Is Apple’s AirPlay a game changer?

Does Apple’s AirPlay have what it takes to revolutionize the consumer audio industry once again?

Well, lead iSuppli analyst Jordan Selburn believes that Airplay – which streams audio to third-party devices – is a definite game changer.

“AirPlay represents another effort by Apple to stake a leadership position in the burgeoning connected home market,” Selburn told TG Daily in an e-mailed statement.

“The technology leverages Apple’s dominant position in the MP3/PMP player market. With AirPlay, the iPad, iPod and iPhone can be the servers for a home filled with music – and music distribution via iTunes.”

According to Selburn, networked audio is quickly gaining momentum, with Internet Radio driving an “increasing demand” for music that can be accessed seamlessly around the home.

“However, the seamless part seems to be the major sticking point, this being the primary reason that home audio networks have not grown to the level that might be expected given the consumer’s insatiable appetite for music.

“[Now], addressing the seamless connection of audio is the area where AirPlay has the potential to be a truly disruptive force in the market – potentially turning it into a Top 10 consumer electronics segment with unit volumes perhaps even comparable to televisions.”

To illustrate his point, Selburn singled out the iPod as one example of Apple’s impressive ability to “work magic” in the hyper-competitive consumer electronics market.

“Why did the iPod make such a difference? The iPod’s simplicity and push-button interface to iTunes was doubtless the major factor, delivering a simple and compelling end-to-end solution and consumer experience. [And of course], people of all ages and technical skills could actually access their stored music on a handheld digital player.

“The home audio market could well be on the verge of a similar explosion if Apple does the same with wireless home audio networking as it did with the iPod. This time, the consumer will be transitioning from the docking station to the next phase: the networked audio client.

“[Clearly], the networked home audio market could [experience] a true crescendo when consumers don’t have to Google various error codes and reset firewalls in order to enjoy music libraries and Internet radio throughout the home.”