|Next year you will see at least 10 companies with TCP/IP control systems that will auto negotiate with any device on the network. They will automatically configure GUI and control drivers. They will do this initially with a limited number of music servers, Internet client servers, satellite radio, video and CATV boxes
But it won't be any different from HAVi. You'll have a system with cool capabilities, which cannot talk to 99.999999% of the devices out there that people own or are likely to own. In the end, it's always going to be us less idealistic folks, who create architectures that are designed to bring everyone under an umbrella, as apposed to building a shed off in the far distance and expecting everyone to come to them, who will provide the only realistic solutions.
It always sounds cool to hear people talking about creating such stuff. But, if like me you create a control system, and you show people what it can do and you see them get all excited, and then they say "I have an X, Y, and Z box and these other two devices, can it support them", and you say no it can't, they just walk away basically. So in any practical way, such systems are just permanently caught in a chick and egg cycle.
I'm all for a socket based protocol, and I'd make use of it if any devices supported it probably. But, OTOH, if you are talking about a higher end control system, it's not immediately apparent if you'd want such a thing. Do you want your kid to be able to plug something into your network and have it immediately be accepted so that he can start using it to do whatever he wants? I've spent a lot of time creating a secure, account based control system, and though I might use auto-discovery to help aid the user in their configuration of the system, I'd probably still always require that someone with admin rights has to take pro-active steps to allow any device to actually take part in the control and automation system.
In the context of a serious control system, as apposed to Joe Blow's little home theater system, control and stability count for far more than the small amount of inconvenience required to bring up an interface and bless a device to enter the system. That's not to say that certain types of devices shouldn't be able to just connect and work, but in many cases it would only be after pre-approval of the system admin.
|Web tablets and Pocket PC are not yet the kind of user interface most people will accept when controlling their audio or video systems. Control via a web browser is too inconvenient to be accepted by most people when changing channels on a TV or cable box. But given the number of unemployed software programmers familiar with Java and flash this too will be overcome in the near future (3 years ).
If you don't think that a computer or web tablet or PocketPC is appropriate, what good will software engineers do for you? Personally, I think that an LCD touch screen beside the couch, connected to a very small, minimalist PC or connected to a larger control machine in the closet, or the small computer wirelessly connected to the larger control machine, will be a very common and acceptable interface, with PocketPC and IR and keypads providing alternative means of control.
Also, I think we need to keep up with what markets we are talking about here, which I kind of hinted at above. I think that there is a problem with people confusing their markets in many cases. If you are talking about a serious control system for the home, that is a far different market and set of constraints and requirements from a system where Joe Blow can just plug in his DVD player with a single cable and it will do some minimal integration with his receiver.
What is possible and desireable is fairly radically different between those two groups. Joe Blow, the one who needs an auto-configuring HT system, isn't going to be building a home network probably and ain't gonna buy any kind of serious control system or a PocketPC to control it. On the other end, those folks looking at a serious system aren't going to put their own systems together, their system integrator will do it, so auto-discovery is not an issue except to the point where some devices are set up by the control system to be allowed to be plugged in (physically or conceptually) to the system temporarily. In that system, stability will be far more important than any kind of auto-discovery and auto-connection. It won't be considered any kind of burden to manually indicate what devices are on the network and set up the drivers for them and create interfaces to control them and so forth.
So that leaves some number of people in between those two extremes, and what kind of market that is and how big it is. I'm not sure, personally. I would imagine that the bulk of those people lean more towards the Joe Blow end of the range than the serious control system side. So they are probably going to be satisfied with simple auto-configuration, of isolated islands of co-located devices, probably with control via the TV screen or some such thing, i.e. a purely CE world.
So I have to wonder whether someone like Crestron pushing some kind of auto-discovery system is their attempt to get more into that middle chunk of people, and how really successful that will be, or will it just be a big waste of money and time?
Oh well, I'm rambling again. No matter what, if any of these protocols are proprietary, they are doomed. No one is going to dominate the industry with a proprietary protocol. This is purely plumbing and if it's not an open and freely useable protocol (with possibly a validation process that costs money in order to get the official seal of approval), it ain't gonna ever be used in enough devices to be useful. I think that this is one of the big issues with HAVi/Firewire, that instead of just making the standard and putting it out there for everyone to use, they've made it a proprietary technology, with fairly sizeable licensing fees and such.