DoubleTwist, an iTunes alternative for the Android ecosystem, has teamed up with chipmaker Qualcomm on the release of “MagicPlay,” which the two companies are describing as an open-source, media-streaming platform meant to challenge Apple’s AirPlay. The technology is built on Qualcomm’s AllJoyn protocol, a mesh networking platform that has been in development for several years, but which has yet to achieve serious OEM or consumer adoption.
AllJoyn, for those unfamiliar, works with specific Qualcomm chipsets to enable proximity-based, peer-to-peer networks. The company has previously stated that AllJoyn is not meant to replace either Wi-Fi Direct or Bluetooth, but rather live alongside those technologies to make it easier for devices to talk to each other. So yes, it’s an idea that falls into the “Internet of Things” space, which envisions a world where all our devices can share data between one other.
Some potential use cases for AllJoyn include mobile games, which could immediately switch into multiplayer mode when near other gamers, or photo or file sharing without using NFC or Bluetooth. Qualcomm also recently invested in a contextual personal search/assistant app called Friday, which plans to integrate the technology in future builds.
But while a network of smart devices communicating with each other is representative of Qualcomm’s larger vision, the company still needs an angle into real-world adoption first. On that note, it has partnered with doubleTwist on MagicPlay, an open-source protocol that will allow any Android device, smartphone or tablet to wirelessly stream media to any device with a Qualcomm chip running the AllJoyn protocol.
The platform will allow smartphones and tablets to connect with speakers, including those both in the home and in the car. It can also enable connecting devices via Wi-Fi as an alternative to Bluetooth – a fact that goes against Qualcomm’s earlier positioning as to where this protocol fits in compared with similar technologies. In this case, it’s not “complementing” Bluetooth, for example, it could replace it – at least in this particular use case. App developers can also add MagicPlay to their mobile apps, allowing them to stream content to speakers, TVs, cars and more.
Well…they could if Qualcomm can get consumer electronics makers to commit to integrating the technology in their products, as well. Notably absent in the two companies’ announcements today was any sort of mention of which OEMs are planning to support AllJoyn more directly – something that’s a necessary part to any sort of grand scheme to launch any AirPlay “killer,” so to speak. Being an open-source technology, of course, is a good first step, but it still needs to be ubiquitous to really take off. Apple’s AirPlay is easy because you know if you have only Apple devices in the mix, it will work. But look at something like NFC, which has been baked into various Android devices (and those from others) over the years. Because it’s not everywhere, it hasn’t become a daily habit, or a standard way that consumers think to share files or photos (e.g. with Android’s SmartBeam) or make payments at point-of-sale.
Another obstacle for Qualcomm’s AllJoyn is that it competes with a standards-driven AirPlay alternative known as Mircast, which builds upon Intel’s earlier efforts with Wi-Fi Direct. Samsung’s Mircast-based “AllShare Cast” platform is already built into the Galaxy S II, Note 10.1, Note II and others. Other CE and chip companies supporting the platform include LG, Marvell, Nvidia and Sony.
DoubleTwist’s MagicPlay integration will be available this spring, and the MagicPlay source code will become available in Q3 2013.