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Friday, July 21, 2006 

Yet another DLNA / UPnP alternative is surfacing

It looks like the coalition between consumer electronic companies and software companies may not last long. While the UPnP forum (and to a lesser degree the DLNA, which is a set of guidelines to increase interoperability of UPnP A/V implementations) enjoyed support from all the major players of the converging CE - PC industries (with the exception of Apple), this is gradually changing and now it is clear that Microsoft is promoting with Windows Rally (to be implemented in Vista) an alternative to UPnP called Device Profile for Web Service (DPWS). Taking into account that CE companies have HANA, another DLNA alternative covered in a previous post, it seems like the market is going to get more fragmented and the war for domination of the digitial home is about to intensify and get ugly. This is in sharp contrast to the optimism I have expressed early this year after returning from CES where it was made clear that UPnP A/V 1.0 is gaining tremendous momentum.

At the same time, the UPnP forum has released the specification for UPnP 2.0 and of-course they are not compatible with DPWS, but rather they maintain backward compatibility with UPnP 1.0. Moreover it looks like Microsoft's representatives had no or very little role in the creation of UPnP 2.0, this is unlike their massive contribution to UPnP 1.0. Taking into account that Microsoft submitted back in 2004, their beloved Device Profile for Web servuces to the UPnP forum and expected it to be certified as UPnP 2.0 (which of-course never happened), reveals yet another aspect of the standard war we are witnessing.

The fate of UPnP in the digital home will be determined by the success of the current wave of UPnP AV enabled consumer electronics. If they will catch on, chances are that backward compatibility to UPnP 1.0 will be important and hence UPnP 2.0 will prevail and at some point Microsoft will have to support it. If, on the other hand those devices will gain only minimum market share then any standard can displace UPnP when a new wave of connected CE devices hits the market.

The fate of the DLNA is even more questionable as it enjoys even less support than UPnP (some say its contribution is very little (if anything) to UPnP A/V and hence is not needed). Windows Vista will support UPnP 1.0 and DPWS but will not support the DLNA guidelines (and at least for now will not support UPnP 2.0).

Interestingly this standard war is also revealing a growing chasm between Microsoft and Intel. According to Microsoft DPWS was co-authored by Intel: "Devices Profile for Web Services specification, co-authored by Intel Corporation, Lexmark International Inc., Microsoft and Ricoh Co. Ltd., provides prescriptive guidance on how devices can support Web services. The Devices Profile will be proposed to the UPnP Forum for consideration as the basis for the UPnP 2.0 Device Architecture". Yet, from the press release issues by the UPnP forums it is clear that Intel is behind UPnP 2.0 while Microsoft isn't and DPWS is completely ignored in it.

So what's the deal with Microsoft, breaking away from commitments they made in the past and going around their good old partners? Microsoft seems to be changing its act, encouraged by the success of the XBox 360, they behave more and more like Apple and less and less like the Microsoft we used to know (the rumors about their new iPod contender are supporting this as well). This "Apple-ization" of Microsoft suggests that Microsoft is willing to change as much as necessary to win this battle and for that I have to give them credit. No other company I know of, has been able to change so much so often in order to keep its leadership in the market, and if they do so successfully they may have a chance to outlast their competition. Alas, they will be leaving behind the very partners that helped them overcome Apple in the first place, in order to overcome it again. What a treacherous world we live in...

One day after this post the Wall Street Journal said Microsoft has confirmed its plans for creating Zune - its own audio and video player.
For subscribers, the artcile is at:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB115351059864913890.html?mod=home_whats_news_us

It's not strange for MS to do a 180 degree turn in order to claim the market they didn't appear to want.

Remember what they said about the internet ? And how they managed to kill Netscape ?

They've used their browser as a way to enforce their own standards even though the W3C-standards are supposed to be 'official'.

So no ... I am not suprised at all that they wanted to make UPnP their own. And when that failed they 'invented' their own standard is not suprising either. They know they will still dominate the OS-market after Vista so anything they implement will automagically become a standard.

I agree JaFO, it is just that it is remarkable to see such a large company chanhgin its act so drastically and so often.
It is said of-course to see all the partners that were lead to believe Microsoft is their greatest ally being left behind.
It is even worse to see the market getting even more fragmented with new standards that are not needed and are simply designed to block the competition.

Upnp (and hence DLNA) has inherent security problems.

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