iPad Presenting 05: What is AirPlay?

Created: Monday, December 26, 2011, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 4:00 am



In 2004, Apple introduced what was then a revolutionary technology that let you play music from iTunes on your Mac or Windows PC on speakers that could have been in the next room or anywhere else within your network. This technology was called AirTunes, and the speakers you wanted to play the music over had to be connected to an AirPort Express or Apple TV device. Yes, we are talking about the first generation Apple TVs here.

AirPlay is a natural evolution of AirTunes as it moves beyond sound to encompass video as well. It is only now with the launch of newer iPads and iPhones — and also with the new features in iOS 5 that AirPlay provides ample solutions for you to present your entire presentation. Essentially, if you want to present from your iPad 2 (or even an iPad 1), this is what you need:

  1. An iOS device such as the iPad 2 or iPhone 4S — older iPad 1 and iPhone 4 devices have partial support for all features you need to present well, and we shall explore these shortcomings in a future post.
  2. An Apple TV 2 device, updated to the latest firmware. The current firmware is 4.4.4.
  3. A TV or projector connected to your Apple TV 2. It is easy to connect to most TVs these days with an HDMI cable. Many new projectors have HDMI input options. Alternatively, you can use an HDMI to DVI converter if you have a projector with DVI input — but that will lose sound. Again sound may not be a huge priority if you are showing slides without multimedia.

That’s all you need to have in place — and frankly Apple TV 2 is even smaller than an iPad — so, that does not hamper your portability. It is a good idea to ensure though that the venue where you will present has projectors equipped with HDMI inputs. If the projector at the venue you will present has been suspended from the ceiling or has been fitted somewhere else, then you may only get a VGA cable to attach your Apple TV 2 to — and that will not work well for you to provide a professional and predictable presentation.

Everything we discussed so far in this post was relevant only to presenting with an iPad, and not necessarily for other AirPlay scenarios. The rest of this post will look at these other scenarios — feel free to ignore this section if this is not something you want to explore.

AirPlay lets you transmit data such as audio and video content wirelessly from:

  • iTunes running on your Mac or Windows PC.
  • An iOS 5 device such as an iPad 1 or iPhone 4. Both these devices only work with the Music, Video, and Photos apps — and sometimes you get only the visual content without audio — AirPlay support for the iPad 1 or iPhone 4 is a little flaky.
  • An iOS5 device such as an iPad2 or iPhone 4S — both allow full mirroring of what you see on your device.

Using AirPlay, you can send these audio and video signals to an AirPlay receiving device, such as:

  • A TV or projector connected to an Apple TV 2 device.
  • An AirPlay compatible receiver — as of now, Apple has only licensed AirPlay receiving technology to audio devices such as speakers.
  • A Bluetooth capable audio receiver, even if it has no AirPlay support — Apple seems to have combined the Bluetooth output support for its iOS devices (iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone) under the AirPlay umbrella.

More info on AirPlay can be found on Apple’s website — look at these pages that discuss the iPad’s Airplay features and how you can control AirPlay output from within iTunes.

In addition, Wikipedia’s AirPlay page provides a historical look at this technology along with some discussions about AirPlay alternatives.

See Also:
iPad Presenting 01 – First Questions First
iPad Presenting 02 – Presenter’s View in PowerPoint: Conversation with Rikk Flohr
iPad Presenting 03 – Air Display: Conversation with Dave Howell
iPad Presenting 04 – Add an Apple TV

Categories: ipad, keynote, powerpoint

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1 Comment

  • I don't know what AirPlay is as well. But I can say it sounds like a lot of fun!

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since November 02, 2000