One of the first thoughts I had when Apple announced AirPlay Mirroring as a feature in Mountain Lion was that it would make an excellent mobile presentation tool and one that would be far easier to bring to business meetings, trade shows, or client-site training events than hauling a projector. With just a MacBook Air and Apple TV, you can plug into any HDTV, display, or projector that supports HDMI and be ready to go. That’s a great combination for any business traveler.
If Apple does announce AirPlay Direct, a new version of AirPlay that doesn’t require a Wi-Fi network, the company will have made the lives of business travelers, trainers, and educators even easier. It will probably also make network administrators in both business and education a bit happier as well.
For business presentations, trainings, and even classroom use (K-12 or high education), the Apple TV is a great solution. It can be installed with HDTV sets in a conference room or classroom permanently or temporarily. The Apple TV’s minimal size and cabling needs mean that’s an ultra-portable device for connecting to HDMI-enabled TVs, displays, or projectors in any office or education setting you might find yourself in – this inexpensive gadget even delivers access to legacy presentation systems that can’t handle HDMI.
Mountain Lion on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro and an Apple TV are a great solution because the MacBook can create its own Wi-Fi network if needed – one which the Apple TV can join. AirPlay Direct would simplify that setup process even further if it supports Apple’s portable and desktop Mac models, which seems like a pretty reasonable assumption. Just power the devices on one the Apple TV is attached to whatever display system you’ll be using.
AirPlay Direct can even minimize the hardware and setup needs further. Load a presentation onto your iPhone (or your iPad). Plug in and power on the Apple TV, launch the iOS version of Apple’s Keynote or an alternative mobile Office-type suite like Office2 or QuickOffice, and you’re ready to go. Sync some videos to your iPhone or look them up on the fly using YouTube and you can go even further than doing a static presentation. That’s only the beginning depending – iOS apps can deliver even more value for specific presentation or instructional needs.
AirPlay Direct could even make offices or schools that already have dedicated Apple TV installations more user and IT-friendly. With a direct connection, neither device relies on a Wi-Fi network. That means Apple TVs don’t even have to be on the network at all to be valuable tools. Apple TV setup and administration is simplified to almost nothing – just name the device, set a password to limit use to authorized staff, and IT’s work is done.
AirPlay Direct might even resolve some of the problems that Apple devices are causing on college campuses. As we reported earlier this summer, a group of higher education IT professionals has petitioned Apple to modify AirPlay (as well as AirPrint and Bonjour) so that Apple TVs – or other AirPlay devices – and the iOS devices or Macs connecting to them don’t overload Wi-Fi networks. AirPlay Direct could certainly improve those situations as well as the related concern that users could start accessing the wrong devices because they’re all connected to a single network. AirPlay devices could be allowed in dorm rooms, and be used, but be barred from connecting to a college Wi-Fi network.