What do you do with a media-streaming device that doesn’t connect to anything? That’s the question posed by the HP Media Vault NAS, which I reviewed this month (page 79). I found that I was unable to stream a movie on the device’s hard drive to any connected platform in my house, including Windows Media Player 11 and the Xbox 360.
But determining the culprit in this media mess wasn’t as cut-and-dried as I expected. I was ready to hoist the sails and speed away from the sinking HP device, but a little bit of research brought a new target to bear: Microsoft. The company has allegedly modified the open UPnP protocol the Xbox uses to connect to devices. Company reps won’t admit to any outright fudging, but something seems suspicious in their response: “The Xbox 360 console is optimized to communicate with Microsoft UPnP streaming devices… to provide the best possible consumer experience with the Xbox 360 dashboard.”
The blog Mediaholic interviewed the CTO of TwonkyVision at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show—TwonkyVision being the creator of TwonkyMedia, the streaming service the QNAP TS-109 Pro NAS box uses to connect to the Xbox. This works, according to the CTO, because Twonky reverse engineered the protocol to end-run Microsoft’s Windows Media Connect-only restriction.
If that’s correct—and I suspect it is—that’s why I’m hacked off. An open standard is dubbed “open” for an explicit reason: A product that follows the standard should be able to interoperate with other standard-friendly devices. You’re not following the standard if you’re tweaking it to work with only your branded platforms.
HP might share some blame for not figuring out a way to make streaming work, but why should a company have to reinvent a wheel that Microsoft’s broken?