Netflix and YouTube launch DIAL, an open alternative to AirPlay

Netflix DialSince the beginning, Apple has been a closed initiative. Early on, that approach was a big part of why the open Microsoft/Intel PC blew the Mac away, but it has also played a significant role in the company’s successes. Today, it’s one of the reasons that the iPhone thrives, but it’s also one of the reasons that the company’s wireless device detection and streaming technology – dubbed AirPlay – lay vulnerable.

For a some time now, the industry has been waiting for a true, open alternative to Apple’s streaming service. Now, it would appear Netflix and YouTube may have just delivered it.

DIAL (Discover and Launch) is a collaborative effort between the two web-based behemoths, and streamlines the second-to-first-screen streaming process by offering automatic device detection, a feature noticeably absent from other AirPlay alternatives.

Once detected, a DIAL-enabled app on a connected device can transmit to a DIAL-enabled Smart TV, and launch itself on the big screen. It will not, however, mirror your mobile device’s display on your TV, a la AirPlay. Apparently, that was a conscious choice, made to allow room for innovation in control protocols.

Despite having created an innovative service, it would seem that DIAL is fighting an uphill battle against an entrenched opponent; seem being the key word in that sentence. Believe it or not, there are some DIAL-compatible devices out there already. Current-gen Google TVs support the tech, and it’s rumored that 2012 LG and Samsung Smart TVs do as well. Officials at the collaborating companies hope the openness of the technology will make it more attractive than closed alternatives and will help facilitate wider adoption.

DIAL has already gained the support of major players like Hulu, Samsung, Sony, and the BBC, and its creators are actively soliciting other backers. Apparently, Google Chrome is a target, and – if Netflix and YouTube are able to woo it into the mix – it could allow users to beam their web browser-based apps to their TVs.  

DIAL looks promising, but only time will tell us whether it’s a viable competitor. For now we’re left to wonder: Will Apple’s proprietary approach rule the day? Or will it be out-competed once again by a more flexible, open alternative?

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