Since Google's announcement of the $35 USB stick called Chromecast, there's been some discussion whether or not this is genuine breakthrough technology or if it's really something people actual need. Don’t get me wrong, it's neat, but it's not monumental. And, really those people that care about streaming media content to their TV, probably have a TV or attached device that does that already. People will still buy it, but I'm sure it will eventually gather dust in a drawer somewhere.

To me, Chromecast sounds a LOT like Miracast (which is, most likely, what Chromecast is based on) and during community discussions it became evident that a lot of people think that Miracast is a Microsoft product. I guess 'Miracast' and 'Microsoft' are so close in spelling that at first glance it seems like something Microsoft may have invented.

Miracast is actually a broad, standards-based technology managed by the Wi-Fi Alliancewith the first devices certified in September of 2012. Miracast was supported by Android first with the Samsung Galaxy S II being the first smartphone to ship with the technology built in. There are currently over 825 display products with Miracast baked-in and over 170 source devices, with the majority of them being available for purchase on maintains the list of current display productsand source devices. So, what Google has done by developing and releasing the Chromecast, is simply to create a cheap device that supports Wi-Fi direct (which, incidentally, Windows 8.1 supports for printing).

So, Miracast is not a Microsoft technology. They didn't invent it. Like Google, they are simply providing support for it because it's an emerging standard. Windows 8.1 will introduce full, integrated Miracast support, ensuring that Windows 8.1 devices can wirelessly stream the display to a Miracast-enabled display product or source device. Again, there are almost 1,000 devices now that are Miracast-enabled (with more coming) which means they are easy to obtain, and provide many unique possibilities for business users. Miracast support can allow business users to make PowerPoint presentations magically display in the board room without having to call IT to dig through a mess of projector cables. Consultants no longer have to carry mini-projectors to clients, or spend rental money on devices once they arrive.

And, while not exactly business-IT related, Miracast can also be used to stream the latest PC game on a huge TV screen when late night patching projects run into personal time. Or, do some team building by streaming Netflix in the datacenter along with pizza and pop.

This article is part of The IT Guide to Windows 8.1, a continuing series to make the case for Windows 8.1 in the organization.