Developer James Laird took apart an AirPort express, dumped the ROM and reverse engineered the AirPlay private key from the device. The key lets third-party hardware accept an AirPlay media stream from iTunes or an iOS device. Currently, Apple licenses this streaming technology to companies such as Denon, JBL and iHome who use this standard to produce portable stereos and speakers. The release of this private key potentially allows other developers hack third-party hardware like the Xbox 360, a PC or another Mac computer to accept an AirPlay-compatible stream.
Baird wrapped up this private key in an open-source emulator called ShairPort and released the utility to the public. Other developers could use this tool to send a media stream to select third-party hardware without the need for intermediary software or hardware. A commenter on Hacker news sums up the purpose of this tool with this simple outline:
Previously you could do this:
- iTunes — stream to –> Apple Airport Express
- 3rd party software — stream to –> Apple Airport Express
Now you can do this:
- iTunes — stream to –> 3rd party software/hardware
This private key and the ShairPort tool will be of little use to commercial companies as they would be better off to follow the official route and license the technology directly from Apple. Hackers, though, could expand upon this discovery and bring unofficial AirPlay streaming to a variety of third-party hardware.