Developer 'Reverse Engineers' Apple's AirPlay

By Tracey E. Schelmetic April 12, 2011

A developer has cracked Apple's private key for the AirPlay wireless audio streaming protocol, opening the door for computers and other devices to integrate with AirPlay in ways that were not previously possible, reports AppleInsider.

It will probably open the door to lots of lawsuits, too, but that's another story.

AirPlay, which allows for wireless streaming of audio, video and photos and related metadata between devices (and currently implemented only in proprietary Apple's products), was reportedly “reverse-engineered” by developer James Laird, who has published the information in an open-source emulator dubbed ShairPort. The tool, first discovered by MacRumors, can allow devices to receive AirPlay streaming content using Apple's native integrated capabilities in iTunes and iOS devices.

Laird took apart an AirPort Express and reverse engineered the AirPlay keys out of the device's read-only memory chip.

Audio streaming is possible through Apple's AirPort Express hardware, as well as the Apple TV. Previously, iTunes could stream to the official Apple AirPort express, and third-party tools like Rogue Amoeba's Airfoil, available for both Mac and Windows, could “hijack” audio and send it to an AirPort Express or Apple TV, says AppleInsider.

But now, with ShairPort, developers could allow a third-party device to accept a stream directly from iTunes, without the use of a tool like Airfoil. By utilizing the private AirPlay key, third-party software or hardware could be recognized by iTunes or an iOS device for direct streaming, without the need for additional software.

Apple does license its AirPlay standard to some third-party vendors like Denon, Bowers & Wikins, Marantz, JBL and iHome, who have created devices like portable stereos that can accept an AirPlay stream. But ShairPort could be used to accept and play a wireless stream on a Mac, PC, or other hardware like an Xbox 360 game console.

It's unlikely that the key would be used in any commercially sold hardware, as Apple licenses use of the AirPlay standard for a fee. But the publication of the private key could allow custom hacks and configurations for users to set up at home on a variety of devices.

Last month, a report claimed that Apple is looking into the possibility of licensing AirPlay video streaming for third-party devices like high-definition TVs. Currently, the licensing associated with AirPlay only allows audio to be streamed to third-party devices.


Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TechZone360. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Janice McDuffee

TechZone360 Contributor

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