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Apple Offers Mobile AirPort Express, Fills In Music Serving Gap With AirTunes

Apple Offers Mobile AirPort Express, Fills In Music Serving Gap With AirTunes

by , 3:00 PM EDT, June 7th, 2004

Apple has introduced its newest cross-platform product, AirPort Express, along with new software called AirTunes that fills a gap in its music software product line. AirPort Express is a mobile 802.11g mobile base station that is designed to be small enough to travel. In addition, it works with a new iTunes arm called AirTunes. AirTunes allows users to wirelessly stream music to their stereo or any powered speakers. Apple's press release:

Apple today unveiled AirPort Express, the world's first 802.11g mobile base station that can be plugged directly into the wall for wireless Internet connections and USB printing, or thrown into a laptop bag to bring wireless freedom to hotel rooms with broadband connections. Airport Express also features analog and digital audio outputs that can be connected to a stereo and AirTunes music networking software which works seamlessly with iTunes, giving users a simple and inexpensive way to wirelessly stream iTunes music on their Mac or PC to any room in the house. AirPort Express features a single piece ultra-compact design weighing just 6.7 ounces, and will be available to Mac and PC users starting in July for just $129.

AirPort Express features an incredibly compact design with no power brick required, providing maximum portability so it can easily be taken on the road for wireless broadband access in hotel rooms. The AirPort Express mobile base station also includes a built-in combination digital and analog audio connector allowing users to connect AirPort Express to a home stereo, powered analog speakers or the latest digital 5.1 surround sound systems.

AirTunes is Apple's breakthrough music networking technology which works seamlessly with iTunes running on either Macs or PCs to let users easily create a wireless music network in their home. iTunes 4.6 automatically detects remote speakers and displays them in a simple pop-up list for the user to select. Once the remote speakers are selected, AirTunes wirelessly streams the iTunes music from the computer to the AirPort Express base station. AirTunes music is encoded to protect it from theft while streaming across the wireless music network and uses Apple's lossless compression technology to insure no loss of sound quality. AirPort Express provides a range of up to 150 feet, and multiple AirPort Express base stations can be bridged together to send music to extended areas.

AirPort Express offers both Mac and PC users the ability to share a single DSL or cable broadband account with up to 10 simultaneous users and a single USB printer with multiple users. With its advanced security features, AirPort Express safeguards data on networked computers with support for WiFi Protected Access (WPA), 128-bit encryption and a built-in firewall.

AirPort Express can be ordered immediately from the Apple Store, and Apple says it should be shipping in mid July. During the order process, the Apple Store also offered the estimated availability as mid-July.

AirPort Express is priced at US$129. Not mentioned in the press release is the "AirPort Express Stereo Connection Kit," a Monster-branded set of cables for using the analog-out capabilities of the product. The AirPort Express Stereo Connection Kit is priced at US$39.

Apple says that AirTunes requires iTunes 4.6, which "is expected to be available later this week as a free download."

You can find more information about AirPort Express and AirTunes at Apple's Web site.

The Mac Observer Spin:

We love both products. Having a mobile AirPort base station for US$129 is terrific, and we love that it doesn't require YAPB (Yet Another Power Brick), but what really gets us excited is the music-serving aspects of AirPort Express and AirTunes. With these two products, Apple has effectively made every Mac a "Media Center" PC, at least when it comes to music, and that is significant.

Microsoft has attempted to tackle the problem of digital media management with a dedicated PC, while Apple has steadily added media management capabilities to any Mac. This product in particular makes even more sense, as it makes it easy for you to play your music from your Mac through your stereo without having to make any changes to where and how you use your Mac. That's a far cry from a dedicated computer to do that for you.

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