AirPlay Direct Rumoured

29 August 2012

The Telegraph:

Sources familiar with the iPhone-maker’s plans said that Apple wants to improve the AirPlay wireless music streaming technology, which currently requires Airplay speakers and a WiFi network. The new version will require just speakers or a hifi and an iDevice; the iPhone, iPod or iPad would form its own network to allow a direct connection and music playback.

My instant reaction to this was “what’s the point?”. Speakers live at home, as do WiFi networks. However, with a bit of help from Jordan Golson, my opinion has reversed.

The current implementation requires both devices to be connected to WiFi networks. On the iOS device, this is okay. But, on speaker systems, entering WiFi passwords is a user experience nightmare. AirPlay Direct removes this requirement, eliminating the speaker from the setup process entirely, which is a direct improvement to users.

Moreover, it makes AirPlay much more appealing to mainstream consumer accessory manufacturers1, who would no longer need to include complicated remotes or touch-screens in order to facilitate the connection experience to support AirPlay. They can just concentrate on making a great speaker (with WiFi antennae hidden inside).

Therefore, I take back my original comment. AirPlay Direct is an important step in making audio AirPlay equipment as ubiquitous as iPod docks.

1 As of today, AirPlay streaming is mostly limited to home theatre systems for this reason, like this one, which are very expensive. Normal accessory makers don’t want to mess around creating UI’s for WiFi connectivity. This has limited AirPlay adoption.