A beta version of an app called Allcast went live on the Google Play store early this week. The app, by CyanogenMod developer Koushik Dutta, allows Android users to stream local multimedia content like video files on their device to a fairly wide range of connected or smart TV devices, including Apple TV and Roku set-top boxes, the Xbox 360 and Xbox One gaming consoles, Samsung Smart TVs, and other devices and HDTVs that support the DLNA standard. (An earlier version of the app offered streaming to Google's inexpensive Chromecast devices, though a Chromecast update broke this capability in an apparent attempt to maintain a measure of control over the Chromecast platform.)
It's easy to see the value of Allcast or a similar solution in the consumer space. It allows a user to project content to any supported device. That makes it easy for Android users to show photos and videos without having to worry about cables, wireless protocols, or be concerned with the type of smart TV solutions at a friend or relative's house. Coincidentally, visiting family during the holiday season offers a prime example of Allcast's potential.
Like many mobile apps, this one may not be designed with the enterprise or workplace use in mind, but that doesn't mean there aren't work-related use cases for it.
I've written about the potential of the Apple TV in the conference room and the classroom before. The devices make excellent presentation solutions. Beginning in iOS 6, Apple began to offer some enterprise features for Apple TV devices. More recently, with iOS 7, Apple TVs can be managed to a certain degree using MDM solutions. The devices can either be paired permanently with a specific TV -- such as a conference room or lecture hall -- or can easily be carried along on a business trip given their very light footprint.
That's great if you're an iPhone or iPad user, but what if your BYOD device is a Galaxy Note or Moto X? Allcast poses a very easy answer to that question. It also broadens the scope of presentation options because of the expanded range of devices. Much like showing your parents video of the grandkids, an Android device with Allcast on it makes it easy to use almost any connected TV for sales pitches, marketing proposals, or other business presentations.
This isn't to say that Allcast is a perfect solution out of the gate. To use it, you need to join the CyanogenMod beta testers community. While functional, it is still a work in progress. Some beta testers have had issues getting it working, while a couple of others have questioned the simplicity of its interface. There's also the question about the type of content that's supported -- video is great for many situations, but what if you need something like live mirroring to display business files or apps?
Then there are questions about how well the app will work on your corporate network or whether an IT team would support or permit its use. IT leaders should have important questions about Allcast before supporting it, particularly about any potential security concerns and about how it will impact network traffic and performance and should test the app before supporting it. Those questions have also been raised about AirPlay and Apple TV and are almost certainly part of the reason that Apple implemented some of the Apple TV's MDM capabilities.
There's also a risk that Apple might take technical steps to prevent Android users from displaying content via Apple TV. Apple is well known for keeping its content and app ecosystems under pretty tight control. Perhaps more significantly, Apple has spent years in litigation against Android manufacturers over software patents and, as documented in Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, the Apple CEO bad admittedly threatened to go "thermonuclear" against Google and Android for what he saw as ripping off Apple's design and development efforts.
On the other hand, there are non-Apple apps like AirParrot and AirServer that build on Apple's AirPlay protocol and that bring AirPlay capabilities to officially unsupported computing platforms including older Macs and Windows PCs. Apple has made no move to shut down these apps and its possible the company may respond similarly to Allcast.
Perhaps the greatest thing that Allcast offers the business world is a proof of concept. The app shows Android's potential as a mobile presentation solution and its broad device support even hints at the potential for BYO-TV or "BYO-presentation tool" to become a common component of BYOD.