As you may already know, Apple has been promoting their AirPlay media-management ecosystem. This was initially known as AirTunes and worked with their AirPort Express plugin broadband router which can connect to speakers or a stereo amplifier for network music playback. Here, you had to use iTunes on your Macintosh (or PC) to play the audio files through this device. This function was gradually extended to iOS devices so you can then play this same media held on these devices in the same manner.
Apple have extended the concept to images and video through the use of Apple TV and licensed the AirPlay concept to other manufacturers that are approved by themselves. It has been recently demonstrated in the latest crop of iPhone TV commercials as a way of saying that “we know best”.
But there is another standard that is more “open-frame” than the Apple AirPlay system. This standard, called DLNA, has been adopted by a larger number of software and hardware manufacturers than AirPlay.
It is a standard that I have stood for because more of the industry is behind it with it working across equipment and software of different manufacture and has become a breeding ground for innovation. Here, I have seen the arrival of network-media playback equipment that works as part of the DLNA ecosystem appear at every market tier, including the premium-audio segment, with B&O offering a trendy stylish DLNA-capable network music system that puts the Sonos on notice for example. But my stance on this issue may be considered as being of concern to Apple or some of their fanbois who value the Apple-centric information-technology setup.
Equipment like the Sony CMT-MX750Ni music system or the Western Digital WDTV Live that I have previously reviewed can play media content that is “thrown to” it by software like TwonkyMobile on your tablet or smartphone. This is in a similar way that you would do with the AirPlay setup on an all-Apple system and is capable of being performed on an Android platform as well as the iOS platform.
An issue that is forgotten about in the Apple hype is that some third-party companies have written DLNA-compliant media-management software for the iOS devices and the Macintosh platform. Examples of this include PlugPlayer and recent iOS ports of TwonkyManager. As well, I known of a friend who is running NullRiver MediaLink on his iMac in order to use it as a media server for his Sony PS3 games console and he has had success with this setup.