Saturday, August 29, 2009

Samsung...exit stage left

Home networking over 1394 seemed like it should be a slam dunk. However, several notable companies and organizations had already tried and failed. Currently, there is one last attempt being developed, but the outlook is bleak. If 1394 home networking has so much promise, why can it not gain any traction?

The interoperability issues are a big problem. Samsung decided to abandon their 1394 home networking effort because old 1394 devices, when connected to a 1394 network, will cause bus reset storms, locking up the system. They were worrying about products that were made 10 years ago, most of which are no longer being used. I encouraged them to establish a strong compliance testing program and only guarantee their products to work with products that passed the certification tests. But their response was that they were afraid that customers would see the 1394 port and try to connect the old devices anyway.

Large consumer A/V companies can be frustratingly paranoid to deal with, being painfully slow to adopt new technologies. You have to make them worry that they are being left behind by the competition before most of them will inch forward.

Surprisingly, after backing away from 1394 for networks, Samsung threw their effort into an Ethernet based home networking initiative called “DLNA”. They went straight from the frying pan into the fire.
Ethernet was developed for mainframe computers in the early 70s (patented in 1975). It was developed to connect every device that wanted to gain access to the network. When everything is connected with equal access to the network, bad things happen. Fully loaded networks can get very busy and very slow. If you’ve ever worked in an office with a shared printer accessible through a network, you’ve heard the printer pause for a second or two as it waits for the next packet of data to come across the busy network. Ethernet will not prevent data from colliding on the network. It manages the collisions. Sometimes this requires data to be sent again. Not a big deal when printing a document. A few pauses along the way will not seriously slow down the print job. But imagine watching a bowl game with the TV screen pausing two seconds each time the network gets busy. The store returns on such a product would be record breaking.

Despite a rapidly growing list of member companies joining their trade association, storm clouds were forming across the DLNA landscape...

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