One of the best things about owning an Apple TV is the ability to share everything on your Mac’s screen with the flatscreen in your living room. It works perfectly. If there’s video on the Internet that you can’t find on one of the Apple TV apps, you don’t have to worry about it; you just screen share and enjoy.
Google and Netflix are tired of Apple having all the fun with wireless video streaming between devices, so they’ve brewed up their own solution to compete with AirPlay. The new protocol is called DIAL, and like Android, it’s free and already has some big companies backing it.
DIAL stands for “DIsovery And Launch” and Samsung, Sony, Hulu, and the BBC are all eager to support it. It’s a simple protocol that 2nd screen devices (like a smartphone) can use to discover and launch apps on 1st screen devices (like your TV, set-top box, or Blu-ray player). It’s pretty similar to AirPlay in that it can detect compatible devices in the area and open up a connection between the two to start streaming video.
GigaOM has a great synopsis of how DIAL will be used in the real world:
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.
But what you really want to know is whether DIAL is better than AirPlay, right? Well that’s a little bit difficult to say. DIAL makes it easier to get Netflix streaming on your TV when you’re browsing it on your smartphone, but with AirPlay you can stream any video from your MacBook to your TV. DIAL will be supported by more companies on more devices than AirPlay is, but if you’re already invested in the Apple ecosystem that’s probably not an issue.
Right now it doesn’t look like DIAL actually supports screen sharing, but maybe that’s in the works. Of course, with AirPlay you need to buy Apple’s hobby TV for $99 to get video onto your flatscreen, so there is a barrier to entry, whereas many Samsung, LG and Sony TVs from 2012 and onward can support DIAL with a software update.
While AirPlay and DIAL compete in the same arena, they both have separate skills that make for valuable tools. Apple and Google could add those missing skills to DIAL and AirPlay to make them even, and we wouldn’t be surprised if that happens over the next 12 months. But then again, Apple might unveil their own HDTV this year that absolutely destroys DIAL. We’ll just have to wait and see.