In all the excitement of the iPhone 4S launch, with iCloud and the new iOS 5 operating system, Apple quietly introduced a game-changing feature that would be very welcome to almost all mobile TV fans.
Previously, the iPad could send a video to an Apple TV unit using AirPlay, the built-in iOS feature that allows users to stream content from an iPad to an Apple TV. It worked great, although it was somewhat limited. It only worked with a limited number of apps, such as the YouTube app, but it was pretty amazing to sit back and run the show with a mobile device.
The next step was when Apple introduced an HDMI cable for iPad 2. Now you could connect your HDTV and your iPad and show pretty much anything, even cooler.
This past week, Apple stepped it up again to allow AirPlay to now show anything on your iPad on an Apple TV, wirelessly. Think about it: Now over Wi-Fi you can show anything on your iPad to a whole room of viewers. The mobile TV experience can now go broader with just a click.
In testing this week, I can say that it works well. You can play mobile videos, demo apps, show presentations and much more. Even some games are being built for the new technology, such as Firemint’s Real Racing 2 HD. The racing game has an interface on the iPad for controls while it shows the actual race up on the screen. The fact that an app can now be designed with two screens opens up a world of possibilities.
But the bigger possibility is the social aspect of mobile TV that iOS now offers. Mobile TV has up until now been a pretty singular and solitary experience. But this new technology really opens the door up to allowing spontaneous engagement for a larger group, from at home in the living room to at the office in the conference room. And the fact that the limitations on content are gone makes it all the more sweeter. Again, previously you could only run certain apps to put mobile video over the air; now, any website, any app, any screen at anytime can shoot right to your big screen.
This also opens up the door to interactivity and creativity. There are already virtual whiteboard apps coming out for iPad, so collaboration can take place in the spur of the moment. Also, since the iPad has a robust set of creative tools available, such as iMovie for iPad, creative artists can work on graphics or videos on mobile and then shoot them off to the big screen for the world to see.
It will be interesting to see how this new technology progresses. It may in fact sell a lot more Apple TVs. But the bigger picture may be that mobile goes social, or rather, more social. So often we are passing around our tablets or phones, so everyone can take a peek at what we want to share. But now as long as we are near the right equipment, and chances are we will be, it’s as easy as clicking an icon to share with the whole room.
One of the first things my wife and I did once we installed iOS 5 on our iPads was pull up the new Facebook app for iPad. We went through the past few years of uploaded images on our Facebook accounts. It was cool swiping and displaying a slideshow of our lives on our big screen. Quality was great, and everything happened in real-time. Mobile became a shared experience, and having more of that mixed into our technology can only be a good thing.