HomeToys Interview – Media Servers

Scott Bahneman, CEO of MusicGiants

From March, 2000 to its sale to Concord EFS in 2002, Scott was a founder and SVP of Logix Companies (now a part of First Data Corporation). Prior to starting Logix, Scott was Vice President of Sales and a significant shareholder of Bancard Inc., one of the first automated credit card processing companies in the United States. Scott and his partners sold Bancard to what is now US Bank in 1999.
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1. The media touts 2008 as the year of the media server. Do you agree with them?

Yes. It seems as if the issues previously holding back production, such as drivers and Vista have been resolved. This year, we are seeing a huge push for media servers from all of the CE manufacturers.

2. When you were creating the business model for MG, what made you decide to ultimately push out the HD Media Store through partner’s hardware, rather than build your own set-top box?

We knew we would gain wider acceptance for our product by utilizing everyone else’s distribution networks.

3. Why build on the MS platform?

We knew an open platform would ultimately win in the end and that a large number of hardware manufacturers would choose to build on the MS platform as well.

4. What are the other options to MS and what makes them different / inferior?

Linux is a great option; however, it has no DRM built into it, unlike Microsoft. DRM was a key factor for us when we started licensing music from the major labels, and now movies from the major studios. Apple was never an option because they never partner with anyone.

5. Do you see any limitations to the set-top box? To media servers?

The traditional set-top-box is nothing more than a channel changer. A media server integrates not only that feature, but also disc playback and storage playback.

6. Typically, what features do you expect to see in a media server now and what may we expect in the future?

Currently, a media server should offer CD, DVD and Blu-ray playback, a cable card, DVR functionality and an overall media management system. In the near future, you can expect to see the addition of satellite cards and the ability to acquire content through integrated media stores such as MusicGiants and VideoGiants.

7. Do you see media servers becoming more of a mainstream consumer product? In other words, they will become affordable to everyone?

Yes, absolutely. Parks Associates estimates that annual sales of media servers will be significant over the next few years to the tune of 50 million by 2010. That is an extremely substantial number.

8. How about complexity and reliability. Are we there yet?

I don’t think enough media servers have been deployed yet to answer that question accurately. However, some of the larger manufacturers releasing media servers have a strong history of developing consistent products.

9. Why do you think quality content is so key when it comes to media servers? In a world full of YouTube and Apple grade content, do you think consumers have settled for low quality entertainment in their living rooms as well?

No, I don’t think that consumers have settled for low quality entertainment in their living rooms, otherwise the industry could not have sold 60 million HDTVs thus far. Additionally, demand for HD cable is incredible right now as you can read in the daily press.

10. What would be your dream Media Server setup Today … and Tomorrow (including hardware, software and services)?

My dream media server would have the following features:

* A satellite card built into it
* A really high-end audio card built into it that could handle multi-channel output and balanced analog output
* Multiple TB of storage
* Adequate cooling
* An extremely high-end video card
* Connection to all of the PCs in my house via a network
* Controlled by touch panel screen that is Wi-Fi enabled