Most Apple users are likely already familiar with the AirPlay protocol. This lets you stream a variety of content from one Apple-compatible device to another, sending that data over a pre-existing network. But Apple, being what it is, would rather do this over a proprietary standard and that’s where AirPlay Direct seems to be coming into the picture, bypassing standard Wi-Fi altogether.
When you do your streaming over AirPlay, you’re usually doing it over your home Wi-Fi network. This is an open standard and you can end up with lo-fi sound cards or poor Wi-Fi connectivity. With AirPlay Direct, Apple would then have a new wireless standard that it would then license to hardware partners. Then, you can go ahead and stream content from your iPhone or MacBook, but you’d be doing it over a dedicated wireless network and not your home Wi-Fi.
Of course, what this means is that you’d end up buying all new equipment as far as transmitters and receivers go, but it does mean that Apple is able to better control the hi-fi wireless streaming experience, whether that involves music, movies, or whatever else. The name “AirPlay Direct” is already a registered trademark to some company in Georgia, but I’m sure with that Apple can spend some of that new $1 billion to buy them out of that.