Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Friday, August 14, 2009

Oxymoron: Easy-to-Configure Home Networks

Are your home network device connections easy and seamless? Not to worry, neither are mine. That said, a growing number of digital media devices for home entertainment are receiving DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) certification.

According to a new study from ABI Research, nearly 200 million such products shipped in 2008 -- that number will rise to more than 300 million in 2012, and the growth curve accelerates even faster in the years that follow.

"Consumers increasingly desire ways to connect their various home entertainment devices and distribute digital media content around their homes," says digital home practice director Jason Blackwell.

Without standardization, that is a nightmare. Specifications developed by the DLNA, which are based on the UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) standard, supposedly enable easy, seamless connections in a wide and growing range of consumer electronics devices.

As of today, more than 5,500 devices have received the DLNA "seal of approval." Digital TVs are a huge part of this growth, with more than 170 TVs certified in the first six months of 2009 alone.

Blackwell expects the inclusion of DLNA support in the upcoming Windows 7 operating system to give DNLA a further push into the living room and beyond.

"You could, for example, use a computer running Windows 7 to push a sequence of stored photos out to a digital picture frame," he says. "Much of this new Windows functionality will be implemented through the new version of Windows Media Player, which will have a Play-to command, allowing the user to choose among several DLNA-networked playback devices to display a particular video or other media file."

Windows 7 is scheduled to make its public debut in October.

The next phase of this developing market will see increased participation by broadband service providers, with set-top boxes and gateways becoming an important part of the home network.