updated 05:55 pm EDT, Fri June 24, 2011
AirPlay, Thunderbolt may add 100 to device prices
Both AirPlay and Thunderbolt may be prohibitively expensive for a large number of device makers for either to become mainstream in the near future, sources rumored Friday. AirPlay wireless audio streaming allegedly adds as much as $100 to the price of an audio system since it involves more than just introducing Wi-Fi. Costs were getting lower, iLounge heard, but even Philips' Fidelio system costs $230.
Thunderbolt was already known to be expensive and is currently limited to very fast external storage. The price of the necessary hardware for a port is now said to be as much as a low-end hard drive and doesn't make sense for low-capacity storage. The price would rule out any integration with iOS devices, although that was already unlikely given Intel's current aversion to supporting ARM-based devices.
The AirPort costs are partly supported by our own experiences. Sonos' current solution to AirPlay is to use an AirPort Express router in an ad-hoc solution. Some of that may have been cast into doubt by Apple's own Apple TV, where AirPlay was added through software and the $99 price covers the full device.
Apple might not be in any immediate rush to lower the price but does have potential competition in the long term. Google's Android@Home should eventually give Android hardware AirPlay-like ability if and when accessory makers adapt to the platform.