Will DLNA Become Indispensable?

Let’s review the trends. Televisions are becoming more “connected” to all sorts of content. Subscription television services such as cable and satellite are being battered by “over-the-top” streaming video on the Internet. Everything is going wireless now that we’ve had a taste of untethered computing and communications thanks to our smartphones and tablets. And these smart screens are becoming the second and third windows onto our video entertainment environment.

And here comes an unlikely source of technological “glue” to pull all of this together: DLNA. That acronym that nobody can remember what it means (Digital Living Network Alliance) or exactly what it does may turn out to be a significant factor in home entertainment going forward. Up until now, DLNA technology has been a solution in search of a problem. Yes, it lets you access the photos and music that you have stored on one computer, and view them or listen to it on a different computer or device on your home network, using either a wired or wireless connection. It also lets you send a photo from your smartphone to your printer, but I don’t know anyone who actually does that.

But at CES 2012, the DLNA Premium Video platform was announced with the support of some heavy hitters in the industry: Comcast and Intel. The breakthrough here is that instead of making your content available to other devices on your network, this new technology lets any DLNA device on the network access outside content. Comcast demo’d a set-top box that can stream the cable company’s content to any supported screen in the house.

That’s huge. If DLNA can deliver on this promise, it means that the content provider (cable or satellite) does not have to learn how to support a variety of devices. If a device supports DLNA, then you will be able to access the content on it (or so we hope). It does not help the subscription services deliver their programming to subscribers away from their home (the goal of the TV Everywhere initiatives), but it does solve the need for consumers to be able to move throughout their home and take their entertainment with them. This could turn out to be a major factor in home entertainment in the future.