Apple Pulls Back the Curtain for One Company
Apple is famous, or infamous, for not working well with others. It would rather make its own digital music player than let iTunes play on a different device. Ping doesn't connect to Facebook. Flash won't play on iPads.
That just changed.
In what appears to be a first, Apple opened up iTunes software system to BridgeCo, a software company that embeds chips in stereo equipment which allow users to seamlessly stream music wirelessly from a mobile device.
BridgeCo worked with Apple on its new AirPlay, where anyone with an iPod, iPhone, or iPad will be able to walk around his or her home and wirelessly send music from iTunes to receivers made by Denon, iHome Audio, Marantz, JBL, and Bowers & Wilkens. Unlike past products which did something similar, this is not a third-party reverse engineering workaround which has to be reworked every time Apple has a software update.
This is a product created by a third party with Apple's blessing.
"Apple has never opened up their eco-system," says BridgeCo CEO Gene Sheridan. "We've always been knocking on the door to work with them on this."
The 10-year-old company has worked with Apple in the past on iPod docking products and, finally, a year ago, Sheridan says Apple chose BridgeCo to be a launch partner for AirPlay.
"They're not gonna create the world's stereo equipment," he says. Instead, Apple decided BridgeCo had the software and the well-known stereo equipment customers in place, and so Apple agreed to let Sheridan and his team get a look at the iTunes code. What was that like? "There is a magic to Apple that sounds simple," he says, clearly in awe. "They know how to take a complex and feature-rich technology and narrow it." How narrow? Sheridan said after getting a peek inside, BridgeCo provided Apple with a long list of what it could offer the company. "They picked three."
Sheridan says the stereo equipment which will carry the new BridgeCo software should start coming to market by the holidays, and it will allow iTunes users to mix and match their favorite equipment with a common software.
For BridgeCo, which still isn't profitable (but hopes to be so by the second half of next year), the impact of the Apple deal is immense. It should provide more than half the company's revenues, though, even without the Apple deal, Sheridan says the company's backlog "is at an all-time high." Still, with 120 million people owning some sort of Apple i-product, the opportunities are "intimidating", and Sheridan has spent a good part of the last year lining up suppliers to make sure there won't be any manufacturing glitches.
BridgeCo's about to hit the big time and its 55 employees don't want to blow it.
Update (9 Sept.): Sheridan has been bombarded with media calls since this blog first posted. He wants to clarify that while his firm was the first to get a peek inside Apple's "eco-system", there is a lot of proprietary information he did not see. In the end, "BridgeCo and Apple worked together to establish a set of API’s (a software protocol to communicate)," he says, so that their two platforms, together, could "implement the AirPlay technology."
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