10 Comments

Summary:

Since the second-generation Apple TV was released, people have been wondering if and when apps would arrive on the device. But Apple hasn’t opened up the Apple TV to third-party developers; or it hadn’t before it unveiled iOS 5 this past Monday.

airplay-mirror-feature

Since the second-generation Apple TV was released back in September of last year, people have wondered if and when apps would arrive on the device. After all, it runs on iOS software, so the underpinnings of app support are already present. But Apple hasn’t opened up the Apple TV to third-party developers; or at least it hadn’t before it unveiled iOS 5 on Monday.

iOS 5 doesn’t bring native support for apps on the Apple TV, but it does introduce AirPlay Mirroring for the iPad 2. Mirroring is a feature that was introduced alongside the iPad 2. It allowed users to display exactly what was on their tablet on an external display, too, using the Digital AV Adapter Apple released that provides an HDMI connection for video and audio out. When it was announced, I said the mirroring ability was the iPad 2’s killer feature. That’s even more true now that Apple has promised to make the technology wireless.

I’ve had a chance to go hands-on with AirPlay Mirroring, and it works as advertised. Once you select your Apple TV as an output source in the multitasking menu bar, everything you do on your iPad will be transmitted to your Apple TV–connected display. Even in this early beta form, it works remarkably well, with very little lag time and without any interruptions in the connection during my test. It does seem to be fairly taxing on the iPad’s battery, but by no means to such an extent that it affects the usefulness of the experience.

It does require that users have both an iPad 2 and an Apple TV in order to work, however. The cost of the Digital AV Adapter from Apple’s retail store is $39, but the Apple TV is itself only $99. That’s still just shy of $100, and even basic wireless video transmitters that don’t provide any additional functionality start at around $80.

Note also that while the home screen and most apps display in the 4:3 aspect ratio of the iPad 2’s screen (or in 3:4 when viewing in portrait orientation), full-screen video outputted to the AirPlay-connected TV automatically adjusts to fill the screen if it is formatted for widescreen. Developers can also specifically tell their apps to adjust to a widescreen aspect ratio, as Firemint has done with Real Racing 2 HD, which it has announced will support HD wireless output in iOS 5.

iCloud may be hogging the tech press spotlight, but AirPlay is Apple’s big play in the living room, and it’s one of the most significant and potentially disruptive new technologies the company has introduced in a long time. iOS 4.3 brought third-party developers access to AirPlay video streaming, a major step in attracting consumer attention to the tech. Now, with AirPlay mirroring, Apple will completely change the way users and the market think about its Apple TV relaunch. With the help of Apple TV, the iPad 2, and future Apple mobile devices that support it, AirPlay Mirroring could become the Google TV that actually works for consumers, and one that users can easily take with them.

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  1. “It does require that users have both an iPad 2 and an Apple TV in order to work”

    Do this mean that the oroginal iPad wont be able to do mirroring?

  2. Now as an owner of the latest Mac Mini with HDMI which is connected to my HDTV, all this AirPlay hoopla is leaving me feeling left out. Why should I have to buy an Apple TV? Of all Macs, the Mini really should have AirPlay support.

    Also, isn’t the Apple TV still limited to 720p while the new adapter outputs 1080p?

    1. Torrent airsever. Got it the other day and it works brilliantly with my MacBook.

  3. Rajesh Raheja Friday, June 10, 2011

    I was really hoping iOS 5 would free Apple TV from the crutch of having to use the iPad. Even with an iPad, having native apps is a far better experience for the whole family to use. Not to mention many sites block Airplay e.g. Crackle. Granted mirroring would help, but its still a half baked solution for home entertainment.

    1. But if it’s system wide … I’m hoping that regardless of being able to choose Apple TV from the video player itself. It sounds like it just shows whatever is on the iPad. I’m hoping this will work with Hulu Plus as well and hoping apps/sites can’t block it (as noted in my comment below).

      1. It seems mirroring would happen in 4:3 aspect ratio but movies would play in native resolution. That may imply that mirroring would show the native content on screen, but video would use current Airplay behavior in which the Apple TV would act as a big remote. While that is good for video quality, apps that disable Airplay (such as as Crackle) may still not work even with mirroring!

        On the plus side, I hope that iSwifter works, so that instead of playing a limited Hulu Plus, it will play Hulu.com.

        Still, as evident from all the hacks/workarounds to get TV content that boxes like Roku allow without needing another $500 tablet, the lack of native apps on Apple TV is very un-Apple from a user experience.

  4. Will Hulu Plus block mirroring? Or can an app do that? Hulu Plus on my Apple TV would be nice.

  5. I don’t get how this is a killer feature.
    I have a current Apple TV. I have an original iPad.

    When gaming or using the iPad, I have to look at it to see what I’m doing.
    I’m looking at the iPad, not the TV.

    Looking at the TV while touching the iPad would be the same issue as using a Wacom tablet and stylus: you’re not looking at the device that is being used for input, it’s hard and confusing. You can’t coordinate your input to the display unless you look at the iPad, and then it defeats the purpose.

    I’m sincerely curious how this video mirroring is being compared to Google TV. AppleTV would be like GoogleTV if it had a browser, and you didn’t need an iPad 2. Period.

    The only value I see here is maybe doing presentations in a group setting, reviewing photos with a family, similar things to what a projector does.

    What am I missing?

  6. Did you all notice how you can also attach a keyboard to Apple TV via Bluetooth? The plot thickens….

  7. Does anyone know how AirPlay is implemented? Presumably it’s not simply sending the screen pixels over the air as a video stream. Is the Apple TV acting as an emulator and running the iOS apps locally whilst receiving only the control information over the air?

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