Apple Airplay 2 and Bose SoundTouch...what lies ahead
When will bose support Apple Airplay 2 on Bose SoundTouch products, and which products will be supported?
Bose has stated the following:
1) SoundTouch Products that have Bluetooth capability are the ones that will be supported.
2) Apple AirPlay 2 will be supported sometime in 2019.
3) It is undecided whether current SoundTouch products will be compatible with the new Bose Home line of products, but if they are upgradable, then the SoundTouch app will not be used, the new Bose Music app is used with the new Bose Home products and will be used with SoundTouch products if they become compatible.
Based upon this information, I think the following is very possibly the situation:
1) Support for Apple Airplay 2 may come through an add-on module that translates AirPlay 2 into Bluetooth to the SoundTouch. I reach this supposition because of the Bose statement that the products to support SoundTouch will require Bluetooth. This is admittedly speculation, but Bose has never said that the support of Apple Airplay 2 will be free. And, a single Airplay 2 module connected via Bluetooth would mostly operate transparently to users. Plus, see point #2, below:
2) The Bose SoundTouch software architecture appears to be exhausted and is no longer easily adapted to adding more types of speakers or to adding more functionality such as Apple AirPlay 2. Alexa capability was added to SoundTouch products through an external module. The fact is that software updates to SoundTouch are few and far between, with minimal functionality enhancements. SoundTouch appears to be in "maintenance mode" from a software standpoint.
An exhausted software architecture ususally comes from one of these issues:
a) The software has grown to the point that there isn't enough memory left.
b) All of the added features have consumed processor headroom and the processor doesn't have free clock cycles to handle added complexity.
c) The original software design was poor and not easily understood as the team grew, or was implemented on an old language or development system, or the design didn't allow for the types of features now being needed.
3) Bose may or may not be able to migrate the new Bose Home software back to the SoundTouch line, but they just don't know. It seems very clear that they are developing a brand new, fresh code base for the Bose Home line. This new code base uses the Bose Music app and speaks a different internal protocol from how SoundTouch works. The new Bose Music products likely have more memory or a faster processor than SoundTouch.
So Bose has this new software under development (sucking up all of the SoundTouch engineers.) This will be their future for whole-house speakers and for interface functionality. They are committing heavily to this. Since we know from statements made by Bose that "this was a long and hard decision" we know that they made a decision to cut from past limitations to be able to have needed new functionality.
BUT, since Bose has indicated that it may be possible for SoundTouch products to talk to Bose Music products, what could be the case is that once the Bose Music software is completed and they are through the critical Christmas consumer launch period, they then (in 2019) can go back and see whether it is possible to port the new Bose Music software back to the SoundTouch speakers. They will need to make an analysis of whether the SoundTouch products have enough memory and processor speed, and there just isn't enough field information available at this time to make that determination.
4) Because of the above (if correct) Bose is unable to answer specific questions about how SoundTouch will become Apple Airplay 2 capable. if it is possible to port the Bose Music software over to the SoundTouch hardware, then that is the best approach. But not enough is known yet about wheat this will entail and whether the Bose Music software will run well enough on the SoundTouch hardware. The fallback solution would be to offer an Apple Airplay 2-to-bluetooth adapter, which would be less desireable, but which would allow SoundTouch to be adequately supported, but to become an end-of-life product. This could fully explain why they cannot give enough specifics...they are as anxious to know as we are.
5) If the above is correct, we won't know anything probably until after the Christmas consumer season, most likely towards the end of 1Q2019. And, then, we will probably just know whether it will be a bluetooth adapter box or porting of the Bose Music software over to SoundTouch. Such a port would likely take 3~6 months, so we are almost certainly looking at mid-2019 at the earliest for Apple Airplay 2 support on Soundtouch.
I don't have any strong inside track into Bose. But the above is based upon the official information now known, plus 40 years of being a software manager and architect. What I have suggested above is plausible, but not certain. But I think it does give us something to think about and an idea of what may be in store.