Ian and I just had a great call with Gabe Frost and Stan Pannington about Play To and all it entails. Thanks to Gabe and Stan for their help and information, you’ll be able to hear the interview in a forthcoming episode of The Media Canter Show.
I want to thank everyone that had some questions and give you Gabe’s answers. I’m going to do this in a couple of parts so that the post doesn’t take days to read, today lets look at multiple devices and sync, tomorrow, Play To and Media Centers.
Q: Will the streaming be to multiple computers, extenders, and devices?
A: Yes with a caveat: A user can open as many concurrent Play To sessions as they like. For example, a user can select music and play it to speakers in their bedroom, select pictures and play them to a digital picture frame in their kitchen, and select videos and play them to the family room HDTV. The speakers, picture frame, and family room HDTV must be (or have an adapter attached that is) network attached and implements the DLNA Digital Media Renderer (DMR) role.
[Si: what I think is really cool here is that if your media is on a different machine the load side steps the machine that you’re Play To’ing from, streaming the media direct from that device. It’s the devices that do the work.]
Q: Will the streaming to the multiple devices all be in sync without lag in each room?
A: In most cases no. The DLNA standard does not specify how to achieve synchronized playback; however, device manufacturers may support synchronized audio by whatever proprietary means they choose. A great example of this is Sonos products today. A user may choose which rooms to sync via the Sonos controller, and then use Windows 7 Play To for sending a playlist. The audio will be synchronized as the user expected. Because the method by which devices are synchronized is proprietary, we don’t expect different manufacturers to interoperate for synchronized playback unless they use the same underlying middleware implementation. A number of manufacturers already support, or are actively working on support for synchronized audio in new products.
Each manufacturer has the option of providing software on Windows that provides the user with the ability to specify which of their devices should be synchronized, as well as per-room controls (such as volume and mute). All of this would have to be exposed somewhere other than the Play To controller, which is not extensible in Windows 7. Great new device experiences are enabled in Windows 7, such as the Devices and Printers folder and Device Stage, and we are looking forward to seeing how manufacturers take advantage of those platforms to provide a great synchronized audio setup and control experience. We would expect the Play To controller, in such a scenario, to provide global playback controls for the synchronized devices.