When the AirPort Express was released back in 2004, it represented Apple’s first steps in to the world of streaming content around the house. Many people who own an AirPort Express don’t think to use it for its ‘AirTunes’ capabilities, but every AirPort Express comes with a 3.5mm audio output port for connecting a sound system. With this in place, users can choose to output their music from iTunes to the AirPort Express, as opposed to the computer the music is being played from.
AirPlay is an extension of this system, allowing video and audio content from your Mac OS X or iOS 4.3 device to be played on Apple TVs or speakers around the house completely wirelessly on your local network. Let’s say you’ve set up a few AirPlay speakers around the house. You have your computer in the home office, with wireless speakers located in the bedroom, kitchen and living room. You can start listening to an album of music or a podcast on iTunes, and then hit the AirPlay button in the corner of the screen to bring up all of the speakers that are connected to your network.
You will be able to view all of the Apple TVs in your house, all of your AirPlay enabled speakers and even your regular speakers which you can hook up to an AirPort Express and still control through iTunes. Each of the options have independent volume controls, so you can choose to have some speakers quieter than others, which is a nice touch. Using this setup, you can choose to stream to any or all of your speakers around the house!
With an Apple TV connected to a television in the house, you can start watching a movie on an iPhone or iPad, and transfer if to the TV when you get home, or sit down in the living room. Simply tap on the AirPlay button next to the playback controls, and select where you want to send the movie to. Whilst it’s playing on the TV, you can open other applications, browse the web, do anything you want to do and the movie will continue to play on the big screen as well. This is one of the major features in iOS 4.3, and it’s great to see all of your devices talking to each other seamlessly.
Hopefully, more manufacturers will jump aboard the AirPlay ship in the future. There are already a number of speaker systems with AirPlay technology built in, such as the iHome iW1, Zeppelin Air and Denon RCD-N7, so you can expect more soon. Have you already started to set up your own AirPort system around the house? Let us know what you think in the comments!