Are media streaming devices useful?

Hardware_Aug05_CTechnology is constantly evolving, and many of the latest gadgets are aimed at personal users. A good example of this is the newer streaming devices that allow users to stream content from sites like Pandora on their TVs. These devices also offer other capabilities such as streaming content from your mobile screen to your TV, and businesses are starting to wonder if these developments could be of any use.

These devices, often referred to as dongles, come in a variety of different sizes, with a variety of functionality. However, they serve one main purpose, to allow you to stream content on your TV. Here is an overview of three of the more popular devices that enable this capability and some examples of how businesses are using it.

Apple AirPlay
This little black box allows Apple users to stream content from their Apple computers or iDevice onto any monitor with an HD connection – most users connect the AirPlay to their TV, but if you have a projector with HDMI in, or a VGA adapter, you should be able to hook up AirPlay to bigger screens and even projectors.

The strength of this device is that it allows you to share what you see on your iPhone or iPad. If you have a presentation on your iPad, you can simply connect to AirPlay and share it on a big screen – no more having to carry around a bulky laptop.

AirPlay also supports mirroring. If you have a newer Mac laptop, you can connect to AirPlay and share your laptop’s screen, and essentially turning any HD enabled monitor into another monitor. Again, this is ideal for users who need to give presentations or live demonstrations.

The main downside to the AirPlay is that to be able to share your screen, you need to have Apple devices.

Google Chromecast
This recently announced dongle was created by Google as a way to stream content like Netflix on your TV. While it is brand new, and the capability is yet to really be seen, the device does allow you to share what is on your browser with the screen/TV it is plugged into. The caveat here is that you have to use Chrome. If you have Chromecast and the latest version of Chrome, you can simply hit a button on Chrome and it will be mirrored to the TV or a display the dongle is plugged into.

There are two reasons this device could attract businesses. The first being the price – at under USD$40, it is the cheapest of any similar device. The second being it is easy to set up. You plug it into a free HDMI slot on the monitor you want to use, plug in the USB cable to a free port or wall mount, turn on the device and connect it to Wi-Fi using a tablet or phone app. This is especially useful for companies that use Google Apps like Drive, as you will be able to give presentations on the big screen easily.

The downside here is that this is new technology, so the features and streaming are limited for the time being. However, this should change fairly rapidly, especially because Google has made the software code that enables streaming to the device available to everyone; more apps and streaming should be coming soon.

Dell’s Project Ophelia
This may be a project you haven’t heard of yet, but it holds some interesting promise. Project Ophelia is a small network enabled device (about the size of a thumb drive) that you plug into any device with an HDMI port. It then connects to a cloud service and displays the content on the screen.

An example of this is connecting to a virtualized desktop, whereby you are able to access your work computer from nearly anywhere. Think, no more carrying a laptop. Just plug it into a TV screen and attach a keyboard and mouse and away you go, connecting to your office over Wi-Fi.

If/when Dell launches this device, it could be a viable virtualization alternative, and especially useful for employees who move around to say different offices or locations on a regular basis. Not much else is known about the device at this time, but it should be coming soon; within the next year or so. Check out Dell’s Project Ophelia page here to learn more about it.

Should I get one of these devices for the office?
This is a tough question to answer. If you give presentations or use a TV for group meetings or teamwork, these devices could be a useful and inexpensive way to enable streaming. This could be especially useful for employees who are on the road and don’t want to carry heavy laptops or worry about systems being compatible.

If you don’t give regular presentations, or if you don’t use Chrome, Android or Apple devices, these devices are not the best solution. After all, most newer laptops have HDMI ports and can broadcast/share their screen when they are plugged in (some may need an adapter). Our best advice would be to get into contact with us if you are curious about these devices. We may even have a better alternative that will work with your systems.

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