DLNA, AirPlay, WiDi, Miracast - do we need a wireless streaming format war?
By Adam TURNER
Hardware makers are jostling for control over the way we stream video from the couch to the television.
Handheld gadgets are obviously a convenient way to watch video, but when you're sitting on the couch sometimes you want to go old-school and watch videos on your big television. Bridging the gap between your gadgets and your television is getting easier but, as usual, there's a looming format war to contend with.
In theory DLNA should meet all of our home media streaming needs, but if you've ever spent time setting up DLNA servers and clients you'll know that the results can be hit and miss. It can take some tweaking to get your DLNA server to play nicely with your various DLNA clients, especially if some of them have limited video format support. In my experience DLNA often doesn't match the picture quality of playing video straight from a Samba share (assuming your playback device supports this).
If you live an iCentric lifestyle then Apple's AirPlay might be the best streaming format for you. You'll also find Android apps which can tap into the AirPlay ecosystem for streaming music, but streaming video to an Apple TV from non-Apple gadgets is more of a challenge (unless you want to hack the Apple TV to support DLNA (see wiki.awkwardtv.org).
Of course anything Apple can do everyone else thinks they can do better. Intel developed the WiDi standard for streaming video from Intel-powered notebooks, built on the WirelessHD standard, but so far we've only seen a handful of compatible set-top boxes and televisions. Belkin and Netgear also offer gear based on WirelessHD. Meanwhile competing chipmakers such as NVIDIA, Marvell and Texas Instruments are throwing their weight behind Miracast, which is backed by the Wi-Fi Alliance.
The chipmakers have a lot riding on this war if they want to stay relevant in the post-PC era, especially Intel. So it looks like we're in for another lounge room format war, whether we want it or not.
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It always struck me as odd that Intel put any effort into WiDi, given we had standards for wireless and compressed digital video. Why not just add the two together? (Easier said than done).
For now I'll stick to jabbing a thumb drive into my telly until a painless, non-proprietary networked standard comes along.
Another limitation of airplay is that it is for media only, not screen projections for apps. A consumer product only.
Still looking for an adapter to handle both formats.
+1 for consumers!