When Google launched its AirPlay-rivalling YouTube video-beaming functionality earlier this month, it was a welcome development, but one that felt a little incomplete. I have to have Google TV? Eh.
And don’t get me started on the approach taken by companies like Samsung and LG who reckon that, once you’ve bought their TV set, you’ll stick to their brand for handsets just so you can get easy streaming from one to the other. Most people don’t think like that, so hardly anyone uses the functionality. What a waste of the connectivity built into these TVs.
All of which is why I rather like the idea of Zapstreak‘s SDK, which has just come out of beta. I love the idea of pairing up the mobile device and television set – I want to use the zippy apps on my phone or tablet, not the clunky efforts built into my so-called smart TV – but I don’t want to be hemmed into some artificially walled garden. Miracast goes part of the way here, but even there you need special chips on either side.
The cool thing with Zapstreak’s SDK is that it allows Android apps to communicate with a wide variety of Wi-Fi-enabled devices, from TVs to gaming consoles and hi-fis – Zapstreak essentially provides a layer on top of the increasingly ubiquitous but severely underused DLNA standard, so anything that has that built in will work.
Zapstreak is a Polish company that’s had its SDK in beta since April, during which time it says it’s had around 100 developers giving active feedback. Here’s what co-founder Stefan Bielau has to say about that experience:
“It took a bit longer because there were various use cases on the way that we didn’t expect. For example we had a company from the U.S. that’s selling hearing aids and they have an app which is a text-to-voice app. They were interested in extending this setup for someone who doesn’t want to wear the hearing aid all the time at home, to listen to stuff through their home entertainment system.”
That’s a relatively obscure use case, though. A far easier one to grasp is this: imagine, as an Android user, visiting a friend with an Apple TV unit and streaming content from your handset to that receiver. According to Bielau, that can be done.
What’s more – and this may give the firm an answer to Google’s promised open protocol for streaming from Android devices – Zapstreak is also gearing up to release SDKs for Windows Phone 8 and iOS by the end of this year. Apple’s T&Cs don’t forbid doing that, Bielau noted, but Zapstreak’s going to check with Apple before it deploys anyway – this should be amusing, as it would theoretically mean the ability to stream from an iOS device to any DLNA-equipped TV without the need for Apple TV.
Developers using the SDK will need to pay Zapstreak $29 a month per dev account, rather than per app. However, Bielau said his team is considering making this a per-OS payment, once the Windows Phone 8 and iOS SDKs are out. Still, it’s pretty cheap, and the company’s also offering a 30-day free trial for developers who sign up early.
Interestingly, Bielau suggested that Zapstreak may over time evolve into a consultancy of sorts. The company is picking up some valuable data as developers use its SDK, such as information about which handsets are being used to cast to which TV models. This, he reckons reasonably, is something the OEMs might want to know.