Apple TV

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Since the launch of Google’s Chromecast there have been many reports stating that the new dongle can mirror websites and is therefor is the companies own version of Apple’s innovative airplay feature, available through Apple TV in concert with IOS devices. Another tech story that has been floating is that Roku has its own “airplay like” feature through its controller app which allows users to play videos from an iPad on their TV.

This reporting is a poor characterization at best and a misstatement at worse. Both of those offerings are wonderful but they are not Air Play. In the case of Chromecast the closest approximation to Airplay is that laptop users can cast their individual Google Chrome tabs to their televisions to varying degrees of success. In our test of the device the Chromecast was able to cast Chrome tabs from without difficulty but was unable to access Watch ESPN because the video on a laptop appears as a pop out window instead of a tab. Other video heavy websites suffered from lag between audio and visual images. On the other hand Apple TV and Air Play employs slick integration for all current Apple mobile products and current laptop and desktop computers running OS X and up.  This list of mobile devices includes the iPad starting with the iPad 2, the iPhone starting with the 4 and the iPod touch starting with generation 5.

On the mobile device front, which in the case of Chromecast acts as its controller the product does a great job at integrating Netflix and YouTube and Hulu Plus which is a great start. These services immediately reach a major percentage of the streaming audience.  While the true believers in streaming may be aware of hundreds of sources for internet video and audio content the general public has little to no knowledge of Snag Films, B&W TV, UFO TV or server based programs like Plex and XBMC . But almost everybody knows about Netflix and YouTube.  Providing an inexpensive way for HDTV owners who do not own a smart TV to add Netflix and Youtube to their TVs is a nice step.  But we should not mislabel something or mislead consumers.

Another faux Airplay is the new feature utilizing Roku’s IOS and Android apps. The new innovation allows users to watch videos stored on their mobile devices via the Roku.  Again, this is a nice new innovation of the part of Roku. Being able to beam home movies and other stored content to the television is a great tool. But until you can go to a website, click on a video and view it seamlessly on your TV in full HD via the Roku this is not an airplay like function unless “Airplay like” just means watching any video at all from a mobile device on TV.

Roku has its own list of very strong selling points from its open source apps development, the headphone feature in its new remote and the only streaming box or DMR that offers a robust app store. It even has great third party apps. But for now integrating video from mobile devices is not its specialty. There is competition coming for Airplay in the form of Miracast and other formats. It could be that DIAL which is what Chromecast employs in order to offer its Netflix and Youtube app may be expanded in a way that becomes a competitive option for the non mac world. It would not be surprising to see Amazon release a system that allowed kindle fire owners to use their own version of airplay. Samsung who recently bought Boxee now has a mobile platform as well as the infrastructure to produce media streaming boxes.  Roku will soon offer own DIAL integration. There will be a lot of exciting developments for streaming. And when they arise The Streaming Advisor will bring you the facts and skip the platitudes.

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