Consumer companies to crack compatibility

23 Jun 2004

More than 100 consumer electronics providers and technology companies have banded together to develop standards aimed at allowing diverse home entertainment appliances to work together.

The Digital Living Network Alliance was previously known as the Digital Home Working Group and was established last year by Sony and Intel. The organisation relaunched yesterday with its new name and a wider membership of 145 global companies including players from the PC, mobile and consumer entertainment sectors.

The group’s remit now covers digital content and new members include Microsoft, Nokia, IBM and HP. Its charter involves developing an interoperability framework, that is, a set of criteria and design guidelines based on open industry standards, to allow devices with different functions from different manufacturers to work together easily and be capable of sharing movies, music or other media content.

In a statement on its website, the group emphasised that industry collaboration would not be limited to just CE, mobile, and PC manufacturers. “It is an entire ecosystem of companies that together offer consumers a broad set of complementary products and services. An ecosystem properly designed for digital interoperability must start with the consumer in mind and include contributors that can help bring all the necessary elements of the digital home network to market.”

The DLNA will soon publish a set of guidelines for compliant consumer electronics and the group said it hopes to begin issuing seals of approval for all devices that meet those standards. Consumer electronics equipment carrying this logo could be available in shops by later this year.

Some obstacles remain: the group has admitted that it has not agreed on standards for protecting digital content from being pirated. Such measures, also known as digital rights management, will be crucial for the industry’s efforts to win the support of movie studios and record companies.

In addition, the group’s membership is notable for two high profile absentees: Apple and RealNetworks. Apple has had considerable success in the digital music market with its iPod player while RealNetworks has for several years been at the forefront of streaming content over the internet.

Earlier this year the analyst firm Forrester poured cold water on the concept of the digital home, saying that although the vision was valid it was also a long way from becoming reality.

By Gordon Smith