Suddenly, the thrilling future of consumer electronics is becoming clear. We’re entering a world in which any content -- movies, TV, music, books, games and more -- will be available on any device at any time.
This is a huge transformation, and it’s coming very soon.
It used to be that different devices were used for entirely different things. Go back ten years. We used TVs for -- wait for it! -- watching TV. Desktop computers were used mostly for "real work," office applications, web surfing, gaming and other uses. Laptops were either desktop replacements for some, or traveling devices for others. Phones were used for making calls, texting and other mobile-specific uses.
By this time next year, nearly all these devices will do nearly all these functions.
We'll use the TV for texting and video phone calls. We'll watch “cable” TV on tablets. We’ll do work on office suites with phones. We’ll check our shopping lists on the TV. We’ll DVR-record shows with our phones. Our tablets will do everything.
This anything, anywhere, anytime future is closer than you think.
The Rise of Mirroring
The feature enables any device running iTunes, iOS 4.2 or later or OS X Mountain Lion to stream whatever's on the screen to any device connected via AirPort Express, Apple TVor any number of third-party devices that have licensed the technology.
Let's say you want to show someone a video on YouTube. Just punch it up on your iPhone and tap the AirPlay Mirroring button, it shows up in HD on your TV. And it looks surprisingly good. (This is assuming you've already set it up, which is easy.)
The same goes for games, apps, calendars, photos and more.
AirPlay Mirroring isn’t mainstream, mainly because of the limited number of people with AirPort Express or Apple TV. But for the minority who use it, the feature is fantastic now, and will probably get much better in the future.
Over time, the "illusion" of "mirroring" one screen on another will be maintained, while actual content will be intelligently downloaded from iCloudor played from the device itself. For example, if you're playing a movie as a file optimized for iPhone on the phone, AirPlay will grab the full TV HD version from iCloud for the TV or from the TV’s hard drive.
People will increasingly use Apple AirPlay Mirroring and competing products and services just like it.
The TV becomes just a big computer screen, and you'll be able to use any connected device in the house to play anything on it.
The Rise of 'Reverse Mirroring'
I believe Apple will soon announce -- possibly as soon as Monday at this year’s WWDC-- something I call "Reverse Mirroring" -- a feature that beams whatever's on your TV to your iOS devices or to your OS X computer.
Over time, it will also mean that TV-specific apps for “smart TVs” will be easily available on mobile devices and desktop PCs in the house.
All Together Now
The convergence of cloud computing, higher mobility, digital content, faster wireless speeds, higher resolution screens, apps, and other trends have conspired to enable a radical new sharing of tasks on all the screens in your life.