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As AirTunes did, Play To must separate source and control


Comedian George Carlin recognized that necessity is the mother of invention in a comedy routine (Warning: adult language) on the origin of flamethrowers:

“[A]t some point, some person said to himself, ‘Gee, I’d sure like to set those people on fire over there, but I’m way too far away to get the job done. If only I had something that would throw flame on them.. .””

The observation applies to less violent tasks that have driven home technology since the advent of the TV remote control . Indeed, the Windows 7 feature that probably received the most attention at the launch event was Play To. Play To simply enables one to “push” content such as music as photos to compatible DLNA receivers, and Microsoft used it to show how Windows 7 could simultaneously serve ten video streams (over wired gigabit Ethernet,)

But with Play To, unlike as with a flamethrower,  it’s far more likely that you want to “pull” the output from a source than push it. Any serious media receiver around the home such as Sonos, a Logitech SqueezeBox or Apple TV provides a way to navigate sources remotely. This was a usage problem when Apple introduced AirTunes. Another shoe needed to drop and finally did once Apple finally released the Remote software for the iPod touch and iPhone years later.

Microsoft or its partners need to plug the Play To remote hold in similar fashion via iPhone software, Windows Mobile software, or some dedicated device because, in the world of DLNA, the same device can serve as server, renderer and controller, making things very confusing for the consumer. I’ll have more to say on the demands of this level of remote control in the near future.