This is what the future of TV should be: people should just think of TV's the way they think of their jamboxes: a higher fidelity dumb pipe for their existing content. If Apple turned the Apple TV into an HDMI dongle that solely included AirPlay and included it for free with every iPad and iPhone they sold, it would truly disrupt TV. If I knew for a fact that every new iDevice owner was necessarily and AppleTV owner, I would immediately start making AppleTV-enabled experiences. Overnight the iPad would become a real competitor to game consoles as well.
It just seems so obvious that this is the right way to go. The apps should live on the brain (your device), and the TV should just be an auxiliary screen, nothing more (We certainly don't need YET ANOTHER SDK for writing TV apps). Here's a fun exercise: go to your local Apple Store and ask them what an Apple TV is for today. Then watch them fumble around mentioning "oh if you have Netflix" and "isn't cable hard to use" and just the sheer lack of vision for the product. If it was just AirPlay it would be as easy to explain as an iPod speaker. If they did this, then you could also imagine indie people shipping TV Shows as apps as a viable model for the first time, completely skirting Cable networks.
Chromecast seems to be a method for driving-devices to send pointers to internet video streams or web pages, for the dongle to queue, download and then send to the display. The apps/content don't live on the mobile device at all. They live on remote internet servers. The device is just feeding a queue.
I'd also add a wrinkle to your statement about devices being awesome as typing/searching interfaces: that's true, but they come with negatives.
The real problem with "device as brains", is that your device does many other jobs. And you may not want those jobs in-your-face when you're watching a movie, or showing pictures, or even just trying to add background-music to a dinner party.
Devices are more difficult to deal with when you just want to pause something, the notifications are there, the temptations are there and the social negatives are there .
But while everyone's tossing out Airplay wish-lists -- it'd be nice if I could airplay a movie to my TV but have the audio still piped to the headphones.
 You may be trying to switch playlists, but to everyone else it looks for all the world like texting.
(its what runs the Chromebooks. http://www.google.com/chromeos )
Will it work with Windows 8.1 which has Miracast support?
I hope they work with standards instead of creating proprietary and incompatible protocols.
Also, if your assertions are correct, please update the Wikipedia page, which states that "At present time, Miracast Source is mainly active on Android platforms." which seems to conflict with "only ... Balmer worshipers".
According to AvsForum news: "streams it directly to the Chromecast device from the cloud". So you are right about it being somewhat different from airPlay, but it clearly intends to be seamless, and not have a queue / download cycle, but stream it just as it would to your browser.
It also says "including Youtube, Netflix, and Google Play, Vudu, Hulu... anything that plays in a Chrome browser" which sounds a little different from "a method for driving-devices to send pointers to internet video streams". The latter seems to imply programming changes on the provider's part, whereas the former clearly does not. (I don't actually know which is true, just pointing out the differences).
AirPlay will send a URL to the Apple TV if possible. If you're streaming a video from a web page, it most likely will just send the URL to the Apple TV. The only communication with the device is the control channel.
And 'download' was to make explicit the chromecast is downloading the content from the internet itself; it's not taking a videostream from the device as in the Airplay/"device-as-brains" scenario.
I'm not sure there's any difference between the phrasings in your second paragraph. I certainly didn't intend to imply anything different.
However, Netflix etc. work fine over wi-fi, because they're downloading and buffering the compressed stream itself, and then feeding that via the HDMI port to the TV.
Chromecast appears to be able to download the queued content over wi-fi, and then transmit via HDMI, which is a much more reliable way to go, given the state of wi-fi.
That said, I don't know what's going on with your Airplay's music streaming, but the bitrate of music is far below Netflix's. It shouldn't matter much though, I stream my desktop in nearly lagless 1080p to my MBP via Splashtop. The compression isn't really that bad.
According to this review it won't be useful for the Google Chromecast:
"Internally, the hardware supports 2.4GHz Wi-Fi 802.11, which isn't quite as nice as the dual-band Wi-Fi offered on Roku's Streaming Stick."
But it's not the bitrate that matters so much -- it'll work perfect for 20 minutes, and then completely fail for 2, then come back perfectly again.
I think the issue with my wireless is I'm in the middle of Manhattan and there are 40 wi-fi networks I can see, so it's already a little tricky. But whenever I turn on my microwave, transmission completely drops. So it's basically anytime I or any neighbor in five directions turns on their microwave.
5ghz channel sounds like a great idea, unfortunately I can't figure out from any manuals or docs whether my Zeppelin Air supports 5ghz or not -- the official specifications and manual just say "supports Wi-Fi". [Edit: Googling forums suggests it only supports "g", not "n". So, no dice. Oh well.]
I don't think that is the typical experience.
Now if that device habitually drops the connections, or doesn't support video, it's a problem with the device, not the technology.
Apple distributes a free app which lets you type and control the Apple TV from your iPhone or iPod.
1. The app is terrible. It takes forever to connect and the remote is harder to use than the real remote (swipe up to simulate pressing up, ugh). Typing on the phone is also frustrating when the realtime search results show up on the TV, it should all just be on the phone!
2. The remote app shows how Apple completely misses the point: the remote app is designed to be secondary to the TV. You're still looking at the TV while fiddling with the phone. The experience should be completely on your phone. There's no need for a movie app on the AppleTV, just go to the iTunes Store on your iPad, hit rent, and then have it notice there's an Apple TV on the network and ask to play it there. That way I'm quickly swiping through movies and looking at content through a gesture mechanism people actually like (touch) vs one people hate (TV).
But the people sitting with you also get to see the search results come up, and together you can decide what previews to watch, etc. This is how it works in my household, and wouldn't work as well if the phone was where all the UI action is, with the TV solely a dumb display.
It seems like it should be possible to have a box act as a web server proxy where it mirrors a web page to several displays.
It would be pretty slick if you could get a simple http proxy to support screen mirroring like this, because then it wouldn't matter what combination of set top box / phone / tablet you have... you could mirror anything.
Set your iPad's output to AirPlay on your Apple TV and do that. AirPlay itself requires zero interaction with an on-TV interface.
And you can use the Remote app to directly access your iTunes libraries and select & play content without using the TV interface.
You're also missing the fact that the AppleTV is a shared device. It doesn't need locking/protection, and can host content for everybody, instead of each person having their own apps and media (and multiple netflix/itunes accounts).
Is this true? Everyone I know with a smartphone -- everyone -- uses a password.
I have been putting this into practice over the last 4 months with an Apple TV, various iPhones and iPads, and VLC Streamer / Netflix.
I find that I still prefer browsing Netflix with the Apple TV remote using the Apple TV Netflix app. I don't know why. I think it's because the remote is tiny, and doesn't require me to look at it to use it. My thumb naturally finds the bumps and grooves and navigates the Apple TV UI.
I'm becoming convinced that as cool as using a phone or tablet to control my TV is, it's not actually what I will gravitate towards. And is in the end, harder in most cases than using a simple remote.
I could not disagree more. I understand your point, and on an intellectual level, completely agree with it. However, I never used HBO Go until it showed up on my Apple TV. I have a Mac mini hooked up to my TV, but routinely use Netflix on the Apple TV. I would kill for a Plex app for the Apple TV, even though I have it running on the Mac mini, and have it set up to use a remote. I can't explain it, it just feels better.
I would totally buy this and hack it instead.