While there have been other audio streaming services around for year, such as Bluetooth, when Apple launched their AirPlay streaming service it brought new life into wireless audio and its associated products. What AirPlay did for the industry was to bring a very simplistic and user friendly service that delivered a higher quality stream compared to Bluetooth. The main limitations of course to AirPlay adoption is licensing cost for manufacturers, and its a iOS service. That is why makers of some great Android apps, DoubleTwist, have teamed up with Qualcomm to create MagicPlay, an open source, no license fee, alternative to AirPlay.
They are hoping that MagicPlay will become a serious alternative to AirPlay by providing the source code for free, allowing other app developers and accessory manufacturers to implement it for free, hopefully resulting in wireless audio products that are both more affordable as well as matching AirPlay in streaming quality.
MagicPlay is offering up a user experience that is very similar to AirPlay, with compatible devices connected to the same wireless network automatically becoming available for streaming. It is the same one-touch simplicity that has made AirPlay so popular. Should you have more than one compatible speaker you can also stream to multiple devices, just like with AirPlay.
At the moment MagicPlay is being launched as an audio streaming alternative to AirPlay, meaning it will not have the video streaming and screen sharing capabilities of AirPlay. On the positive side, a demo given to TheVerge, seems to confirm that the MagicPlay service works as advertised, and with a audio stream quality superior to Bluetooth. So if DoubleTwist can get developers and manufacturers to implement it at the same cost as current Bluetooth systems, it could see some traction.
DoubleTwist have already implemented MagicPlay in their own popular Android music player app, and with the code being made openly available, we will hopefully soon see other apps implement it as well. As for supported audio devices, it looks like Q1 2014 will be the earliest we can see speakers with MagicPlay integration.
It looks like a good start, but I believe that for the service to really take off they need to add more functionality, including a way to stream between devices outside of the shared WiFi network, something similar to AirPlay Direct. There is also the fact that other heavyweights, such as Google, is reportedly working on their own open alternatives to AirPlay. We could see a situation where there is all of a sudden too many different technologies in the market, and in a direct competition with Google, I would not put my money on DoubleTwist.