Well, all the rumors about an Apple TV “TV,” rather than just the set-top box we already know, turned out to be false. New Macs? Sure. Bigger, better iOS? You betcha! What it didn't do though was announce a new Apple TV set or even an Apple TV software development kit (SDK) at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Darn it! But, what they did announce was something that many Internet TV users might find just as nifty: AirPlay Mirroring.
AirPlay, as most of you know, is an Apple technology that's been around since 2010. With iOS 4.03 or higher Apple devices you could stream video, audio, and pictures to AirPlay-compatible equipment. For video, that pretty much meant you could stream your iTunes video library via an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to second-generation Apple TVs. AirPlay is great for playing your iTunes music collection throughout your house with Airport Express networked devices connected to my stereo equipment. I use it that way every day myself. But, while that's nice, I was already streaming my video straight to my Apple TVs from my iTunes library, so AirPlay really didn't matter much to my home video network. AirPlay Mirroring changes that.
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Now, with AirPlay Mirroring, and the not quite here next version of Mac OS X, Mountain Lion, I'll be able to use 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi to “mirror” whatever I'm watching on my Mac to my TV. I like this plan.
One of the great annoyances for me of watching Internet TV on my HDTV is that unless I want to hook up my computer with an HDMI cable straight to the television, there's no easy way to get what I'm watching on my computer onto my TV screen. With AirPlay Mirroring, and a second- or third-generation Apple TV, I can now easily put my Mac display on my TV. That's a bigger deal than you might think. There's a lot of Internet TV content, like Hulu shows that aren't available on Hulu Plus, that conventional media extenders like Roku can't deliver. With AirPlay Mirroring, you'll be able to watch at least some of them.
You can already give AirPlay Mirroring a try without Mountain Lion, iPhone 4S or iPad 2, and later, while iOS 5 and later can aleady "mirror" their displays to Apple TVs with the latest update.
In addition, with Game Center on Mountain Lion you'll be able to play games with other Mac, iPhone and iPad users using AirPlay Mirroring on your Apple TV-equipped television. I'm not that much of a gamer, but I think this is cool and I like that I'll be able to do it without adding yet another piece of hardware to my television.
So, is it as spiffy as an Apple TV “TV?” Well, no. But, you know what? AirPlay is certainly going to be a lot more affordable and it might be even more useful.