Digital signage player – what player to use?
Windows, Android and HTML5
Within the digital signage industry there is a vast selection of different digital signage players. Because of the rapid changes in technology we created this document to attempt to explain in further detail the differences between the options available in the market whilst trying to remain as objective as possible. We are aware that even more options exist but chose to limit this article to the three platforms named.
Microsoft Windows is the most common operating system found on computers and has been around for many years. Its continuous development makes it increasingly robust and its compatibility with third party equipment, drivers and codecs make it highly versatile. So what are the pros and cons?
- Well-known, easy to support and get help.
- Robust operating system with the ability and performance to present graphics like no other.
- Hardware can be upgraded (within reason).
- Susceptible to malware and viruses.
- Hardware compatibility issues may occur.
- High cost of licensing (when applied to digital signage).
Windows-based digital signage players are prepared to perform. Provided that the correct hardware is used you are most likely to have the most powerful digital signage player in the industry. Theres always a risk that the hardware may no longer be adequate but its easily upgradable in the future. The total cost of licenses are likely to trigger buyers to look for alternatives.
Android has gained significant momentum, certainly within Asia. The key trigger for its popularity is the open source code that forms its roots. Effectively it reduces the cost of the operating system to zero.
However, as Android is still young and developing at quite a high pace, the operating system is not (yet) as powerful as conventional Windows or Linux.
In most cases Android is tailored to specific hardware. Despite the fact many different versions of Android exist, most instances are defined for the intended platform only.
- No license cost.
- Cheap hardware.
- Powerful enough to cater for most mainstream requirements.
- Too many different devices on the market. It is hard to fully support all of them.
- Open source so easy to insert malicious code.
- Its primary purpose was aimed at consumer products not professional installations.
Android is growing rapidly. Despite the fact it was originally designed for consumer products, you see more and more professional devices appearing every day. The cost for licenses will always make Android an interesting option. With the rapid development of Android, you will see the gap between conventional operating systems like Windows grow smaller day by day.
It is important to know that HTML5 is a web scripting language, not an operating system. HTML5 technology can run on various different operating systems.
HTML5 is a standard defined by the W3C (World Wide Web consortium) on how next generation website code should be interpreted. It would be fairer to compare web browsers instead of comparing to a coding language. However recent movements from screen manufacturers like Samsung and Sony have made it worthwhile shedding some light onto this whole matter.
DISE have recently released a built-in player, integrated within certified screens. All of a sudden you could run your digital signage project without having to purchase additional player hardware. All that would be required is a content management system that will works with the player.
- No licensing cost.
- Based on a standard.
- No hardware issues.
- Limits customers to not use other hardware.
- Content cannot be guaranteed to look the same on different players.
- Hardware could limit the playback behaviour, depending on content.
HTML5-based players have become really popular especially in the US. The lack of an operating system and no cost for licensing make it very popular. The level of support would be limited when you know the players capability. There are still some worries with the HTML5 standard, such as the integration with (external) dynamic data or integration with other hardware. In some cases you rely on storing a lot of data on the player end, which may exceed the storage capacity of the built-in player. Also some features require that you have internet connection in order to work, however that is not solely an HTML5 issue.
As with everything, if youre in the process of implementing a digital signage system you really need to see what your needs are and more importantly what your needs are in the near future. As written above, all platforms have pros and cons and there will be issues with all of them. What is important is how well the support works and limit the down time for the client.
Price always play a big role when assessing a system like this. Just make sure you consider future cost when doing the calculation. Replacing a unit one time or five times that is a totally different ball game.