Google's Chromecast is most often referred to as a device which is transforming the living room. It's certainly being marketed that way by Google. The Chromecast box is emblazoned with the words: "The easiest way to enjoy online videos and music on your TV". Well, yes, Chromecast does do that – but to concentrate on what it can do for us at home vastly undersells its potential. Chromecast can be a really handy gadget for the office too.
Now, we're assuming you are not wanting to take Chromecast to work just so you can stream BBC iPlayer to the giant TV screen in the meeting room. We're assuming you have a professional interest.
The key benefit of being able to "cast" content in an office context is that you can take it from the small screen of your laptop, tablet or phone, and send it to the large screen of a TV or big monitor.
Clearly, that means more people can easily see what you want to show them. They won't need to squint or sit close to the screen, and the content should look smart. It also means you may be able to travel a lot lighter than you have done in the past when heading off to work with clients.
Outside of presentations to clients, you could use Chromecast to deliver training sessions, or in-store demonstrations. You can likely work in fairly ad-hoc and informal environments – all you need is your Chromecast, access to a wireless network, and the data you want to show people.
Chromecast itself is a tiny dongle – you can hold it easily in the palm of your hand. It is tough as well, being made from solid plastic. It'll sit in the pocket of your laptop bag without adding noticeable weight or bulk, and it'll jangle around quite happily with other bits and pieces. It connects to an HDMI port and is powered by microUSB. Most modern TVs have plenty of HDMI ports and USB ports – if the latter isn't there or isn't free, you're probably already carrying a cable to charge your mobile and that can double up, so there's nothing you need to carry by way of hardware in addition to the Chromecast itself.
Setting up on multiple devices
Chromecast is easily moved from one TV to another just by physically unplugging it from one and plugging it into the other – but it can only be set up for one wireless network at a time.
The good news where wireless setup is concerned is that it is easy and fast. You'll need the Chromecast app to help the setup process, but you'll have your laptop, tablet or phone with you so that shouldn't be a problem. If you are moving to a new wireless network you'll have to perform a hard reset to make the Chromecast forget the network it was last connected to. You can hold down the button on the Chromecast itself for 25 seconds to do this, so it is hardly taxing.
Be aware that the Chromecast needs to be able to communicate over Wi-Fi, so you may need to make some tweaks to the network that you're using to allow this. This shouldn't be a problem in offices that have guests regularly joining their networks, though.
5 things to do with Chromecast at work
1. Send any web page you can view in the Chrome browser to a TV. The potential here is huge. You can cast things like YouTube content, but also any data you may have stored in the cloud – images spring to mind as likely candidates, as do your Google Drive documents. You could, for example, cast images of your latest products, or pages of your website as you talk to potential clients.
2. Show your own video. Your company may well have video that it doesn't make publicly accessible through its website. That's not a problem; videos stored on your hard drive can be viewed in Chrome – if you press Ctrl+O, you can open video files in a Chrome tab, and then you can cast them.
3. Broadcast a video conference. Okay, this is yet again something you can do through Chrome – via Hangouts – but watch out for in-app Chromecast support from big name video conference players like Skype. Google allows developers to tweak their products for Chromecast, and Skype is one of many ideal candidates. You can also cast your video conferencing to a TV – see the next tip...
4. Deliver traditional presentations from your laptop. Once you've set up the Chromecast extension on the Chrome browser you can mirror the display of your laptop. This means you can deliver presentations just by opening PowerPoint and running the presentation in it. This is a beta service for Chromecast and it is a bit hidden away. On your laptop click the Chromecast tab, then click the small arrow to the far right of the word Beta. You can now choose "Cast entire screen (experimental)." There's even audio support. This is screen mirroring, remember, so you can use it for anything your laptop can do – showing photos, looking at documents, viewing a video chat, etc.
5. Brainstorm. When you need to gather ideas and come up with strategies, do you still resort to a flip chart? Shame on you. Try CastPad for Chromecast on your Android tablet if you want to send hand-drawn notes and images to a bigger screen.
More to come
You can do an awful lot with just a Chromecast and the Google Cast extension for Chrome on your laptop. But it is still early days for Chromecast and we expect a lot of app support to arrive in the coming weeks and months.
So far Android is better supported than iOS as far as apps are concerned, and there's no single app that gathers iOS compatible apps like Cast Store does for Android. You can do a search for Chromecast in the iOS app store, though. The situation is changing daily so keep an eye out for new developments and applications that might help you make even better use of Chromecast in the office.
While you're here, you might also want to check out 7 of the best Android and iOS apps for your shiny new Google Chromecast.