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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(s aapl), which hasn’t been booted up in weeks. But all is not perfect in my web-based Chromebook(s goog) 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(s aapl) 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 but what good is a growing breadth of content choices when the playback doesn’t even work on all Google devices?

13 Responses to “A Chromebook letdown: No Google Play video support”

  1. I’d like to say something about the chromebook…. I love it it’s non stop cool, and if you want to watch google play videos just head over to ubuntu and do a search of won’t play on ubuntu

  2. James Kidd

    The issue of why it doesn’t work is that the web-only player for Google Play uses DRM binaries that aren’t (yet) included in Chrome OS. Once ChromeOS 21 is out, you’ll probably be fine. The Nexus 7 and other newer Android devices have this DRM set up, usually by way of a special app needed to stream the content that includes the DRM stuff.

  3. Alexander Trust

    Mr. Tofel, would you say that people could sue Google for this? If you think of the bare circumstances in which a sales agreement is made between Google and the person who purchased the video then Google is meant to fool all those chromebook owners. Whether or not those persons own another computer on which they might be able to watch those episodes is of no significance, isn’t it?

    • I know this is a lame answer but: anyone can sue anyone else for anything. Will they win is a different question. ;) I’m certainly not a legal expert, but unless Google makes an express claim that Google Play videos are supported on a device and then fails to deliver upon that claim, I don’t see much possibility of winning said claim. Just my opinion, of course.

  4. Jacqui Viale

    There are a number of apps that are not supported, including “Go to my PC” for VPN even though you can download the app from google play. Seems like they have a lot of glitchy apps and are not yet supporting so much.

      • Jacqui Viale

        Ah, I will look for that. The problem is we are accessing a remote server for our employer and they use “Go to my PC”…we are newbies with the Chromebook and so still figuring it out. Love a lot of other things about it even though there are still lots of little glitches! I am still getting used to the keyboard too, wishing there was a delete key…

  5. Yeah, I noticed this too. Tried it with my “Transformers” free movie that came with the Nexus 7 :)

    Chrome PM, just out of interest why isn’t this supported currently when YouTube plays just fine?

  6. Alok Chadha

    I love Google gadgets and its products. I use them all the time, but every now and then I run into some silly roadblock that makes me think… Why does every Google product have to feel like a Beta? Google fails on “execution”. Why not have a completed polished product.
    Kevin, most probably your issue is related to DRM…. but why was not Google resolving it within its own product lines ASAP???

  7. Chrome PM

    Support for Google Play videos is coming in the M21 update which is beta right now and should reach all Chromebook users on the stable channel in mid August.

    • Alicheez

      I have a Chromebook. I have wasted about $15 trying to view Google Play videos. It has been very misleading that Google Play allows you to view a preview, you purchase the movie and only THEN you find out it won’t play on your Chromebook. Annoying. When the update comes out, I will still feel like I am “testing the waters”. I wish there were at least a few free offerings on Google Play for this purpose. When my chromebook updates itself, if would be nice to receive a pop-up summary of notable changes like this so that the user has some confirmation that new features like this are ACTUALLY available.

  8. Sathya

    I really wish Google, for being so OPEN, would come out and fill in on “Why”! At least that would give some sort of satisfaction and an assurance that the feature might be turned on in the near future /or not!