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Why Smart TVs Spurn DLNA: Evil Plot to Charge Tolls?

Experts discuss smart TVs at CEA Forum; Is DLNA underutilized because of support issues or do vendors want to extract more revenue from customers?


“I think DLNA offers many attractive solutions and value," says LG's Nandu Nandhakumar; however, many product and service providers “use a lot of DLNA but tweak it.”
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Why won’t connected TVs connect? Some of the brightest minds in the smart TV category discussed the subject last month at the CEA Industry Forum in the Technology & Standards track.

Consultant Scott Smyers, former SVP at Sony and one of the movers-and-shakers in the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), moderated the panel discussion which included:

  • David Kurtz, co-founder of Flingo (app developer for smart TVs)
  • Nandu Nandhakumar, SVP of LG Electronics
  • Jack Perry, CEO of SyncBak (developer of Internet delivery platforms for broadcast TV)
  • Peter Redford, CEO of iLook Corp. (developer of Internet delivery platforms for broadcast TV)

Smyers and the panelists agreed that the smart TV thing isn’t working so great these days.

“It’s challenging today,” said iLook’s Redford, who lamented the multiple user interfaces and the challenge of switching between apps.

“Today, video-on-demand through apps on the TV is not an easy thing to do,” he said. “Most people are not able to successfully connect it up and watch it by using their [TV’s] own app. An app on the iPhone can do it much more easily.”

There ensued a heated discussion about developing standards for smart TVs, when someone chimed in: “There is one: DLNA.”

That’s a standard that Smyers certainly knows well. Sony launched DLNA in 2003 and Smyers served as president of the group for seven years. DLNA is an interoperability standard (with DRM) for sharing photos, music, videos and other content across multiple devices from disparate manufacturers.

But while the standard has been widely implemented in cameras, printers, gaming consoles, media players, PCs, phones and other shared devices, it hasn’t fared well in TV land.

Why?

First, we should recall that DLNA took forever to gain traction anywhere, starting with digital cameras and networked printers. Other devices and online services followed slowly as their adoption grew among consumers. Smart TVs are pretty much the newest additions to the world of connected and shared consumer devices, so it’s not surprising that the category has yet to embrace any standards at all … except for IP.

Smart TV Toll Booth?

But is there, perhaps, a more sinister reason for TV makers’ lack of love for DLNA?

Redford thinks so. He suggests that some TV manufacturers intentionally reject certain elements of DLNA as a way of “building a toll booth for themselves.”

Presumably, then, they could charge users for access to content, and service providers for access to consumers.

LG’s Nandhakumar dismisses such notions.

He says that TV makers may shy away from the full DLNA program because of support issues.

“I think DLNA offers many attractive solutions and value,” he says; however, many product and service providers “use a lot of DLNA but tweak it.”

The reason, he says, is that companies like LG – which is teaming up with Sharp and Philips to create its own Smart TV app standard—don’t want to be saddled with supporting every little device on the home network when a customer has (supposed) issues with a DLNA-certified TV.

Even Smyers concedes this point, which is an age-old concern in the interoperability business. He knows that customers will inundate manufacturers and resellers with tech-support calls, complaining, “Hey, I have a DLNA TV. My [insert device here] should work with this.”

When asked what he thought were the roadblocks for DLNA in connected TVs, Smyers joked, “If I knew that, I’d be a consultant.”



  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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