Surprise: Microsoft just launched another Chromecast competitor

Microsoft really wants to give Windows Phone and Surface tablet users a way to share their screen with the TV: The company introduced a new Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter Tuesday that looks and works a bit like Chromecast, with some key differences. The launch comes just two weeks after Microsoft’s Nokia unit unveiled its own screen sharing adapter.

The [company]Microsoft[/company] Wireless Display Adapter is a HDMI dongle that looks a bit like an oversized thumb drive, just like Chromecast. And just like [company]Google[/company]’s streaming stick, it’s also powered via USB, with Microsoft apparently suggesting that users plug it directly into their TV’s generally under-utilized USB port.

However, there is one key difference between the two devices: Microsoft’s adapter is based on Miracast, which means that it is essentially mirroring the screen of a compatible desktop or mobile device. Chromecast, on the other hand, only uses mobile devices to control the playback, with media generally coming straight from the cloud — which makes it possible to turn off your phone or tablet once playback on the TV starts.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaWRJtn7zFc]

The other difference? Microsoft’s adapter costs more, with the company selling it for $60 through its own store as well as via [company]Best Buy[/company] starting in October. Chromecast is $35.

Microsoft’s [company]Nokia[/company] unit had announced a similar streaming adapter just two weeks ago, which also offered some NFC functionality to start mirroring the screen of supported devices as soon as users tapped a sensor. That device will sell for $79 in the U.S., but hasn’t made its way into the Microsoft store just yet.