Getting Internet media streamed to your big screen instead of your laptop is nothing new. The concept has been around for a while and there are many ways of doing it: I can browse YouTube via my Blu-ray player, watch Netflix movies on my Nintendo Wii, and rent TV shows on my Apple TV. But this is the problem: with all these devices offering narrow paths onto the Internet, designed in line with their own commercial interests, it’s all a bit untidy. Scruffy, even.
The latest dongle du jour is Google Chromecast–a little stick you plug into your TV’s HDMI socket. Chromecast lets you call up Netflix or YouTube (plus Google Play of course) content on your mobile device and play it on your big screen and sound system. The device is getting great reviews, and at only $35 it’s not a purchase you have to think too hard about, but for me it’s arrival has just made the murky waters even muddier. What we need is a ubiquitous, single standard for big screen Internet media that makes playing online content on your TV as simple as browsing on your laptop. It’s coming but we’re not there yet. In the meantime I guess Chromecast is a nice little toy to play with.
In this article today by Chris Smith of TechRadar he suggests that, if only Apple were to open up their Apple TV concept to games developers, it could put larger games consoles like XBox 360 and the Nintendo Wii U out of business. He may have a point.
This little box is already in thousands of homes, and at under £100 it’s not a purchase you have to think too much about if you’re an Apple-ite. Smith talks about the quick ‘n’ easy developer options for iPhone and iPad game developers, and imagines a similar App Store experience on the Apple TV, where you’d buy small and cheap games on a whim. I can see that happening but Apple would need to bring out a new version with more internal storage, or at least a way to connect an external hard disk like Nintendo does with Wii U. The Apple TV’s internal storage is currently only 8Gb and is used to cache streaming media, store rented movies etc., so right now it doesn’t really have anywhere to put a bunch of purchased games.
True, the ‘big’ consoles offer bigger gaming experiences, but little pick-up-and-play games are what mobile device users are spending their money on. Watch this space I guess…
Streaming, Streaming Everywhere
Apple’s AirPlay wireless display and streaming technology is great…IF you have a house full of Apple devices. How can you also invite your Windows PCs and Android devices to the media streaming party?
Thought you might like to see this LifeHacker article that explains how and gives links to some useful add-ons and utilities that can do just that.
If you’re an Apple fan you can look away now — you have Apple’s Airplay to do this (assuming you have at least one Apple TV in the house).
Android users! Jealous of your iPad-owning friends’ ability to play movies, music and photos from their iPad on their TV? Well you can do that too, with a little tweaking and an app called Skifta.
Actually there are several ways to wirelessly connect your Android phone or tablet to your laptop and/or Smart TV. In fact the next version of Android (4.2, JellyBean update) will include native wireless display support. Until then here’s a nice and easy way to do it:
First you need a TV that supports the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) standard. Most flat screen TVs from the main manufacturers should support this. The TV must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network that the device is connected to.
Next, go to the Google Play market on your device and download the free Skifta app. Run that app then go into your TV’s menus and locate the option to play media on the home network. You should see your Android device listed as an available source. Click on that and then browse your device’s music, photos and videos and play them on your TV screen.
One advantage this method has over Apple’s AirPlay is that you can do this anywhere, in anyone’s house, on a friend’s TV etc., as long as their TV meets the requirements above and they allow your device on their home network.
I installed this yesterday and it works pretty well.