A native media player on all OSs

March 22, 2017

DSplay delivers native software on all OSs

DSplay holds proudly a place among those few digital signage software platforms that offer a native software media player for all supported operating systems. There is definitely higher complexity and greater investment on our part to be able to deliver this advanced architectural feature to our customers. But it reflects our commitment to high quality and enhanced performance without compromises. Let us examine below why this feature is so interesting.

The urge to go cross platform

Media player hardware for digital signage applications has evolved greatly in the last few years. Not too long ago professional media players suitable for 1080p content and 24x7 operation were sold at prices exceeding by far the cost of a typical 42" LCD display. This has all changed with the introduction of new types of media player hardware, oftentimes based on Android but still capable of rendering 1080p or even 4K content.

Most of these devices are priced very moderately and the latest trend is that display manufacturers include an embedded hardware media player in their professional models, aka "smart displays". Of course, this abundance of new hardware with many different options in terms of operating systems (Linux, Android and even ChromeOS), has created a pressure on digital signage software vendors to offer multiplatform media players.

Is browser-based the same as native?

One way to achieve compatibility with many OSs is to develop a browser based media player that uses web technologies (e.g. HTML5) to process and render media files. This approach is quicker and easier to implement and it can be fine for a limited set of core functions of media player software. But opting for a native software media player on any given operating system has considerable merits, at least from the standpoint of the end user. Here is why:

  • A browser based player sits on top of an OS and is contained in a browser "sandbox". This restricts the level of access to hardware resources on the media player device, as well as to peripheral components and systems.
  • The purpose of a media player software module is not to simply play media files. It also needs to update schedules, manage hardware it runs on, monitor resources, log and report events and communicate with the CMS server and peripheral devices. Functions like these cannot be optimized or sometimes even possible with browser based software.
  • Native media players, when designed properly, deliver superior performance in media playback with smoother motion, flawless transition effects and no stuttering
  • Native players have the capacity to monitor system resources and media playback and reset the device if necessary, to avoid failures, frozen images or error screens.
  • There is a lot more flexibility in choosing media processing frameworks with native players, which directly affects not only the quality of playback but also supported formats. With browser based players you are stuck with whatever media processing and controls have been packaged in the browser codebase (e.g. webkit).

Native media players are developed in lower level programming languages that provide much more freedom and flexibility. They also represent a higher investment in time and effort on behalf of the software vendor. Quality, reliability and performance cannot be matched by players built with web centric languages. The same is true for scalability of a network to hundreds of displays as well for the ability of a media player to exploit fully the available resources on low-cost, ARM based hardware devices. When looking for digital signage software it is important to understand these differences and plan your development by taking them into consideration.

take a detailed tour of DSplay features, here.