I’ve been a fan of Apple’s Airplay technology for a very long time. Not that I’ve personally used it much at all. I do not have an Apple TV, and I have not upgraded the OS on my iPhone to take advantage of it fully. Honestly, so far, the extent of my use is pushing music to the church’s house sound system. So, while I am a huge fan of the technology I am not a big user. However, many of the ministry leaders are using it much better than I am. So why am I, a big fan, a non-user? Let’s talk about that after the break.
A fan, but not a user.
I think the technology has enormous potential – but a huge flaw (in my humble opinion). That flaw is a glaring one: it’s not ubiquitous across devices. Sure, it’s all over Apple devices – the one’s that are upgraded or of the proper generation to use it. But what about other devices? While we can push content to the Apple TV, that device does not sit well within our device universe at the church. We are, however, using Mac Minis that drive our graphics. Unfortunately, even Mac Minis are not natively capable of being a target for pushed content. I say natively, because you can buy a third-party app for Mac OS X that will let the Mac Mini look like an Apple TV to supported devices, but it is a ‘cludgy,’ and unreliable hack. Half of the times that one of the youth sponsors tries to use it, it works fine – the other half of the time it takes a distracting amount of effort to get it working.
Open it up, baby!
Watching this technology at work – even with the issues – makes it clear to me that the future looks a lot like Airplay, but it can never be Airplay. Apple is intent on making it a proprietary technology – one more thing that makes Apple devices more attractive. However, in a non-homogenous world, this cannot be the solution. The real solution is a simple idea: someone needs to come up with an open-source alternative that works across platforms. Now, I am not suggesting that it is a simple solution to implement – just a simple idea. Surely someone can devise a protocol and API that will allow any device to push content to any other device. Surely someone can come up with a solution that is simple enough to “just work” – on any device.
Google to the rescue!
I know I am going to get flack from a certain segment of my readership for welcoming Google’s recent interest in developing an Open-Source Airplay-like alternative. These folks will call Google a copy-cat and will even try to suggest Google isn’t good enough to make it work as good as Apple has. Well, put your fan-boy hat away, and put on your big-boy britches: Apple’s implementation isn’t all that great, and those of you who have used it to any real degree know this even if you won’t admit it. I’m not saying Apple is incapable, but they just haven’t delivered the goods. Seriously, why does it have to be a third-party hack to get mediocre Airplay to a Mac?
But Google’s track record isn’t perfect!
I’m not suggesting that Google will do it perfectly either. But, if the promised “open” approach is realized, the technology will become better because more bright minds will have the ability to contribute. With an “open” approach, people who love other platforms will do what it takes to make the technology a reality on their beloved platform. Then guess what happens? The technology becomes ubiquitous.