One of the killer features of OS X Mountain Lion is AirPlay Mirroring. Just like on your iPad or iPhone, AirPlay Mirroring will allow you to beam video and sound from your Mountain Lion Mac to an Apple TV connected to your television set. The result? If you’re someone like me who watches a lot of video on his MacBook Air, you’ll never have to reach for that Thunderbolt-to-HDMI converter again.
There’s only one problem with AirPlay Mirroring in Mountain Lion: inexplicably, it doesn’t work on all Macs. In fact, unless you have an iMac, MacBook Air or MacMini from mid-2011, or a MacBook Pro from early 2011, you can’t get in on Mountain Lion’s streaming action.
Why? One theory is that it’s all about DRM.
If you think about what tech should be the bottleneck in your Mac when it comes to streaming video to an Apple TV, the most common-sense answer is WiFi speed: does your machine have a WiFi chip fast enough to stream video and audio data in real-time across the room? With Apple’s line of Macs, this isn’t really an issue: they’ve all had 802.11n capable WiFi chips since early 2007, which are the same WiFi chips inside the iPhone and iPad, which can all do AirPlay Mirroring. Mountain Lion requires an Intel Core 2 Duo processor to run, which Apple started putting into its Macs in late 2006, so there should only be a few legacy Macs that can run Mountain Lion but don’t have 802.11n WiFi chips.
If that’s the case, why is Apple limiting AirPlay Mirroring to Macs only a year or so old, instead of all Macs from the last five years? Blog Fairer Platform has a theory, and it’s an interesting one:
My best guess is that these Macs ship with Intel chips containing the latest and greatest version of Intel Insider, which allows streamed DRM encrypted Hollywood content to play — just guessing…
This makes a lot of sense. Intel Insider technology first debuted in early 2011 in Intel’s latest and greatest Sandy Bridge chipsets… right around the time the MacBook Pro got one.
As for what Intel Insider does, it basically makes it a lot more difficult to rip off digital copies of streaming 1080p content coming from major Hollywood studios. Hollywood’s not worried about iOS, because except for jailbroken devices, the platform’s locked down. The same can’t be said about the Mac.
If true, this has got to be infuriating to Mac owners who arbitrarily don’t have an AirPlay-compatible Mac. As is often the case, AirPlay Mirroring on Mac is just another example of how DRM usually only inconveniences legitimate customers, while pirates, as always, figure out a way around the safeguard.
Are you not going to be able to use AirPlay Mirroring for Mac because of Intel Insider technology? Let us know what you think in the comments.