Apple iPad, Day 17: The Wonder That Is AirPlay

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30 Days With the iPad: Day 17

My PC is not all business, so my examination of the iPad as a PC replacement shouldn't be all business. For today's installment of 30 Days With the iPad, I am going to take a quick look at using AirPlay.

Apps that have the AirPlay logo can "magically" stream content wirelessly to other devices.
What is AirPlay? I'll let Apple explain what it does: "All the great stuff on your iPad--your music, photos, and video--can now stream wirelessly to your HDTV and speakers via AirPlay-enabled speakers or Apple TV on a Wi-Fi network."

I have three movies on my iPad that I have purchased from iTunes--Michael Jackson's This Is It, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Star Trek. They all look splendid on the iPad 2, and with my Bluetooth speaker the sound quality is pretty good too. But, if I want to watch one of the movies with my family, sitting around the iPad is less than ideal.

Thankfully, the iPad has AirPlay and I have an Apple TV unit, so I can wirelessly stream the movie to the 42-inch LCD TV in the living room instead. Or, if I had an Apple TV unit connected to my stereo, I could just wirelessly stream music from my iPad to my speakers using AirPlay.

Watching a movie with the family is much easier using AirPlay than trying to watch on the iPad.
From a business or productivity perspective, though, AirPlay doesn't do much. In theory, I could connect an Apple TV unit to my monitor via HDMI, and then connect the iPad to the Apple TV using AirPlay, but it would have limited application because it only works with certain apps. It still wouldn't work with apps like Fuze Meeting, or Keynote.

What I'd really like to see Apple do is embed AirPlay at a more core level of iOS. Right now, it works from the apps that are designed to use it, but not everything. I'd like to be able to activate AirPlay from iOS rather than specific apps, and have everything I do beamed to the display--just like mirroring via HDMI, but over AirPlay.

Apple is already a step ahead of me there, though. When iOS 5 comes out this fall it will add the AirPlay mirroring feature. So, once iOS 5 arrives, I will be able to literally show anything from my iPad on my TV using AirPlay without regard for whether or not the app itself supports the feature. Once AirPlay Mirroring is available, I could conceivably replace the Apple Digital AV Adapter with an Apple TV unit so I can just connect to my monitor via AirPlay.

AirPlay could have much broader application if Apple and technology manufacturers get on the same page. I have Apple TV connected to one TV in my house, and it works quite well for streaming content from the iPad to my TV using AirPlay. I could get more Apple TV units, but I would prefer if home entertainment (television, stereo, etc.) manufacturers got on board and built AirPlay right into the devices in the first place.

Automobile manufacturers and third-party automobile stereo and video vendors should be lining up to license the AirPlay technology. Forget about bringing along a catalog of DVDs for the kids to watch on long road trips, or having to plug your iPhone or iPad into an auxiliary audio input--just AirPlay everything.

If the drop down display in my minivan could AirPlay movies from the iPad, or my stereo could AirPlay music from my iPhone that would be awesome. If I was in the market for a new vehicle, I would actively seek out any that support AirPlay.

I am a fan of AirPlay. It provides the iPad with unique capabilities my notebook lacks, and it has great potential. Hopefully, Apple will continue to expand how and where it is used, and hopefully more third-party vendors will license it and expand the possibilities for using AirPlay.

Read the last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With Ubuntu Linux

Day 16: Setting Up My iPad Workstation

Day 18: Connecting to a PC From the iPad

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