What is AirPlay?
The Apple iOS/OS feature AirPlay allows users to stream video, audio and pictures from one device to another wirelessly, anywhere on the same network. Apple tweaked the existing AirTunes protocol in 2010 to include video and pictures in addition to audio, coinciding with the renaming of AirTunes to AirPlay. Apple has since begun licensing AirPlay to 3rd party manufacturers, increasing the number of AirPlay options in the marketplace. This development is in addition to unlicensed development by folks like the XBMC Dev Team and others. All of this means AirPlay is a must have in your media distribution tool-kit.
How does it work?
The Apple protocol, AirPlay, consist of two components. A Media Pitcher and a Media Catcher. The Media Pitcher prepares the media for transmission and sets up the stream. The Media Catcher receives and presents the media to the connected device. The two devices work together to stream and present media across a network, wired or wirelessly. So, that football game your streaming on your iPad can be beamed to your TV using AirPlay.
The list of partners Apple has formal integration with is healthy, including top brands like Denon, Marantz, B&W and JBL to name a few. While others work is less formal arrangements to research and reverse engineer the inner workings of the AirPlay protocol. All of this developer and manufacturer attention means the market is recognized and the technology is here to stay. This is good news for those of us that enjoy beaming our content all over the house using a mis-match of hardware.
AirPlay and Xbox
Xbox’s running XBox Media Center (XBMC) have long been an integral tool in the “cord cutter’s” arsenal. XBMC is a cross platform entertainment media hub, similar to Plex Media Server. This media hub dynamically indexes and presents a rich visual interface that allows users to browse all of their media using a remote control for interaction. XBMC makes streaming our content across networks simple and beautiful. Now with version 11 of XBMC, AirPlay is integrated and takes “in home media distribution” to a new level! This current release allows your Xbox running XBMC to act as a Video Catcher, playing streams it receives wirelessly from your AirPlay device! While the support is not complete, and a work in progress, the current implementation is stable and supports video, music and images on most all platforms, including Android!
The Future of XBMC and AirPlay
Who know’s what the future holds for AirPlay and Xbox. What I know is that wireless transfer of media in-home is here to stay. Apple recently included AirPlay in their OS and iOS updates. The XBMC Dev team is actively meeting to strategize future releases. Given the activity on both sides, Apple and XBMC, I’m expecting solid progress and additional integration.
Tell us about your experience with Xbox, XBMC and AirPlay in the comment section below.