AirPlay Pulled From Some Apps in Latest iOS 4.2 Beta

In a development that could result in a major limitation of Apple’s (s aapl) new AirPlay streaming tech, iOS 4.2 Beta 3, just released today, removes the AirPlay option from certain apps. Specifically, blog MacStories has found that it no longer appears in the built-in YouTube (s goog) app.

Visiting YouTube in Safari still presents the AirPlay icon, but that might be a temporary oversight, depending on the reasoning behind the new changes. In earlier betas, AirPlay originally seemed ready to allow any iPad that featured MP4 video to beam said video directly to Apple TV, though only audio was initially supported for testing purposes.

It’s possible that the reason behind AirPlay’s absence in the YouTube app in this beta is just a bug, or Apple is testing a means by which developers could choose to exclude their content from the service if they wish. But there’s also a third, more sinister and more probable explanation.

In an earlier article about the possible future of Apple TV, I speculated that AirPlay might provide a backdoor by which users could get unprotected content secured from less-than-legitimate sources streaming directly to their living room setup. It’s possible that content providers also took note of this possibility, and threatened Apple with legal action or a withdrawal of their media from the iTunes store unless stricter restrictions were put in place surrounding what can and can’t be streamed.

We’ll keep watching to see where this goes, but if Apple is limiting AirPlay access, it could have a serious impact on that feature’s usefulness, and by extension, on the success of the Apple TV.

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