Having followed the likes of UPnP, DLNA, g.hn, and all of the various flavors of Wi-Fi and connected home technology standards for the past decade, I’m always skeptical when I hear excitement over the next “big one.” But this time, the excitement may just be worth it.
So what is the supposed next big tech? Miracast, which is the the peer-to-peer technology built on top of Wi-Fi Direct and is the broader connected living room industry’s answer to Apple’s mirroring technology, AirPlay. In plain English, Miracast (and AirPlay) allow portable devices to show — or mirror — the image on its screen on a connected TV.
While there aren’t a whole lot of Miracast-enabled products in the market today, expect the second half of 2013 to see an explosion in product releases in the form of smart TVs, net-tops, and handsets with Miracast support. Handsets are coming out now, as Google announced in October that the latest version of Jelly Bean has Miracast capabilities, and chip providers such as Intel (with its own version of Miracast in WiDi 3.5), Broadcom, Nvidia, and others are putting support for Miracast in their silicon.
The only rub with Miracast is that it’s not really backward-compatible, as Miracast is not easily integrated via software upgrade into existing firmware. My sources tell me that while it’s not technically impossible, it remains too difficult for the average consumer to manage.
Will Miracast level the playing field that Apple currently dominates? Maybe, unless Apple one-ups the market with its own TV, which might have much tighter integration with iPads than can be expected using Miracast. However, I do think there is real value in cross-brand, cross-platform mirroring, as most consumers today have mixed-device living rooms, something which will likely be the case going forward (despite what Apple may think or wish).