[AirPlay][Warning] Don't update to iOS8 if you want AirPlay
(2014-09-22, 05:10)Ned Scott Wrote: Apple doesn't license AirPlay to open source groups, because then anyone could see how to use AirPlay without paying for a license. So far Apple has only licensed audio AirPlay, but has not licensed the video parts of AirPlay to anyone.

It's very easy to hate on Apple for their failure to open up AirPlay, and from an end user and techy perspective it does frustrate me that they haven't done so, but let me offer some possible explanations from Apple's side of the fence.

1) Apple has traditionally always released new functionality in Mac OS and iOS using Private API's and only later converted them to public API's. Apple don't like to publicly release or document new API's until they're fully baked, because they don't want the burden of supporting immature API's or features years into the future. They'd rather wait until they think they've got it "right", then release it publicly.

I think they probably apply the same thinking to AirTunes and AirPlay video support at the network/protocol level. As you point out AirTunes has been licensed to hardware vendors (A/V receiver manufacturers etc) for a number of years now, although there is no official open documentation or official open source support, and it does rely on a not publicly disclosed (but now hacked and known) private key...

My feeling is that Apple don't yet think the Airplay video protocol has sufficiently matured, and therefore don't want the burden of supporting the network/protocol API with 3rd party vendors yet, hence Airplay video has not been licensed to anybody at all yet. As long as the Apple TV is the only device to act as an Airplay receiver Apple controls both the client and server end and are able push the Airplay protocol development forward rapidly (dropping support for older versions of the protocol along the way) until they're happy with it.

The fact that the protocol has changed so much with every major iOS release I think proves that it has not yet matured and stabilised. I believe that eventually Airplay video will be licensed to 3rd party hardware vendors once Apple feels like they can lock down the protocol - at that point they'll be stuck supporting that initial (3rd party capable) release far into the future - how many TV's or A/V receivers do you think will receive timely firmware updates to keep up with major iOS releases ? Not many I'd suspect. So Apple will have to have backward compatibility with that initial public version of the Airplay protocol for years and years even as they try to push the protocol forward...

Quote:It's very doubtful that Apple would sue people for cracking their encryption. Apple's smart enough to know when the genie is let out of the bottle, and they haven't sued anyone for AirPlay audio (AirTunes) being cracked a few years back. Nor have they sued anyone regarding AirPlay mirroring encryption being cracked (however, no open source AirPlay mirroring method currently exists).

2) DRM. Early versions of Airplay didn't require Encryption, but "rights holders" were unhappy about that. Apple provided "opt out" support in the iOS API's so that an app developer such as Netflix could set a flag to prevent their app being sent by Airplay at all. To this day there are still a few apps that simply don't allow Airplay use and it's always stupid rights related issues. Later on Apple added Encrypted Airplay support and now the API allowed apps to set a flag for "Encrypted Airplay only". A lot of apps that previously disallowed Airplay altogether now started to allow Encrypted Airplay.

You can tell which apps required Encrypted Airplay by connecting an HDMI-VGA adaptor to the output of an Apple TV and attempting to use it - many Apps will work, but as soon as you use an app that demands DRM support, (such as the Youtube app, regardless of whether the video you're playing is copyrighted) it will display a message saying HDCP support is not present...

You can blame Encryption requirements of Airplay (which look to be mandatory now on iOS 8) squarely on the video rights holders who more or less demand that Apple provide end to end DRM support, with Encrypted Airplay being part of that equation. If Apple don't provide it those vendors will simply stop their app from allowing Airplay at all.

For this reason I don't think you'll ever see an officially endorsed Unencrypted open source client or spec for Airplay - it would be like expecting Sony to make a Blu-Ray player that will play DRM'ed discs without requiring HDCP support over the HDMI connection - it's just not going to happen.

Technically it would be possible to allow an Unencrypted Airplay session for non-DRM content but I don't think it would make for a good user experience - as I discovered when trying a VGA adaptor on an Apple TV so many apps demand DRM protection that there's not a lot you can usefully do without it.
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RE: [AirPlay][Warning] Don't update to iOS8 if you want AirPlay - by DBMandrake - 2014-09-22, 10:40

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