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The Grand Unified Theory of Media

The Grand Unified Theory of Media
Where'd I put that CD again? With the right technology, who cares?
Rafe Needleman [AlwaysOn] | POSTED: 07.19.04 @00:46

Convergence, hah. Right now, I'm suffering from massive media divergence.
I've got TV shows on my TiVo, photos and some videos on my PC, different
MP3 tunes on my laptop and my desktop (not to mention on my portable MP3
player). So when I want to find a particular piece of media, I don't know
where to start.

The brute force solution—copy everything onto everything—doesn't work,
since aside from the desktop PC, no device has enough space to store it
all. And anyway, even if I can find the right file, chances are I can't
play it where I want to—I haven't yet found a satisfactory solution for
getting my video files onto my TV, and if I'm on the road and want to
listen to an MP3 that's back home on my PC, forget it.

Microsoft is of course trying to solve this with its Media Center
software, and Apple does a good job as well. TiVo is even in the game. But
with these mainstream solutions, once you leave the home network, you are
on your own. A few different startups are tying to integrate all of a
user's media files. Of these, one of the most interesting is AllMiMedia.

The demo I got, by CTO Luc Julia, was impressive. On a table at Starbucks
he had a laptop, two mobile phones, and a Wi-Fi PDA, all of which, at one
point during our conversation, were playing or displaying Luc's media.

AllMiMedia is based on a core that runs on a PC, which users leave on all
the time at their home or office. This PC reaches out to all your media
storage and playback devices, and lets you play anything anywhere. It
handles all the transcoding for you, too. For example, if you want to view
a 5 megapixel photograph on your mobile phone, the software will first
convert it into a small phone-sized image before it transmits it.
Likewise, the system will transcode audio and video before streaming the
files to remote devices.

The system can also control other devices. With it, you can set your TiVo
to record a show, or turn on a light in your living room (using X10 home
control technology) And if you plug a new media source (like a camera)
into your PC, you can immediately see its output on any device, like your
TV or your mobile phone.

AllMiMedia (the name may change before the product is released) also lets
you program stock or weather tickers into the system that you can view
anywhere. And a lot more. Actually, since it gives you access to your main
computer from just about any device anywhere, AllMiMedia reminds me more
of computer remote control solutions like GoToMyPC and LapLink Everywhere
than of other media products.

Eventually I had to end the demo so we could talk about the business. And
that's where things got difficult. VP Joe Harris cringed slightly when I
brought up the problems TiVo had early on with consumer education. TiVo
was (and is) a great product, but initially consumers just didn't get it.
Joe was at TiVo, it turns out, and is familiar with the heartache of
explaining a new idea to a potential customer base that's just not paying

Still, there are many potential customers for this type of product: cable
operators,wireless operators, online portals, you name it. Everybody in
consumer technology will at some point want their service to become the
touchpoint for managing digital media, and AllMiMedia could be a good
foundation to build on. Considering how many people will eventually want a
consolidated way to manage their media, the potential opportunity is huge.
But AllMiMedia, if it succeeds, will not be a consumer brand.