DLNA Prepares for Takeoff
Is this emerging common architecture the future of home A/V networks, or just another false start?
By Cliff Roth
AN INTRODUCTION TO DLNA
While the promise of home entertainment networked devices that "talk" to each other has been long touted, and has achieved some success in same-brand systems utilizing proprietary standards, DLNA is different in several significant ways.
First, DLNA spans numerous brands, including practically every major consumer electronics company—Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Mitsubishi and more.
Second, DLNA isn't tied to any particular connector. Where previous home A/V networks required interconnecting components using a special proprietary connection, DLNA is technology that can be incorporated into practically any digital connection. Initially, it's being introduced as an add-on to standard ethernet wired and 802.11 wireless home networks, simply because that's the most popular form of home networking today. Down the road, however, DLNA can be added to almost any digital A/V connection, including HDMI and IEEE 1394.
Third, and most obvious, DLNA is a purely digital technology. Previous home network systems often revolved around control signals for home entertainment devices, such as telling a TV to switch to Analog Video Input 2 because that's where the VCR is hooked up. DLNA is different; it becomes part of the audio/video digital signal stream. It's not a separate wire or connection; it improves the existing wire.
DLNA anticipates a home network in which devices share resources and abilities. For example, a PC media server might contain MPEG-encoded video recordings, yet the PC itself might be incapable of decoding and displaying these files on a TV set—that's the job of the set-top box. The PC, in this instance, functions purely as a storage device.
Perhaps what makes DLNA most different from earlier efforts at convergence is the fact that it's decentralized. Unlike a Microsoft Media Center PC, which serves as the central hub for all digital entertainment activities, DLNA allows any devices that are on the network to talk to each other directly, with no central authority.