First Google demonstrated that it would be as simple as sticking Chromecast into an HDTV to stream content. Later we discovered that the demonstration was misleading, that customers must also hook up a power cable to a wall outlet or another USB port on the TV itself. That said, Chromecast isn't as plug-and-play as Google demonstrated last week.
During its press event, the company also implied that Chromecast was powered by a simplified version of the Chrome OS. However a recent hack of Chromium proves otherwise: it's a modified version of Google TV which in turn is powered by Android. That seemingly backs up a theory that Google may actually have plans to stream live TV on this device as well as its unannounced set-top box running Google TV in the near future.
"It’s actually a modified Google TV release, but with all of the Bionic / Dalvik stripped out and replaced with a single binary for Chromecast," reports GTVHacker. "Since the Marvell DE3005 SOC running this is a single core variant of the 88DE3100, most of the Google TV code was reused. So, although it’s not going to let you install an APK or anything, its origins -- the bootloader, kernel, init scripts, binaries -- are all from the Google TV."
As reported last week, Google seems to be launching a three-pronged invasion on the living room: (1) the $35 Chromecast for consumers not interested in installing apps; (2) the next-generation set-top boxes with Chromecast support (including a Nexus-style box from Google); (3) next-generation Google TV sets with Chromecast support. This way, Google addresses all three tiers of its customers.
GTVHacker actually discovered the underlying OS thanks to a bug in the Chromecast source code and the unit now shipping to customers. The site has released an exploit package that will modify the system to spawn a root shell on port 23. This will allow "researchers" to better investigate the environment and allow developers to build and test apps on the device.
"For the normal user this release will probably be of no use, for the rest of the community this is just the first step in opening up what has just been a mysterious stick up to this point," the site reports. "We hope that following this release the community will have the tools they need to improve on the shortfalls of this device and make better use of the hardware."
GTVHacker has not ruled out the possibility that Chromecast could become a Google TV "stick". The site also points out that Google could update the stick at any time to patch the exploit. That could mean Google may also add additional features in the future to make Chromecast more like Google TV on a stick.
For more information about the exploit, head here.