Evidence in Android 4.4.1 indicates that screen mirroring is coming to Chromecast.
Late last week, Google began rolling out Android 4.4.1 "KitKat" to the Nexus 5 and other Nexus devices. Google said on Thursday that the update improves the camera on the Nexus 5 with faster focusing, especially in low light. The camera is also improved with faster white balancing for truer colors, less shutter lag, and the ability to pinch-zoom the viewfinder in HDR+ mode.
"HDR+ lets you to take great shots in challenging environments, say where there's a large contrast of bright and dark portions of the scene and also in low light situations. When you press the shutter button, instead of taking just one picture, we take a burst of shots in about 1/3 of a second, and apply computational photography to intelligently fuse images together," the Nexus Google+ page states.
However, Cynaogen Inc.'s Koushik Dutta also discovered in the changelog something that points to the ability to send an entire screen to Chromecast, AKA "screen mirroring." One bit of code lists "Capture_Secure_Video_Output" and a second bit reads "Capture_Video_Output." This presumably allows an Android device to mirror its screen on an HDTV without the need for a wired HDMI connection. The code reveals that this feature is only used by Google and OEMs; use by third-party applications is not allowed.
For the uninitiated, Chromecast is Google's popular key-shaped media streamer that plugs directly into an HDMI port. The device connects to the owner's Google account, and will play videos and music from the cloud. As an example, owners can load up Pandora on their Android smartphone, pick a station, then hit the little rectangle "wireless screen" icon at the bottom right. This tells Chromecast to pull up the same station, and allows the owner to freely use the smartphone once the stream begins.
Google's little gadget has become so popular that TIME magazine ranked it as #1 in its Top 10 Gadgets of 2013. The company didn't take the same Google TV path by trying to make a TV-focused operating system, but chose to keep it simple and allow current gadgets like tablets and smartphones to control what's displayed on the HDTV.
"This thumb-sized gizmo does one thing, does it as simply as possible and does it for the impulse-purchase price of $35," writes TIME. "Plug it into one of your TV's HDMI ports, and you can fling videos and other content from your laptop, tablet or phone to the big screen, no wires involved. Lots of companies have built devices to do this; Chromecast is the first one that gets it right."
Currently, Chromecast supports HBO GO, Pandora, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Google Play TV & Movies, Google Play Music, YouTube, and whatever is displayed in the Chrome browser after a special extension is installed. Screen mirroring would presumably arrive in the form of a small app that users would tap to turn screen mirroring off and on. This could make cable-free document editing possible on large screens.