Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off today in San Francisco with Steve Jobs and Phil Schiller on the main stage introducing OS X 10.7 Lion. The new operating system will include features like a “Resume” capability that allows users to resume applications as they left them, a revised Mail application, full-screen apps, and multi-touch capability for MacBooks and desktop users with a Magic Trackpad. But none of these developments is as exciting as the prospect of AirDrop.
The AirDrop application is a peer-to-peer file sharing system that allows two users on the same wi-fi network to easily exchange files. All you do is look at your AirDrop folder for other users on the network and then just drag the file onto that user’s name. The user is prompted to accept the file, and after doing so, it is immediately placed in his or her Downloads folder.
While the geniuses at Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) probably considered AirDrop as an easier alternative to CD-Rs and jump drives as a means of sharing files, it has the potential to make pirating music easier than ever. iTunes music can already be authorized for up to 5 different computers, and it’s by no means uncommon practice for users to share their music libraries with friends by transferring files and then authorizing a friend’s computer to play songs purchased through iTunes. But in the past, the process has been a bit tedious, to say the least. E-mailing large music files is a very slow process, and CD-Rs and jump drives can only hold a limited amount of data. But AirDrop takes all the work out the process — all one does is drag and drop.
AirDrop is likely to be especially popular on college campuses where hundreds or even thousands of peers are all on the same Wi-Fi network at the same time, able to easily exchange music files, thereby avoiding “illegal” file sharing via sites like MediaFire and BitTorrent, as well as the steep 99 cents to $1.29 per song charged on iTunes that would make the average college student’s music library worth an easy $2,000 or more. Of course, we’ll have to wait to see if AirDrop has any restrictions, but given that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has a long-standing precedent for iTunes file sharing on up to 5 authorized computers, it is unlikely AirDrop will somehow circumvent that. Furthermore, the sharing of song files already downloaded illegally from the internet will be virtually unlimited and nearly impossible to trace.