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WTF is... DLNA?

A cure for media playback blues - or will it just have you seeing red?

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Interoperability issues

As some Iomega customers found a year or so back, the DLNA compliance of their new network storage devices didn't ensure that the movies they placed on them would play back on their DLNA-compliant Sony TVs.

Nidhish Parikh, newly elected chair of the DLNA, whose day-job is head of personal media at Nokia, admits that DLNA is still work in progress. “We’ve done a lot, but there’s a long way to go... We’re being very responsible and deliberate in what we’re trying to do here.”

DLNA in Windows Media Player

DLNA is a standard feature of Windows 7. Older versions can be brought up to speed by installing Media Player 11

Evidence of this “deliberation” emerges from the Alliance’s approach to mobile data. Twenty-first Century lives are no longer centered around the living room, so media servers like the Pogoplug - none of them DLNA-certified, incidentally - offer streaming to mobiles and other devices across the internet.

The Alliance has just this sort of wide area network functionality in its telescopic sights, but is waiting for the general deployment of IPv6. But as Jed Putterman, of Pogoplug developer Cloud Engines, reminds us: ”Even the beginnings of IPv6 acceptance will be years away.”

But what can you expect from an organisation founded in 2003 but which in 2010 still can't guarantee member A's products will work with member B's? The Alliance finally announced this year that it will put in place a system to certify DLNA-capable software, but it has yet to reveal any details about the scheme.

Confined for now within the home network, DLNA offers consumers a generalised assurance of multi-media interoperability. But the fine details of what it actually does - and doesn’t do - lie behind paywalls on the DLNA Web site. And because the Alliance doesn’t offer any central help desk, when your cross-manufacturer connections fail, there’s no single point of redress - which, of course, may be one of the reasons DLNA goes out into the marketplace under various brand disguises. ®

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Next page: How DLNA stacks up

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