LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — Music apps on the smartphone are the most promising delivery system for music since Napster, and much to the delight of forward-looking music fans, it’s now possible to stream music from those apps to speakers within the home.
Apple’s AirPlay was first out of the gate, Google is expected to follow suit with its Fling feature, while a Qualcomm subsidiary called Skifta relies on an industry standard (DLNA) to play the music of apps on speakers within the home. Now, Sony has thrown its hat into the wireless-music-for-the-home ring with the launch of the DLNA-compliant HomeShare wireless media protocol at the Consumer Electronics Show, as well as five devices that use it (below).
The consumer electronics industry appears to have agreed that playing app-based music on home stereo systems offers the best of both worlds. However, these competing standards echo the portable digital music revolution of ten years ago, when proprietary standards led music fans to prefer P2P networks where they could simply download music without worrying about whether it would play on your devices.
Admirably, Sony (like Qualcomm, and unlike Apple or Google) chose to use the DLNA standard for HomeShare, allows it to stream music from other DLNA-compatible devices, including computers, televisions (including Sony Bravia, which runs music apps), and game consoles. Sony has been talking about HomeShare for about two years, but it’s now ready to double down on the concept, having unveiled five HomeShare-compatible devices at CES 2011: the SA-NS300 and SA-NS400 wireless speakers; the NAS-SV20i and NAC-SV10i iPhone/iPod docks; and a touchscreen remote called the RMN-U1 for controlling it all.
Sony HomeShare represents an impressive addition to this crucial part of the digital music ecosystem, and we have just one quibble with it so far — albeit a major one. Namely: it makes you dock your portable device. Qualcomm’s Skifta showed that it’s possible to stream DLNA audio directly from an iPhone with no need for a docking station or a remote control, and yet Sony wants you to buy both.
Rather than forcing people to dock smartphones in order to play music “wirelessly” within the home, Sony probably should have followed Apple’s lead by allowing app developers to make their apps HomeShare-compliant. That way, people wouldn’t have to buy a dock and a touchscreen remote just to play music from their iPhones, which don’t otherwise need a dock — and which already have a touchscreen.