YouTube, Netflix, and Others Testing AirPlay Alternative DIAL


As awesome as AirPlay is, it does have that teeny weeny little flaw—it’s proprietary to Apple. Now, wouldn’t it be great to have something like AirPlay that could run on TVs, set-top boxes, or Internet-connected home theaters that gave the same easy discoverability and even more features (like letting a TV launch an app on your phone)? That’s way the open-protocol DIAL is shooting for and they have some pretty big backers in YouTube and Netflix.

According to GigaOm, the DIAL project (DIscovery And Launch is what it stands for), is starting to gain traction, at least with a few key content providers. So while the Netflix app right now knows what you’re watching on Netflix and allows you to pick up a program on your iPhone and iPad, DIAL wants to take that the next step. GigaOm describes it like this:

With DIAL, the Netflix app on your phone will automatically discover that there is a device with a Netflix app connected to your TV. It will fire up that app, and then the two apps are free to do whatever they want — which presumably involves some healthy binge-viewing. (For the more technically-minded readers: DIAL is using UPnP multicast for the discovery piece of the puzzle, and a REST-service to launch apps on discovered devices.)

Dial protocol

So the apps, using DIAL, could be a lot more cohesive and interactive. Like your phone being the “remote” for Netflix. Instead of trying to browse through Netflix through the Apple TV (or PS 3 or Wii) interface (all of which seem slow and painful to me), you could browse for a movie on your phone hit play, and it starts on your TV. Not possible right now with AirPlay and would certainly be awesome.

You might think, and rightly so, that DIAL is a pipe dream that they don’t have any hardware out there now or even in the pipeline that supports it. Turns out that Google TV devices already support DIAL and both Samsung and LG have either shipping products or products coming soon that support DIAL in some manner.

As for Netflix, they are being pretty cagey about what’s up their sleeve, but if there are even a few devices out there from big players, they could release something soon; maybe even this year.

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