The best thing about AirPlay is that it just works. It takes about two taps to send audio from an iPhone to an Apple TV or other supported device. The downside to AirPlay is that Apple owns it exclusively, and accessory makers have to pay a licensing fee to use it in their products. That means customers pay more for an average AirPlay-capable speaker vs. a Bluetooth box.
DoubleTwist, a small developer team behind some gorgeous Mac and Android apps, has an open source alternative to AirPlay called MagicPlay.
MagicPlay has been described as the “Open Source AirPlay” and enables anyone to enjoy synchronized playback of music without investing in expensive proprietary systems such as Sonos or AirPlay-compatible speakers. And since it’s open source you can run it on any platform, from Google TV to Raspberry Pi and you’ll see cheaper wi-fi speakers coming to market in the coming months.
Competition is always a good thing, and while MagicPlay only handles the audio aspect of streaming (AirPlay can do things like screen mirroring as well), it still looks like a great alternative for hardware and software makers.
The Verge was given a demo of MagicPlay in action:
In a brief demo shown to The Verge, the service worked as advertised — the wireless speaker immediately showed up within the app once it was connected to the network and it took just one button press to send music to it. Audio quality was noticeably better than Bluetooth, and there was no perceptible lag when changing tracks on the smartphone.
As The Verge notes, the success of MagicPlay will depend entirely on if other companies adopt the technology. Hopefully there’s room for both AirPlay and DoubleTwist’s offering. Those who go with MagicPlay won’t have to be approved by Apple, which is a plus. The source code for MagicPlay has been made available online.