A week before the iTunes Music Store is rumoured to be launching in Europe, Apple launch an equally significant little device – Airport Express, with Airtunes. It’s basically a device for creating portable wireless networks via plugging into power sockets, acting as a ‘wireless bridge’ to extend your wireless network – and super-smartly, enabling speakers to be plugged into it direct, via the aforementioned Airtunes.
This subtly revolutionises the Apple offering, properly beginning to weave your Mac’s information spaces into the other devices around the home. This places your Powerbook at the epicentre an audio network tying together the numerous speakers around the average home – first time this has really been done easily, and a massive step forward. I know from work at the BBC that there are on average 6 or 7 radios per household in the UK – there will be a fair number of speakers kicking around too. You could now (with a bit of investment) play your digital music collection through any of them. As this nicely explanatory Macweek article notes, "this is a first step for Apple in getting iTunes music into another part of your life — in this case, into places where there are no computers or iPods."
Apple explain thusly:
"You’ve put together an extensive digital music collection in iTunes, arranged it into clever playlists to suit your every mood. Now you want to enjoy it in your living room on your home stereo, not just in the den, where your computer sits. Enter AirPort Express with AirTunes. AirPort Express works with iTunes to make listening to your iTunes music library through your home stereo or powered speakers not only a possibility but a snap. Whether your stereo or powered speakers are located in your living room, bedroom or basement, just plug it or them into the audio port on the AirPort Express Base Station using an audio cable. iTunes automatically detects the connection. When you open iTunes on your AirPort-equipped Mac or Wi-Fi-compliant PC, you’ll see a popup list at the bottom right of the iTunes window showing your remote speakers. Select it, click play …"
This is v smart indeed – and getting exactly at the heart of what I was alluding to in a previous post about extending wireless to the ‘wireless’ – about how difficult that last 50cm into the hifi seemed to be. Apple have just made the connected home (from an audio point-of-view) a whole lot easier.
Now the requirement for that little iProjector I dreamt up last time is perhaps even more timely (though it has to be wifi powered now 😉
Also, Apple surely need to bring out a remote control for all this sooner or later? I know there’s a remote for the iPod kicking around, but by usefully putting the Powerbook at arm’s length, the controls are too (a little less usefully, although Party Shuffle could avoid any surprises). In fact, perhaps a little wi-fi connected device which had a nice big play/pause button, a prev/next button, and with a little LCD screen (with mini projector!) too. The iPod controls without the hard disk but with wireless/bluetooth? Don’t think you can rest on your laurels, Apple …
Apple: Airport Express
[via a very excited Tom Coates – cheers!]
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