July 25, 2013, 4:34 PM — Google caught the world by surprise yesterday with the unveiling of Chromecast. The tiny media streaming dongle is aimed at consumers and presents a serious challenge for Apple TV, but it's also a great tool for small and medium businesses.
By now, you're probably aware of the basic details regarding the Chromecast. It's a small device that plugs in to an HDMI port on a TV or monitor, and it's able to stream content from services like Youtube and Netflix, as well as music and movies from Google Play, over a wireless network connection. The device can be controlled remotely from an Android or iOS mobile device, or through the Chrome browser on a Windows PC or Mac.
That's all fine and dandy for consumers--although between Apple TV, Roku, game consoles like the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii U, or connected TVs and DVD/Blu-ray players, almost everyone can already stream Netflix and other content one way or another. But the Chromecast also has a secret weapon that makes it just as valuable for business use: it can stream any content that can be viewed in the Chrome browser.
Businesses that are more Google-centric will get more value from this feature than others because Gmail, Google Docs, and other Google services essentially run from within the Chrome browser. Businesses that don't depend on Google can still use it, though. Microsoft files like Word documents and PowerPoint presentations can be saved in HTML format and viewed through Chrome.
Sure, there are other ways to connect and display content for a meeting. You can use a projector of some sort, or just hook a Windows or Mac laptop up directly to the HDMI port of the display. The advantage Chromecast has is simplicity. There are no cables to connect from your PC to the Chromecast, and you can simply cast your content at the push of a button.
To be fair, you can do most of this with an Apple TV device as well. In fact, an Apple TV device will let you wirelessly stream all apps and content from an iOS device or Mac OS X computer--it isn't restricted just to content that can be viewed through a specific browser. It is, however, limited to the Apple ecosystem while Chromecast works with multiple platforms.
That brings us to the part that makes Chromecast a no-brainer business purchase. It's only $35. That's less than it would cost to bring coffee and bagels to the meeting.