Monday, September 10, 2007

How to Stream Itunes Plus Downloads to Xbox 360

The new iPod touch players look fantastic. So much so that I've become determined to make the switch to an Apple iPod.

Unfortunately, I use an Xbox 360 and a Roku Soundbridge to stream music throughout my house. The Soundbridge seems to have no problem streaming the "unprotected" Itunes plus tracks, but the Xbox 360 was a no-go.

Here is what I did to get it to work.

Microsoft's Zune software has the same media server abilities as Windows Media Player. However, unlike WMP it is also capable of streaming Apples AAC format as well as mp3's and WMA tracks. Plus, it streams video's and photos as well, which apparently is a requirement of Xbox 360's media streaming function.

I downloaded the Zune software onto my laptop and it automatically imported my Itunes plus AAC tracks into the library. I also downloaded the Xbox 360 update that enables AAC decoding. Its a free download in the games section of the Xbox Live Marketplace.

I disconnected my WMP streaming laptop from the "Computers" section of the system blade in the Xbox 360. Then I went to the Music section and selected "Computer." I was given the option to select a computer to stream from and I selected the "Zune" server.

Xbox 360 was able to see my Itunes plus track but it did not play it. However, it did play AAC music that was ripped from a CD into Itunes. This was progress.

Apparently, the "unprotected" Itunes plus track has some extra data that makes it unplayable in the Xbox 360. Not exactly DRM free. Hopefully Microsoft will address this and fix it in the future. In the meantime, there is a semi-painless workaround.

If you open Itunes and right click your Itunes plus track, you have an option to convert it to AAC. This will slightly downgrade the quality, but it will make the track playable on your Xbox 360. Unfortunately, it also makes an extra copy the track on your hard drive which eats up more space.

Not a perfect solution, but its good enough for me. I'm going to order an iPod touch now.