By Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.
This is the year many people will make a decision that will inform their lives for years: How they intend to play music wirelessly in their homes. There are a number of reasons this is coming to a head in 2014.
Add another to the list: the AllPlay platform from Qualcomm. These apps, devices, and services will all be able to talk to each other, so that you’ll be able to use your phone or anything else that can run apps to stream music straight to your speakers.
AllPlay is not something that you, the music fan, will buy directly. Instead, it’s an audio module “designed for use by audio equipment and accessories manufacturers, cloud music services and app developers.” Basically, they embed the module (in the case of hardware) or special software (in the case of an app or service), allowing everything to talk to each other.
“Altec Lansing, iHeartRadio, Panasonic Corporation and Rhapsody have committed to the commercial release of AllPlay-powered products this year,” reads the announcement. Qualcomm hopes other companies will release AllPlay stuff too, obviously (and Panasonic has already said it will — see below). But even if they don’t, AllPlay is compatible with the open-source (what a great idea!) AllJoyn protocol, so developers and manufacturers can add compatibility that way.
The open-source AllJoyn framework sounds like a great idea, in part because Apple’s AirPlay and Google’s Chromecast are proprietary solutions. (This has enabled Apple to charge $4 per set of AirPlay-compatible speakers, and helps each one keep users in their ecosystem.) Qualcomm says it supports AllJoyn for reasons of “secure, universal interoperability among devices and apps in support of the ever-developing Internet of Everything,” which sounds better than some proprietary protocol. After all, would “The Internet of Internets” ever have taken off if Apple or Google controlled http and other basic protocols?
“Consumers don’t just buy one brand of audio equipment and in the past have had to swap components from various brands in and out of their stereo systems using wires and standard hardware connectors to achieve interoperability,” said Rob Chandhok, president of Qualcomm Interactive Platforms in a statement. ”But we live in a mobile and wireless world – AllPlay brings interoperability and freedom of component choice into the 21st century.”
“AllPlay allows us to bring the seamless whole home audio experience to the consumer mass market,” said added Panasonic vice president of consumer products Yukio Hirose. “This week at the Consumer Electronics Show, we will launch our first AllPlay-enabled products for consumers, and plan to unveil even more AllPlay-enabled products in the future.”
Okay, so, what about the sound quality? The module is beholden to your internet connection speed, which isn’t a problem for most of us anymore, as well as the codec and compression rate of whatever music service you’re using. After that, it’s all about how good the speakers are. So basically, there’s no reason that AllPlay devices can’t sound as good as any other digital source. Assuming enough developers and manufacturers get on board, music fans will now have an even wider range of choice for simple wireless music in the home.