Netflix has officially detailed its Apple AirPlay alternative, DIAL, created in collaboration with YouTube and promising intuitive second-screen entertainment. Already garnering the support of the BBC, Sony, Hulu, and Samsung, DIAL - or "discovery and launch" - aims to streamline the second-screen experience, by automatically discovering compliant devices and starting up apps on them. So, the Netflix app on your phone will be able to spot any Netflix-compatible TVs nearby, and open up the functionality instantly.
That way, rather than forcing users to open up an app on their phone or tablet, and on their smart TV or STB-enabled TV, and then make sure they're paired together, it should be a one-button process. That's pretty much what AirPlay does - automatically locating other AirPlay gadgets on the same network - but whereas Apple's system is limited to the company's own hardware, DIAL is being offered up freely.
Unlike AirPlay, however, DIAL doesn't include any screen-sharing abilities; instead, that functionality will be left up to the app developers themselves to initiate, should they want to. Instead, it's being positioned as broader than that, in the expectation that more developers will jump onboard if it's more flexible.
What DIAL can do that AirPlay can't, meanwhile, is prompt smart TV users to download and install relevant apps if they're available, to unlock new features, as well as open up web apps on internet-connected sets. Chrome support may also be added, allowing the browser on your laptop to open up apps on your TV.
All well and good, but compatibility is the key to success, and there DIAL has something of an advantage already. According to Netflix, current-gen Google TV hardware already has support for DIAL, and there's some support in 2012-range Samsung and LG sets; Sony is also expected to get onboard, since it and Samsung were apparently instrumental in testing DIAL during its development.
Netflix will be allowing DIAL adoptees to use the phrase "based on DIAL" in their branding, though will be licensing out use of the logo itself separately. There'll also be a mandatory registry - which currently includes Pandora, Hulu, the BBC, Flingo, and more - for "first screen" apps (i.e. those shown on your TV) with DIAL support.