How AirPlay and iTunes could enable the 'post-PC' office

IT usually rolls its eyes at Apple's media technology -- but it could be a powerful tool in the enterprise, with some tweaks

My favorite IT guy loves to sneer about iTunes when we talk about iPhones. He dislikes that it's the tool for users to back up and otherwise manage their iOS devices -- namely, iPhones and iPads. And I often hear complaints about users wanting to install iTunes when talking to CIOs and other IT pros; they seem concerned about people wasting time listening to music at the office (not that they need iTunes to do that!).

But iTunes could become a great enabling technology for IT, and so could Apple's latest consumer technology: AirPlay. Let me explain how and lay out the case for working with iTunes today in the corporate context.

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What it would take to have an AirPlay-enabled business
Think about the possibilities: Today, AirPlay creates wireless connections between iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) and peripherals (TVs, speakers, and Macs' screens) for the streaming of content. Apple also has technology in iOS 4.2 for the iPad and iPhone that let apps display their screens onto monitors and projectors, plus the AirPrint facility to print over Wi-Fi to compatible printers.

Imagine if AirPlay subsumed all of these, so you could stream media, apps' screens, and the iOS device's own screen, as well as print files to any compatible device on the network. In a business context, iPad-, iPod Touch-, and iPhone-equipped users could wirelessly mirror or display to a monitor (no longer requiring a physical cable, as is the case today), as well as print to a local printer. Toss in iOS devices' Bluetooth keyboard connectivity (augmented with mouse support) and the use of network file-sharing tools such as Box.net, Dropbox, and ShareFile, and you have a great setup for "post-PC" mobile workers within your offices.

Yes, Apple would need to make the routing functionality of the 2010-model Apple TV media portal or to an AirPort Extreme wireless router as a network box it sells and/or by licensing the technology to networking providers. That's not unreasonable; Apple already licenses AirPlay to wireless speaker makers, so they can directly receive streamed audio from iOS devices without an Apple TV or (for music only) an AirPort Extreme wireless router.

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