So tell me about this category. You're in a different sector than DirecTV, Toshiba/TiVo or other high-def
digital video recorders, right?
Right. We don't do recording off the air or off cable. We deliver movies on hard disks, and so we're able to deliver
them at higher bit-rate encoding. A few of our titles come in the high-definition 1080i format, encoded at 35 megabits
per second, or double the rate of broadcast HD. Many more are on the way.
Talk to me about price. Your most inexpensive model costs
more than my new car.
We cater to the high end of the custom installation market. Typically you'll find they've got a large home, several
plasma displays, a media room and projector, three to five viewing zones, perhaps a yacht with 10 to 50 cabins, each
with a separate viewing zone. These are pretty high-end affairs, but the cost is not out of line with the chunk of
change they spend on all sorts of things.
The basic unit starts at $27,000 and some go up to $100,000 for additional storage, server boxes and viewing zones.
All the players are connected by a home Ethernet system.
OK, you can watch movies in a zillion rooms. What else can this baby do? Bake? Clean house?
You can browse your DVD collection in lots of ways. Sort by movie title, by genre, actor, director or running time.
You can look at the details of each movie and its cover art.
You can mark your favorite scenes and locate them immediately. In addition, when you press play it starts with the
movie, skipping over the FBI warning, the trailers, advertising and menu. It also sends cues to the control system by
lowering the lights or setting automatic masking on your home theater system (black velvet panels that move up and down
to accommodate the movie's dimensions).
You're also selling Kaleidescape Collection DVDs ranging in
prince from $1,180 to $6,890. That would make a nice Valentine's Day present.
How are sales of the units?
Somewhat more than 300 systems have shipped. We're just at the beginning of the curve, and we're seeing a lot of
interest in the marketplace.
What do you need in place to get the full effect - a home theater system?
We sell our systems exclusively through custom home system integrators, and they'll be able to feed the output into
any video or audio processors in the home.
Given Hollywood's hyper-sensitivity to digital piracy, I take it these systems come with full digital rights
We've taken great precautions to ensure that the stored content is unusable outside the system and can't be uploaded
or streamed onto the Internet. But we use the Internet to connect people's homes to our servers so we can provide the
data about each movie.
So you're not streaming movies yet?
And your units are not portable. Homeowners can't copy, share or burn a single movie, is that
You obtained a license from the DVD Copy Control Association to show Hollywood movies on your system. Why are
they suing Kaleidescape?
It's a head scratcher. The DVD-CCA is an industry association of three industry groups: the film industry, the
consumer electronics industry and the computer manufacturers. It's not really clear who's the driving force behind
You'd think the studios would be happy with a system where people have to go out and buy scores of
And that's what happens with our customers: They immediately go out and buy hundreds of DVDs. While there's some
traditional resistance in Hollywood to new technologies, it may be that there are some anticompetitive aspects to the
suit brought by the big CE manufacturers, who don't want to see a major competitor emerge. They're not close to coming
out with a product like ours, and we've got a pretty healthy list of patents.
Their suit says that Kaleidescape must redesign its system to require the presence of the physical DVD disc in
the drive during authentication and playback. That pretty much defeats the whole purpose of your
Exactly. I've read and our attorneys have read the DVD-CCA license specifications over and over, and nowhere does it
say that. If it were true, why can't they point to a specific section of the license agreement that? They can't because
it's not there.
They're afraid of what - DVD swapping?
I don't have any knowledge of that happening. It is not in our interests to be using our system to steal content.
We've done everything in our power to prevent that from happening.
Our rules prohibit that.
Look, today it costs $50 to $60 per DVD just for the storage space, so it's cheapter to just go buy the DVD than it
would be to make a pirated copy onto the Kaleidescape system. What's actually happening is that we've heard customers
tell us they had stopped buying DVDs for about two years because they had no place to store them - they were chewing up
half the wine cellar.
Oh, the tragedy.
Once they got a Kaleidescape system, then they had a way to organize their digital entertainment and they'd go out and
buy DVDs again.
Do you plan to file a counter-action against the DVD-CCA?
It looks that way. We have a lot of support behind us. (See
Editorial: DVD CCA is an Innovation-Stifling Cartel.)
A new generation of DVDs is coming out in the next year. Will Kaleidescape support those newfangled
It's yet to be seen as to what will be involved to support them. I don't know how rapidly these will take off, given
the industry is divided between two different standards,
HD-DVD would require a new hardware device for reading them. With our system, one of the nice things about the
architecture is that you just add a new input device on your Ethernet system and you're all set.
What's the next step beyond what your current system can do? Are you in the DVD playback business, or the
movie viewing business?
We're in the home entertainment business. As the cost of these systems continues to go down, we'd like to add
additional capabilities to our system, so you can listen to music to our system, load CDs onto it, download music from
places like iTunes. By the end of this decade, it will become very practical to store hundreds of movies and other
digital media on these systems.
Wake me when the price drops below $1,000.
I think we're five to seven years away from hitting the mass market.
J.D. Lasica is author of the upcoming book
Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation.