CES: Sony's new HomeShare streaming-audio platform takes on AirPlay

Sony's newly announced HomeShare wireless music-streaming platform launches with five new products that will compete with Apple's similar AirPlay standard.

Sony NAS-SV20i
Sony NAS-SV20i Sony
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LAS VEGAS--Along with the roll-out of its typical home theater products, Sony has also announced a new wireless audio-streaming platform known as HomeShare. Sony kicked off the launch with five new products that use HomeShare, as well as an iPhone/Android app that can be used to control all of the HomeShare devices on your network.

While Sony has tried its hand at wireless music streaming before ( Altus and its related platform, S-Air ), HomeShare is an interesting, surprisingly nonproprietary new take. It's built around the DLNA standard, which means that HomeShare products can stream digital music from any DLNA-compliant device on your network. That's a boon to anyone with a DLNA-compatible NAS drive full of music; you'll be able to access your music on a HomeShare product without running a separate server on a PC.

When we peppered the Sony representatives with questions about the new products, we were surprised to learn how much you could do. Plug your iPhone into one of the two new HomeShare docks (NAS-SV20i and NAC-SV10i) and any music app playing on your phone--Rhapsody, Last.fm, etc.--can be streamed to another HomeShare device, such as the two standalone speakers (SA-NS400 and SA-NS300). The iPod docks also have an analog audio input around the back and convert any analog signal to be streamed to another HomeShare device. HomeShare also supports a "PartyStreaming" feature that allows you to sync all devices to stream the same music.

HomeShare compatibility will also be offered on many of the company's new Blu-ray players and TVs, as well as the Sony SMP-N100 set-top box. Again, all the functionality can be controlled via an iPhone or Android app, and Sony also released the RMN-U1 touch-screen Wi-Fi remote to be used with HomeShare.

Though we love the relatively open nature of HomeShare, it may have its downside. Sure, the competing Sonos wireless audio system is "closed" in that you're tied Sonos products, but that also enables the company to ensure rock-solid performance.

Sony will also be going head to head with Apple's new wireless audio-streaming platform, AirPlay. We've already seen several AirPlay-compatible products at CES 2011, from the B&W Zeppelin Air to the iHome iW1, and there's no doubt that Sony will have an uphill battle with Apple's built-in fanbase.

As with any streaming-audio product, HomeShare's success will depend largely on how reliable it is in practice, so we're looking forward to getting our hands on some of the new products for testing when they come out in March.

 

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