Apple has unveiled a new wireless-networking base station Airport Express that can be used with AirTunes music networking software to stream music from the Mac to a home hi-fi. Airport Express is the world's first 802.11g mobile base station that can be plugged directly into the wall for wireless Internet connections and USB printing, according to the company.
It features analogue and digital-audio outputs that can be connected to a stereo and AirTunes Music Networking software – which wirelessly streams music around the house to a stereo, powered analogue speakers, or digital 5.1 surround-sound systems. AirTunes works with iTunes and requires iTunes 4.6 – available as a free download later this week.
According to Apple, AirTunes works thus: "Once the remote speakers are selected, AirTunes wirelessly streams the iTunes music from the computer to the AirPort Express base station. AirTunes music is encoded to protect it from theft while streaming across the wireless music network and uses Apple's loss-less compression technology to insure no loss of sound quality."
Apple's CEO Steve Jobs said: "AirPort Express isn't just the world's first mobile 802.11g base station – with the addition of AirTunes users can now play their iTunes music on any stereo in their home – all without wires. This innovative Apple product will appeal to both notebook users who want wireless freedom in their hotel rooms and to music lovers who want to listen to their iTunes music library on a stereo located anywhere in their home."
AirPort Express provides a range of up to 150 feet, and multiple AirPort Express base stations can be bridged together to send music to extended areas. It is possible to share a single DSL or cable broadband account with up to 10 simultaneous users and a single USB printer with multiple users.
It weighs 6.7 ounces and doesn't require a power source, making it "truly portable", claims Apple. The unit is available from the Apple Store now, for both Mac and PC, and costs £99 including VAT.