DLNA Takes Baby Steps

More and more consumer electronics products come equipped with DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) certification -- at the IFA electronics show new TVs, home theater systems, and computers all come with the DLNA stamp.

The promise of DLNA is to let users view and listen to content (including music, photos and movies) stored on any certified device on any certified product. If you have a Blu-ray player in the living room, you will be able to watch a movie in the bedroom and so on, and do it without having to deal with the hassle of configuring it all. But we aren't there yet.

Sony's upcoming TV lineup includes models that have been DLNA certified, for example the W4500, letting users view JPEG photos and listen to MP3 music stored on, for example, a Vaio laptop. Sony demonstrated that set up at IFA.

"Still it's kind of a primitive version of DLNA," said Hiroshi Sakamoto, vice president of TV marketing at Sony Europe.

Sony doesn't have support for video streaming, which will come in 2009, according to Sakamoto. Another missing piece of the puzzle is built-in support for wireless networking in TVs. Today, wired Ethernet is the name of the game. Users can add an adapter to get wireless access, but it's only a question of time before Wi-Fi shows up in TV's.

"We are discussing that, I can't make a clear comment," said Sakamoto. Why it hasn't happened yet comes down to both cost and quality, according to Sakamoto.

Getting all of the pieces together doesn't guarantee that anyone will use DLNA systems. Few consumers know what DLNA is and what it can and can't do, and the industry still has a lot of work to do when it comes to convincing users of the benefits. When Sony's DLNA TVs show up in shops the company will also add promotional material on its Web page, which at this stage is a better advertising method than, for example, large campaigns, according to Sakamoto.

DLNA won't connect the mass market anytime soon, Christmas 2009 at the earliest, according to Sakamoto.

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