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...


A DRM-less world is closer than ever

While companies like Microsoft are investing heavily in DRM, Yahoo has been doing the exact opposite - investing in its elimination.

Ever since Dave Goldberg, Vice President and General Manager of Yahoo! Music, announced publicly at the Music 2.0 conference in L.A. that labels should consider selling their music without DRM, it was clear that Yahoo! got it.

I always said that the EFF will never eliminate DRM, but we need not worry since the free market will. It is just a great competitive edge to sell DRM-less music and someone should capitalize on it. It looks like this someone may as well be Yahoo!, an underdog in the digital music store business that is wisely trying to gain market share by positioning itself as the company that is about to rid the world of this malady called DRM.

This of-course does not decrease in any way, the great achievement, Yahoo! has managed to achieve here. Selling a music track of a mainstream artist in MP3 format is a big deal these days, when the labels are engaged in expanding DRM use not in reducing it. Kudos to Yahoo! Let's all buy this song in support of Yahoo! actions, keeping in mind that the one who will benefit from this move even more than Yahoo! is the consumer.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 

Home Media Servers and Entertainment Hubs - a new report from ABI Research

I am happy to announce that TVersity is featured in the latest report about media servers from ABI Research.

Here is a description of this report taken from ABI Research's website:
"This study examines the positioning of four main device categories--the PC, the set-top box, consumer electronics and network storage (and their respective industries)—as the home media server. The PC market is shifting towards casting the PC as the central media hub, with Microsoft Media Center, Intel Viiv and AMD Live initiatives all key to this movement. The DLNA standard, built upon UPnP, has given life to consumer electronics vendors looking to create networked entertainment products, including devices such as media servers. Set-top box providers and their video delivery partners are positioned to have their set top box as the primary delivery server for pay TV content, but are also incorporating technology for long-tail content as well."

This same report also claims that:
"the PC media server market alone will grow from $3.7 billion in 2006 to $44.8 billion by 2011 as mainstream PCs become fully functional media servers".

Michael Wolf, the principal analyst behind this report, cleverly places TVersity in the "PC Media Server Market" section under "After-Market PC Media Center/Server Software for Consumers". It is interesting to see that the other companies mentioned under the same category are all coming from a seemingly different area and yet it is clear that all are set to evolve to a full featured PC Media Server and hence are correctly grouped togeter in this report.