AirPlay Apps Add New Value to Locally-Stored Video Libraries

AirPlay-enabled apps are beginning to trickle out ahead of iOS 4.3’s imminent launch, which will be on Friday, March 11 at the latest (if not today). Tuesday morning, Air Video, which lets you stream video from your computer to any iOS (s aapl) device remotely, got AirPlay support, making it incredibly easy to keep your entire personal movie collection with you at all times. The only downside of Air Video is it only works if your collection is stored locally on your own Mac. If you depend on subscription services to scratch your video itch, you may find yourself left out of the party.

Air Video isn’t the only remote video streaming app to get AirPlay support. StreamToMe also recently updated its app to include AirPlay support for iOS 4.3 users. I prefer Air Video because it can function both as a streaming and remote conversion tool, as it is creating a second, streaming-optimized  file which can be automatically added to your iTunes library for later use. StreamToMe offers other great features, however, like music and photo streaming from your iTunes and iPhoto libraries. You can’t stream movies bought in iTunes using either thanks to DRM measures, but there are ways around that for the truly dedicated.

Whichever you choose, you get video streaming over Wi-Fi and 3G to your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, even when you’re outside your home network (with the help of a simple companion application on the computer where your media is housed). And with iOS 4.3, you can stream that stream (stay with me here) from your device directly to a screen or projector connected to an Apple TV.

Other iOS video apps haven’t been so quick to embrace the new functionality. As Janko noted after Apple’s press event last week:

[I]f you’re looking to get additional TV content on your television via AirPlay, you’ll be disappointed. Hulu’s iPad app won’t support AirPlay for the time being, and Comcast (s cmcsa) and HBO (s twx) also are on the fence. Netflix (s nflx), which is usually keen on supporting as many platforms as possible, isn’t interested in AirPlay — and don’t hold your breath for AirPlay becoming part of the ABC (s dis) app.

That list isn’t likely to get any shorter as the launch proceeds. For many of these subscription streaming apps, the question of whether or not to support AirPlay becomes a thorny legal one that involves licensing and specific platform rights. In many cases, neither rights-holders nor licensees may yet even have a good idea of what they can and can’t do regarding AirPlay.

That could be just how Apple wants it. Despite persistent rumblings that Apple wants to get into the streaming game (and its first steps in that direction with the latest all-streaming Apple TV revision), the company still does the bulk of its media sales business by selling individual, locally-stored files to users. AirPlay reinvigorates this older model of content distribution in the face of the looming shift towards more cloud-based solutions.

It’s good news, too, for users who are uncomfortable with that shift and prefer truly owning (rather than merely leasing) content. Air Video and StreamToMe are ideal solutions for users with extensive physical media libraries who’ve taken the time to back up that content in digital formats. The hesitation of video streaming services to embrace the new tech is also a great reminder why local libraries are still relevant: Every new platform and technology requires new, exhaustive licensing negotiations and agreements.

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