilities that will work across LG Smart TVs, the Amazon Fire TV, the Roku 3 and Roku Streaming Stick and even the Chromecast.
In a way, LG releasing Connect SDK is very similar to Google releasing the Chromecast's SDK in February. However, LG seems more cognizant of its own smaller role in the streaming market. Rather than release software for developers to make LG Smart TV-exclusive apps, the company seems to be encouraging developers to program apps for a variety of products that happen to include LG Smart TVs.
Connect SDK makes use of a protocol known as Discover And Launch (DIAL) that powers many second-screen applications. The Chromecast is probably the best-known DIAL device, but other devices, from Rokus to PS3s, make use of it as well.
In simple terms, DIAL lets a user open an app on his or her mobile device and control content on his or her TV. Every function on a Chromecast works via DIAL. Roku and PS3 users can also control apps like Netflix and YouTube via DIAL, although since these devices have navigable interfaces and run apps on the devices themselves, DIAL functionality is more of an afterthought.
Similarly, LG Smart TVs have navigable menus, their own apps and remote controls, so they don't strictly need DIAL protocols to show online content. That said, the concept of "casting" content right from a mobile device has been gaining appeal. And for developers looking to make a Chromecast app, the Connect SDK may provide a way to make it compatible with LG devices with only a little extra effort.
Empowering app developers is always a good idea in theory, but LG may not get the influx of high-quality apps it seeks — at least not right away. The Chromecast SDK has been available for months, but developers have yet to do much that's innovative or exciting with it. Users can access video sites like Dailymotion or display art with Artkick, but these apps are hardly selling points for a $35 dongle, much less a $1100 55-inch TV.
Connect SDK is available for free via LG's website, so enterprising developers can get started on their cross-platform apps.