Should Microsoft produce its own version of Google’s Chromecast?

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Should Microsoft produce its own version of Google's Chromecast?

In the last couple of years there have been suggestions that the future of computing lies in small devices. We’re not talking about mobiles and tablets, but really small computers — USB-drive-sized systems running cut-down operating systems. The likes of Raspberry Pi have taken off in certain circles, but the predicted micro-computer phenomenon never really took off. With one exception: Chromecast.

Google’s little media streaming device got off to something of a shaky start, but the ultra-low price tag and the promise of great things to come has seen it gradually increase in popularity. At the moment, Chromecast is still very much in its infancy. The number of available apps is still very low, but this could be due to change now that developers have been able to get their hands on the SDK.

So potential and apps are two things that Chromecast does have. What it doesn’t really have is competition. Microsoft is well-placed to produce a rival device that could equal or better Chromecast. With the appointment of Satya Nadella as Microsoft’s newest CEO, there has never been a better time to try something new.

Microsoft already has plenty of experience in delivering and supporting apps

We already know that Microsoft can do media, and it can do it well — Xbox 360 and Xbox One have proved this over the years. We also know that the company, in conjunction with Nokia, is capable of produce great mobile devices. Put the two together and there’s massive potential.

It would be incredibly easy to create a Microsoft-branded carbon copy of Chromecast, but where’s the fun in that? Chromecast launched before it was ready and Microsoft can learn a lot from the mistakes that Google made. Launching with such a limited number of apps — and the initial closed nature of the platform — was a huge mistake by Google. With Windows Phone, Windows 8.1, and Xbox One, Microsoft already has plenty of experience in delivering and supporting apps.

Streaming media shows no signs of decreasing in popularity, and there are countless developers who would love the opportunity to produce apps that tie neatly into Windows and a new Microsoft device. In fact this is where Microsoft could catch Google on the back foot. Chromecast is very tightly linked to Chrome. When it comes to throwing online videos to a TV, it does its job very well.

But for many people this is simply not enough. How many of you have hard drives filed with photos, videos and music? The ability to push these to a TV without the need to fiddle about with network cables, audio leads and the like is incredibly appealing. The likes of Roku have produced devices that are designed with local streaming in mind, and Microsoft could easily take this to the next level.

All that’s needed is a simple interface — something sadly lacking from Chromecast — and it would be very easy to make media files stored on a computer accessible on your TV. What do you think? How does the idea of a low cost HDMI dongle complete with remote control sound to you? Are you in?