In case you missed it, “throwing” is the big idea in multi-screen integration this season. Extending the Apple AirPlay experience that some of us have been playing with for more than a year to other systems, the idea is to push media across screens at will. Google has been doing this with select hardware combinations and their Android devices in recent months through what it calls “pairing.” YouTube apps for Xbox, PS3, Google TV devices and others can discover video on their devices and push them to the TV immediately for viewing.
The capability is expanding at this week’s CES as YouTube and partners announce hardware support in some Bang & Olufsen, LG, Panasonic, Sony, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba, Vizo and other branded devices and TVs.
Like AirPlay and BDLive connections between mobile devices and TVs, this works now on your home WiFi network. In the pairing routine I last saw for the system you have to enter a code on your mobile device provided by the specific app. It is still a bit kludgy for mere mortals, but ultimately we would hope for something more seamless. According to the Google announcement, the process is now simpler via the local network and you just need to click a show on the TV button.
The big idea here from Google is that video search and discovery is a damned sight easier on your handheld device than on a TV. There is indeed real pain involved in typing by standard remote. The beauty of connecting mobile devices and TV comes in offloading discovery altogether to the second screen. I probably spend more time using my tablet and phone as a remote for my Comcast cable box now simply because I can get deeper information and navigate much faster on a large touchscreen than in the pop-up cable guide.
With the YouTube pairing feature you also make the remote more social. Multiple devices can pair with the same TV so that many people can add to a video queue even as a clip is running.
You might argue that mobile plays its strongest role in the living room two-screen experience when it helps TV remain TV, the immersive focal point. Instead of popping up all of the interactive features TV makers and set-top-box manufacturers have struggled so hard to cram into a minimally interactive interface, just use the damned phone.