Why Mountain Lion’s AirPlay Mirroring Is Hollywood’s Worst Nightmare

Why Mountain Lion’s AirPlay Mirroring Is Hollywood’s Worst Nightmare

One of the features that immediately caught my eye about Mountain Lion was AirPlay Mirroring. As I noted yesterday, this offers a powerful presentation tool for business users as well as a great classroom addition for teachers and trainers.

Of course, it’s also a great entertainment solution and one that has some dramatic advantages over AirPlay Mirroring on the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. Those advantages are likely to set the stage for a showdown between Apple and the entertainment industry.

Let’s start with the basics – AirPlay mirroring lets you send video and audio from your Mac to your HDTV wirelessly. In effect, it works like having a second display attached to you Mac and choosing to mirror your internal display rather add a second desktop. Anything that happens on your Mac happens on your TV.

That includes games, Keynote and PowerPoint presentations, and web pages – including web pages that show videos, most notably videos from network programs. Miss last night’s episode of The Big Bang Theory? Want to watch on your TV but not feeling so invested that you want to shell out the handful of cash to buy it via iTunes? No problem, fire up CBS.com, turn on AirPlay mirroring and watch the episode on your TV for free. The same approach will work any broadcaster’s website as well as with Hulu.

Yes, you’ll still see a couple of short ads, but you’re still watching it on your schedule and on your TV at no cost. No iTunes purchase, no monthly cable/satellite company charge for your DVR – it’s a cord cutter’s dream. And a network or cable executive’s nightmare – and that doesn’t even take into account that this will work with all manner of pirated streams as well.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that a device has let you browse the web (complete with Flash, if you must) on your TV. That was one of the hallmarks of Google TV that the search giant hyped almost two years ago. It was also easy for the entertainment industry including the major networks and Hulu to work around, however. All they had to do was use modify their sites to serve different content when the Google TV’s browser was detected in http requests – problem solved.

That strategy won’t work with Mountain Lion and the Apple TV. A browser request from a Mountain Lion Mac using AirPlay Mirroring will look exactly the same as a request from a Mac that isn’t. And it won’t matter what browser is running either. AirPlay Mirroring will work just fine with any browser (and any application, for that matter).

It’s unclear what, if anything, the entertainment industry can do to prevent AirPlay Mirroring as an entertainment solution. Blocking all Mountain Lion Macs is technically possible but would be a PR catastrophe. One option might be offering up their content to iTunes for a subscription service – something that Apple’s reportedly been making efforts to create for years. In return, Apple could put a solution in place to notify broadcaster websites when AirPlay Mirroring is enabled. Given the strained relationship Apple has had with Hollywood, it’s hard to say if the company would be willing to even entertain that notion, particularly AirPlay Mirroring from Mountain Lion is a long awaited killer app for the Apple TV.

  • Timothy Jensen

    Connecting a computer to TV is far from new…granted, it’s not wireless, but I do this with an HDMI cable all the time to watch Hulu and other sites on my TV

  • Dylin Moran

    I do not think this going to make much of a difference. People have been able to hook their Macs up to their TV for a while even if it was not wireless. Yes, the AirPlay will definitely be better though because a lot of the VGA cables don’t transmit the audio and you have to hook up another chord to hear sound but I still do not think it is going to make that much of a difference. 

  • John Day

    For those of us who aren’t as tech savvy as some, I think this is a game-changer.  To be able to easily do Amazon.com movies, or Hulu, through my Mac on my big TV will have a major impact on my entertainment options.  I’d buy Mountain Lion just for this feature!

  • mrweid

    but this airplay mirroring requires high-speed internet, no? it would go over your limit very fast if you don’t have unlimited plan, no?

  • ALi

    for me its da best part of new OS

  • Mike Rathjen

    No Internet required. Local wi-fi or ethernet network required.

  • kylereddoch

    I just can’t wait to try this out.

  • FriarNurgle

    Looking forward to this. It’ll save me from breaking out my $6 Thunderbot to HDMI adapter I got from Monoprice.

  • ursula

    OK. This sounds good. But I’m a bit behind on HDTV technology. Do I have to get a wireless adapter to make this airplay work? Thanks!

  • Dylin Moran

    You will have to get the Apple TV device, which runs at $99. It will be wireless, but for getting on the internet you will need internet access of some sort via a provider.

  • NeonHighways

    Ryan, tis is not a problem at all! Every way of mirroring on PCs, or other devices, even if with the help of an HDMI cable, could allow you to do this! i’ts not AirPlay or Apple’s fault! Now that you wrote this article, there is a serious chance that “Hollywood” or cable providers will seek apple to limit this mirroring function. Why just now? Well, because i’ts Apple and it deserves all the attention.

    Well, I hope I was clear. Thanks :)

  • John Howell

    OR YOU CAN CONNECT YOUR MAC TO YOUR TV THROUGH HDMI OR DISPLAYPORT/VGA.
    Airplay mirroring is just another option, but most wifi nets arnt going to be able to handle full 1080p HD. A putty, as it will go though 1GB ethernet just fine, as my media centres can attest to 8)

  • Joel Tague

    you only need internet access if you want to access the internet to mirror something from a website.  You can use airplay without internet if you have a wireless router.  You can connect your mac and apple tv to the same local LAN and use airplay.  However you will not be able to watch media from the web without an internet provider, obviously.

  • MacHead84

    Then its also APPLES own worst nightmare since they want people buying episodes from iTunes not streaming them from nbc.com…..

  • Rowanova

    If I am using Airplay to mirror video content onto my HDTV, could I drop that window into the tray, open a new tab, or window, and search on another website while using Airplay for the video content?

  • Srose428

    Hands down the best OS feature added in a while, although long over due.  Yes we can all get out our adapters and wire up our mac to the tv, but that is just so many wires and I have to move my power cord.  This feature is worth the price of the OS alone.

  • ??nD ??os??A

    No it uses WiFi. 

  • cannikin

    Just upgraded my Apple TV to the beta firmware on the Apple Developer Center and AirPlay works really, really well. I think people underestimate how amazing something like this. 

    “I’ve hooked up my PC to my TV before, what’s the big deal?” Well, you had to have a VGA or HDMI cable for the TV, a converter cable for your laptop, and you have no sound unless you make another connection (stereo phono plug or optical digital) to your TV or Stereo. Then you had to adjust your resolution so that it fit your TV. And chances were the cables you had didn’t reach to the couch so you had to leave your laptop by the TV and get up any time you had to do something (or download an app for your iPhone to get it to behave like a mouse).Now? You click on an icon in your menu bar. Done.

    Stuff like this, and even bigger picture stuff like iCloud, is completely overlooked by most media outlets…maybe it’s “too techy” to be interesting to the majority of consumers. But this is the kind of stuff we’re not supposed to have until “the future” but here it is! A couple years from now everyone will take these things for granted, but it’s a HUGE leap forward to getting all of your “stuff” to act like one unified system. When I tell my 4 year old son that when he was 2 I had to use cords to hook my computer up to my TV it’ll be like trying to describe how we listened to music on vinyl.

  • cannikin

    Just upgraded my Apple TV to the beta firmware on the Apple Developer Center and AirPlay works really, really well. I think people underestimate how amazing something like this. 

    “I’ve hooked up my PC to my TV before, what’s the big deal?” Well, you had to have a VGA or HDMI cable for the TV, a converter cable for your laptop, and you have no sound unless you make another connection (stereo phono plug or optical digital) to your TV or Stereo. Then you had to adjust your resolution so that it fit your TV. And chances were the cables you had didn’t reach to the couch so you had to leave your laptop by the TV and get up any time you had to do something (or download an app for your iPhone to get it to behave like a mouse).Now? You click on an icon in your menu bar. Done.

    Stuff like this, and even bigger picture stuff like iCloud, is completely overlooked by most media outlets…maybe it’s “too techy” to be interesting to the majority of consumers. But this is the kind of stuff we’re not supposed to have until “the future” but here it is! A couple years from now everyone will take these things for granted, but it’s a HUGE leap forward to getting all of your “stuff” to act like one unified system. When I tell my 4 year old son that when he was 2 I had to use cords to hook my computer up to my TV it’ll be like trying to describe how we listened to music on vinyl.

  • Scott

    The TV industry has made a very artificial division between what they offer online and what they offer through cable/satelite. This just forces them to stop being so schizophrenic. They’re going to have to start providing content over the internet eventually. This just pushes them to do it sooner.

    Nobody wants to get out of their chair to go hook the laptop up to the tv. Nobody wants to buy a computer to have connected to the tv permanently. Everybody would like to just send the picture to the tv when they happen to stumble on something everyone in the room wants to see. Tapes beat records, cd’s beat tapes, mp3’s beat cd’s, DVD beat VHS because they were all more convenient. Blueray isn’t beating dvd’s, audio-dvd didn’t beat cd’s because they are not more convenient – just higher quality, which isn’t enough.

    Airplay is way more convenient than hdmi cable.

  • MacGoo

    Why couldn’t they enable THIS as the Lion beta release, instead of Messages?! Adium was working splendidly, but there’s still no Airplay solution (that offers audio AND video) for desktop Macs. I’m off to pout about the unfairness of it all…

  • Larry Busch Jr.

    Well, you forgot about the resolution issue. These Hulu videos may look fine in their little box, but just blowing it up to full screen on my iMac seriously degrades picture quality. Now jumping it up to 50″ — no thanks. Welcome back to 1976 picture quality. Even Hulu Plus is only 720p.

  • Dulaney_Solar

    Awesome, can’t wait to try it out!

  • Adam Bentley

    no, it mirrors what is on the screen, not specific programs.

  • bag_of_kittens

    This will revolutionize television……….think about the television experience.  You get 2 remotes – 1 from the cable company, 1 from the manufacturer.  Both have way too many buttons.  Both are fixed to user interfaces that are horrible.  To the posters that think this isn’t a big deal (because they already have cables), the fact this is wireless is huge.  People don’t want to connect/disconnect their laptop to their TV every time, let alone get up from the couch to change the “channel” on the laptop.  This is a game-changer.  We stand in awe of Apple yet again.  

  • Ben Ragunton

    I’ve had a Mac Mini hooked up to my 54″ HDTV for some time now and use that quite frequently when I want to see something on the web. However I can see some definite advantages to having AirPlay for the sake of convenience.

  • AmmA Centre

    ah now people, come on will you! i am an absolute apple nut, my job is all about apple and i have the house full of apple products but i have never been one for hooking up my laptop via cable to the telly except on occasion. I want my laptop on my lap, my iPad close to hand and my iPhone in my pocket. Got an apple tv 3 weeks ago and airplay just blew me away but straight away i wanted it on my Mac. it is brilliant….keeping with the ethos of apple, its easy to use and seamless. Having spent a few weeks with it now I am starting to think that Airplay is what Steve Jobs spoke about when he said ‘we’ve finally cracked it’. The ability to browse share anything you watch on any of your devices with your tv with a click! Apple TV and Airplay finally shifts the focus back to the TV and the living room (when it suits)….

  • AmmA Centre

    as i just said in my post….i really think this might be what steve was referring to when he said ‘We’ve finally cracked it’. an approach to television that suits our digital lifestyles!

  • bag_of_kittens

     I haz a happy!!!!!!

    :D

  • CAD4MAC

    Hold on don’t I do this with my Mac mini already? Obviously not wirelessly but my tele is my screen, on demand TV has never been better

  • NathanHornby

    In which case it’s slighty worse than using a cable.

  • NathanHornby

    I have a long cable, laptop on lap.

    Also I like to browse whilst watching, which you can’t do with mirroring.

    Tbh I thought this would have been possible with Apple TV anyway.

  • Anonymous

    You realize Wi-Fi is still internet? 

  • Anonymous

    AirPlay just makes connecting Macs to TVs wireless as apposed to using an HDMI cable. No big deal for Hollywood…

  • ?? ?

    it can use intranet… local network

  • FrancisBaconthe3rd

    Wi-Fi is not internet. It is a Wireless LAN which is connected to the internet through your router connected to your modem. Airplay will work without internet access as long as the video you are trying to mirror is already loaded on your Mac.

  • Ignorant bully killer

    Ok — putting this article into context.  its not a nightmare and the powers at cable and the networks are plenty ready.  Anyone notice that comcast now has Xfinity and it is not a gimmick now?  all new digital TVs are going to be smart TVs and they will be  another App Platform and the goal is two eventually make the technology that either allows or dis allows various content access will be taken over by apps of various types.  Cable boxes will be around for some time but their importance if clearly on the way out.  really the hardware and the functionality will be swallowed into newer TV sets.  I just got a vizio Tv that is a smart TV and it has apps for streaming through net flix,  hulu or hulu plus,  google tv or with my apple TV plugged in, through iTunes and my purchased or rented music or videos.  Both TV and movies.  The transition that will be the last to go might be the one thing that will not go but will change will be the movie theatre experience.  with TVs that are out now that can currently do the same kind of 3D as a movie theatre at a price of 1100 dollars and it is a big screen.  for those with older TVs well they will simply get their TV smarts through their gaming console or through an add on box.  Or like me they will have multiple channels.  And while I am posting on the topic, An apple TV or an Apple CO-branded TV is definitely in the works.  and the idea of eventually replacing the functionality of small special purpose hardware devices with simple easy to update apps is already happening and will become obvious to all by the end of 2012.  I am sick and out of the game now but I have been in computers and media for 20 years now and I still follow the developments fairly avidly and I can assure you that there will be huge shift.  The big winners will be well established content brands that are currently seen as primarily or only internet networks.  Revision three comes to mind as an example but there will be a number of you tubers that will basically be in a similar spot as early TV entertainment proper rites were back when it was a new channel for content distribution.  I can actually remember when the mags talked about how no good movie actor would be caught dead on TV because the most prestigious plat form for the highest value content was only on the silver screen.  now we will have  the movies both at a reconstituted cinema experience,  the premium channels where they will have the same freedom and similar budgets as all but the most ground breaking block busters,  then basic cable and the legacy broadcast networks and then the internet shows that have made themselves cable broadcast ready.  I imagine that it might be possible that we might see the end of the last paper TV guide .  I can see it now — PBS antique road show 2050.  Oh wow! this is really a peace of pop culture history the 2020 final issue of the TV Guide. Truly a collectible for media history collectors.  it is worth likely 20 thousand dollars at auction! <grin>  assuming we do not bankrupt our dollars.  Anyway, I know I digressed there but I hope my comment was useful as I am pretty sure it is on point about the future. </grin>

  • welladriansays

    why is it a TV executives worst nightmare? – are they giving away the advertising that proceeds their streamed shows? – those who watch shows on line are almost certainly more likely to watch the ads – and the demographic for people who watch TV that way is going to be the type of crowd that advertisers are hoping to reach. – neither of those facts will have been lost on the advertising industry.

    devices like Tivo have also led advertisers to turn to product placement rather than stand alone commercials, in that scenario it is better for the advertiser and tv show producers that their shows are seen by as many people as possible no matter how that is achieved.

    i am sick to death of corporate whining. don’t imagine that the same tv producers who claim they need help from piracy aren’t showing the pirate bay download figures to potential advertisers when discussing product placement.

  • welladriansays

    why is it a TV executives worst nightmare? – are they giving away the advertising that proceeds their streamed shows? – those who watch shows on line are almost certainly more likely to watch the ads – and the demographic for people who watch TV that way is going to be the type of crowd that advertisers are hoping to reach. – neither of those facts will have been lost on the advertising industry.

    devices like Tivo have also led advertisers to turn to product placement rather than stand alone commercials, in that scenario it is better for the advertiser and tv show producers that their shows are seen by as many people as possible no matter how that is achieved.

    i am sick to death of corporate whining. don’t imagine that the same tv producers who claim they need help from piracy aren’t showing the pirate bay download figures to potential advertisers when discussing product placement.

  • bag_of_kittens

    You guys are all missing the point.  

    Apple will make the television viewing experience better.

    The software, UI of televisions combined with cable companies combined with the huge remote controls will be not be as seamless as iTunes/Mac/Airplay/iTV experience.  Once users start adopting the latter, instead of the former, Apple will dictate how the product is distributed, much like they did with music.

  • Justin Fuchs

    I hope it’s in the ‘somewhere in the future’ vision to include an “extended desktop” feature — or maybe just a choice of which virtual desktop you’d like to mirror.

  • Christopher Jr. Riley

    How do we know that Apple isn’t going to fix that; there’s been rumors about a 1080p Apple TV, and there getting stronger by the day.

  • Christopher Jr. Riley

    Very nice, and I completely agree with you. When the iPhone came out, people were saying that it won’t work because there’s no keyboard. Even Microsoft said that. 5 years later, the most popular non-iPhone smartphones DON’T have keyboards. Even most Windows Phones have no keyboard. Wow, the things that Apple changes. :)

  • Christopher Jr. Riley

    Yes, that may be true to have a long cable… but that’s the thing… the “cable”. The average consumer doesn’t truly want to use cables; they want “wireless freedom”. And besides, how do we know that Apple isn’t implementing AirPlay the same way that they implemented it on iOS, where when you steam a movie on your iPad for example, you can browse the web or do something else on your iPad, or simply turn the screen off and control it using your remote?

    But of course, people have different opinions, and I respect yours. I’m just stating my opinion.

  • billypuntove

    FACEPALM. Wi-Fi is not internet. Wi-Fi is a local connection between devices, which commonly include a router WHICH GIVES YOU INTERNET.

  • Bob B

    Good. The entertainment industry should be doing NOTHING to block this. Nothing at all. We (consumers) have HAD IT with the “entertainment industry” and ridiculous stuff like HDCP and DRM everywhere. Apple is actually helping us take content that we’re purchasing and letting us do with it what we please. Remember, earlier versions of iTunes let you share out your library over the internet – until the copyright heathens at the RIAA pitched a huge fit. 

    AirPlay Mirroring might be a nightmare for hollywood (why ARE they blocking Hulu on things like Boxee like they were anyway?!) but it’s great for us. Hollywood needs to shrivel up and die… and hopefully we can kick it in the face on its way into history. 

  • Jonathan Ober

    Not really a face palm…you do realize that macs can set up a wireless network to another devices, sans internet right?

  • billypuntove

    um.. not the point of the comment at all. While I’m aware of what you said, this is:
    His comment: wifi = internet
    My comment: wifi ? internet.

  • dale2000

    You’re right and were right before.  I’m not certain that’s given you the right to be a dick, however.  Not everyone has won an internet before.

  • dale2000

    Because it’s not a matter of it being broken.  Trying to send full HD video over wifi is like trying to empty a lake through a garden hose.  It’s not going to happen fast enough for you to watch a movie.

    Apple could try to compress the video more than it is right now, but the extent to which HD video can be compressed has been pretty exhaustively explored already.

  • dale2000

    “AirPlay Extending”

    I agree, hope it comes.

  • dale2000

    Yeah! You do! You run the cable around that green chair you kept from your old college flat! But remember that time Jennifer was over and she tripped on it, pulling your Mini off your beer fridge?? Ssshhiiittt!!! That was scary.

    Bottom line: I hate wires. 

    (PS: Sorry, I’m just having fun!)

  • billypuntove

    Completely agree. No need to be a dick on my part!

  • howling wolf

    What a pile of garbage this is. People have been tying there computers to the TV / projectors for at lease the last 10 years. Now that apple talks about mirroring from a mac they react as if it is something new. I find it hard to believe Hollywood is this dumb and reacting this way. Surely people in Hollywood have been doing the same thing. I think media like this is only to draw new attention to to macs next update. Window users do the same with widi. People have DVR put out by all the cable company’s and have been skipping ads for the last 6 years for sure. You can’t skip the ads when you do it from a pc. I am fairly certain they know that and advertisers are loving it. So while you may see that the content is free it really isn’t. I have to pay for internet, I have to supply a pc, I have to spend more time browsing the web for my media content (which also shows ads)I then have to tie up my 1000.00 dollars and up Mac just to watch tv….that is crazy. Why not just buy a 300.00 laptop and do that, or better yet use my old computer and strip everything from it except for plugin that may be required to play that stuff. Why not just by a DVR and watch when I want and skip all the ads. People really need to get a grip on their lives and say media is second or even third in their lives and family is first. 
    It’s like people that torrent. they spend thousands of dollars on home theatre only to waste time down loading and watching movies that got captured with a camcorder. Believe me some people do that.
     This user is fairly sure that his family members will be totally POed if I now tie up the pc to watch TV
    So for this user airplay mirroring from a mac is  SO WHAT.

  • Ifan Morgan

    er…my mac mini has been sitting happily downloading and playing programmes on my TV for the last 5 years……..airplay shmirplay

  • OlegForzane

    I don’t own a “Thunderbolt” -> HDMI adaptor, but normally HDMI carries both video and sound, no? It would be weird if adapter did not pass the audio… Not that I don’t agree with your arguments but you just left this part out.
    Anyhow, finally another step towards cordless future.

    About iCloud though… what is particularly futuristic about it, we had dropbox for quite a while now, Google Docs too… actually almost the whole google ecosystem is pretty much like iCloud.

    Having Photostream is nice but it is not a necessity.
    Syncing documents from iWork… well lets say its is not quite for everyone.
    [I really don’t really like the desktop interface of it, but that’s just me]
    The reading list that syncs across all iDevices is indeed amazing I have to say.

    What else is notable about it as of now?

  • Fanfoot

     Well, I can watch HD shows from Comcast (MPEG-2 around 15Mbps) streaming from one Tivo HD in my house to another via Wi-Fi and keep up most of the time.  Nothing special really.  The Tivo HD’s aren’t even particularly good at transferring files actually–the new generation models are much better.  And MPEG-2 is very inefficient, requiring almost twice the bandwidth of the h.264 codec Apple uses for the same quality.  So I’d say you’re incorrect actually.  I don’t see any reason a typical user won’t be able to stream 1080p content from their laptop via Wi-Fi.  Especially since most cable customers anyway will have their routers in the same room some 10-15 feet away from their laptops…

  • Fanfoot

    I still wonder if Apple didn’t provide a way for the studios to disable this.  You know that AirPlay mirroring on the iPad can be disabled by an application or web site right?  Are we sure that AirPlay on the Mac can’t?

  • rajington

    Developers can prevent AirPlay mirroring on OS X, similarly to how they can on iOS. Flash and Silverlight will undoubtedly release upgrades to their plugins that prevent mirroring if the site requests it, and Netflix/Hulu/HBO will probably force users to upgrade. The only question is when, enjoy it while you can.

    They charge you more for these features (or block it to force you to use their paid alternatives) because they can, end of story. Interestingly enough, if internet was more like cable “packages” (to the dismay of tons of net neutrality advocates) then things like this might be easier to enforce (assuming piracy didn’t increase a billionfold).

  • Glen Sutton

    I’m a little late to the conversation but I am anxious to try it out. I just installed Mountain Lion today and gonna pick up an AppleTV soon. I’ve been using my WDTV live plus box (not the newest version) for a while and it works really well at streaming MKV formatted TV shows and movies. However it does freeze up randomly and have to be rebooted.

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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