April 04, 2007
| by Toni Kistner
The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) is an international industry organization devoted to making home networks easy to use and interoperable. In the DLNA’s perfect world, your data network talks to your entertainment network, which in turn talks to your mobile devices. Plug a new device in, it wakes up, sniffs around, finds the others and starts connecting.
While the group is a strong consumer advocate, its vision is also pragmatic and clear-eyed. Networks are too hard to use. Convergence isn’t happening. Wake up, industry: Consumers aren’t buying this stuff because it’s hard to use.
DLNA studied the specifications used across three industries—data, entertainment and mobile—and selected specs from each that it now recommends all the vendors use. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, common MPEG formats, Universal Plug and Play—nothing radical. The first version of the guidelines focused on media players and media servers. The updated version adds mobile devices, printing and some quality of service. Over time, more and more “device classes” will be added.
Today, the list of vendors who’ve joined DLNA is very long, dominated by CE vendors and PC OEMs. Intel, Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, lots of international device manufacturers. But the number of certified products is still fairly short, given the group produced the first guidelines in 2004.
Of products that are certified, CE (TVs and stereos) and PC makers are respectably represented. The lack of home networking products is a surprise. Considering Linksys, Netgear and others have been pushing media players for a couple of years, I just assumed they’d be there. Buffalo Technology is certifying gear in Japan, and Linksys says the Kiss 1600 media player sold in Europe is “DLNA compatible.”
But maybe I’m missing something. I’ve put in some calls and will let you know.
In the meantime, if you’re shopping for networking and entertainment gear, try to buy DLNA-certified products. If your favorite vendor isn’t offering them, let’s kick up a fuss and find out why.
Toni Kistner is a technology writer living in Cambridge, Mass. Her main focus is networking and wireless technology.