IDG News Service - The long-promised dream of a homewide network that allows gadgets to seamlessly interconnect may soon become a reality.
That's because products based on a new home networking specification backed by some of the world's largest consumer electronics and computer companies will be on store shelves before the end of this year, some of the same companies said at the recent Ceatec Japan 2004 exhibition.
The specification was drawn up by a group called the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), known until earlier this year as the Digital Home Working Group. Encompassing more than 180 companies, including such names as Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Sony Corp., Nokia Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., the group published Version 1.0 of its standard in June this year, and things are moving fast.
"This is the quickest time from standardization to implementation in products that I have experienced," said Scott Smyers, chairman of the DLNA board of directors and vice president of Sony Electronics Inc.'s network and systems architecture division, speaking at Ceatec.
Part of the reason for this fast pace is the specification's reliance on existing standards.
"In contrast to other standards, we are not creating a new technology," said Smyers. "We are pointing to existing technologies."
The first version calls for a network based on wired or wireless Ethernet and running IP Version 4 (IPv4). Media is carried across the network using HTTP and discovery, control and management of connected devices is accomplished with universal plug and play.
To fulfill the promise of the digital home network, device interconnection is only one step.
Another important step is getting the devices to speak the same language, which in multimedia terms means to exchange data in the same format. In the first version of the DLNA specification, the JPEG image, Liner PCM audio and MPEG2 video protocols have been set as a common base. Products can use other formats internally but must be able to transcode them to one of the base formats for interconnection purposes.
Several demonstration networks, each featuring a handful of products supporting DLNA, were on display at Ceatec Japan last week. On one network, a Toshiba Corp. TV tuner was connected to an NEC Corp. PC, Panasonic notebook PC and Sony television via Ethernet and to a Toshiba notebook PC, Sony handheld digital media player and Netgear Inc. digital media player via wireless Ethernet. Users of each device could browse the network and access content stored on other devices.
"When we agree on standards, we are successful," said Louis Burns, vice president and general manager of Intel's desktop platforms group, speaking during
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