A Chromebook letdown: No Google Play video support

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To say I’m enjoying the Chromebook I bought last month would be an understatement. I’ve moved my entire workflow away from a MacBook Air, which hasn’t been booted up in weeks. But all is not perfect in my web-based Chromebook world. I found out the hard way today that movies or TV shows from Google Play are all Google but no play: These digital files aren’t supported on Chromebooks.

How do I know? I bought a TV season through Google Play on the Chromebook earlier today. Once the transaction was complete, I hit the Play button and was greeted with this message:

This strikes me as extremely odd because the videos themselves are essentially served up by Google through YouTube. I verified this by signing into YouTube on the Chromebook, where I saw the television episodes affiliated with my account. Clicking them gave me the same message. I even tried a video rental and had the same issue, so this isn’t limited solely to purchased media.

Unknown to me — until after my purchase, that is — Google actually has a relevant support page explaining that “Chromebooks and Google TVs are not currently supported” for this type of playback. I found the page by clicking the More Information link in the video playback window.

Call me crazy, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that content purchased from Google could be consumed on a Google-branded device running Google’s own operating system. Nope. I didn’t waste my money because the videos can be played back on the Nexus 7 tablet I purchased or on my Galaxy Nexus smartphone. I’ll simply watch the television episodes on a smaller screen.

But I see this as a lost opportunity for both consumers and for Google. I wanted to watch the television show on my Chromebook because it has a larger display and would offer a better viewing experience than my tablet or smartphone. Taking that one step further, I could even (theoretically) use the DisplayPort ++ interface on the Chromebook to output the content to my 27-inch iMac or larger HDTV.

If I could do any of that with the Chromebook, it would provide another positive selling point for the device, the Chrome OS and even Google Play. Instead, I’m relegated to watching my purchased content on a small display, even though I have larger screens readily available.

I suppose Plan B could be to drop $299 on the Google Nexus Q — Google’s digital streaming device that we recently reviewed — but I don’t think I should have to do that after investing so much in Google devices to begin with. Google is definitely making headway with its digital media wares┬ábut what good is a growing breadth of content choices when the playback doesn’t even work on all Google devices?

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