Looking to capitalize on the emerging Media Center market, in June 2004 Apple announced the Airport Express featuring AirTunes.

The Airport Express is effectively an 802.11g router in the form factor of a typical A/C Adapter. Turning a broadband connection wireless is as simple as plugging the Airport Express into the wall and connecting your Ethernet (Cat5/5e/6) cable. It also acts as a bridge for existing Airport signals, extending the range of a standard Airport Extreme Base Station. Like the regular Base Station, it includes a USB port which you can plug a printer into for wireless shared printing.

What makes the Express unique, though, is its analog and optical audio-out functionality. By the wonders of iTunes and a new technology Apple has dubbed AirTunes, you can use the Express to stream music to your home hi-fi stereo via this connection. Through the magic of Apple's Rendezvous network service detection, all you need to do is plug the Express in and iTunes will make it immediately available for streaming. The music is transmitted by the magic of 802.11 via a lossless and encrypted codec, to keep both audiophiles and the RIAA happy.

The Airport Express retails for US$129 and is shipping as of this writing.

Device Specs:

  • Signal Range: 50 Feet (15.2 meters)
  • Router Features: NAT, DHCP, FTP, PPPoE, VPN Passthrough (IPSec, PPTP and L2TP), QuickTime Streaming, DNS Proxy, SNMP
  • Dimensions: 3.7 inches (94.01mm) x 2.95 inches (75.00mm) x 1.12 inches (28.5mm)
  • Weight: 6.7 ounces (189 grams)
  • Connectivity: USB, Audio, Ethernet