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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Kaleidescape and Other Set-Top Boxes

The NY Times has a piece focusing on set-top boxes that deliver movies to a TV, including Akimbo, MovieBeam, and Microsoft's Xbox 360. But the main attraction is Kaleidescape, a $27,000-and-up jukebox system that offers access to a library of DVDs using an elegantly-designed interface. (A new, lower-priced system will set you back just $10,000.)

Wilson Rothman writes:

    While a few nonbillionaires ... have convinced their families that a Kaleidescape is worth it, the company’s customer base mostly reads like the Forbes 100 list: chief executives and Saudi princes, some with more than 30 movie players installed on private yachts and Boeing jets.

    With clientele like that, the price is unlikely to drop again anytime soon. Michael Malcolm, the chief executive and founder of Kaleidescape, says he is too busy filling orders and, besides, it takes a lot of money to make the systems work as well as they do. If a Kaleidescape server finds a hard-disk glitch, it alerts company headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Before the customer notices a thing, the company has sent a replacement hard disk. The customer simply slides the disk into the appropriate slot, and life goes on. Because of the way hard disks are arrayed, the failure of one will not result in the loss of any saved movies.

    Though Kaleidescape the product may be out of reach for most movie lovers, the concept behind it — a vast catalog of movies available instantly on your TV — is now appearing in many more affordable products. Soon the only question will be: Will you rent movies or buy them?

I've seen Kaleidescape demonstrated -- and it is really a nice way to browse through your DVDs and select one to watch. But much like Netflix, Kaleidescape is a business that is betting that physical DVDs will survive (and remain the most convenient movie-watching option) for a few more years, since their system doesn't yet have a way to download movies-on-demand from the Net.