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Fusion CEO: Media Servers Still Going Strong

Fusion Research attributes longevity of media server business to pricing, generic storage, streaming content, self-hosted database, no contracts with DVD CCA.


Fusion Research founder Joseph Storm, and VP sales Ingo Schmoldt demo media servers at the Control4 booth during EHX 2011.
Julie Jacobson · March 29, 2011

Dedicated media servers are a dying breed … or maybe not.

“From our perspective, it’s going well,” said Joseph Storm, founder of Fusion Research, during the recent Electronic House Expo in Orlando, Fla.

The secret to Fusion’s longevity? “We think pricing needs to be affordable.”

For its part, Fusion’s media server solutions start at about $3,000, but only a handful of like-minded vendors still offer something similar.

In the past few years, we’ve seen the demise of many top-name custom-friendly media servers – some of which were resurrected as new brands or under new ownership.

Among the casualties (the media server products, not necessarily the companies):
- Niveus (now software-only)
- Lifeware (ditto)
- Imerge (now owned by Prism Sound)
- Colorado vNet
- Escient
- Axonix (now Mozaex)
- Sunfire
- Xperinet
- AMX

During EHX 2011, Storm and Fusion VP sales Ingo Schmoldt explained some of the secrets of Fusion’s success.

[continues after the YouTube video by Joe Whitaker, The Soho Shop]

All content in one place
Last year, Fusion brought Boxee to its media servers, giving users instant access to Netflix, Pandora, YouTube and a host of over streaming services.

“People are saying that they have it [access to content] on their receiver on a Boxee Box, but they want it all in one place,” says Schmoldt.

In Fusion’s case, Boxee shares an interface with local content, including ripped DVDs.

DVDs still rule
Even the highest quality streaming services like Vudu pale in comparison to a DVD or Blu-ray disc, whether it’s the real thing or copied bit-for-bit onto a Fusion drive.

“In demos, the physical disc blows them away,” Schmoldt says.

Simple storage
Many dedicated media servers require the vendors’ own hard drives to expand capacity. Fusion, on the other hands, lets users add generic hard drives like a NAS to the system.

DRM
Several vendors dropped their media servers simply for legal reasons – they didn’t care to battle the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) or the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

On the other hand, Storm is not concerned about run-ins with the DVD CCA, which licenses the decryption software for DVDs. Unlike the legally entangled Kaleidescape, which is a member and licensee of the DVD CCA, Fusion is not.

Storm explains, “We buy our [decryption] licenses per box” from an OEM provider.

He notes that the arrangement puts Fusion out of the immediate reach of the DVD CCA.

Related: Is Your DVD Server Legal? Manufacturers Say Yes!

Self-hosted database
Most media server vendors rely on third-party grooming and hosting for music and video databases, but not Fusion.

“We host our own database,” says Schmoldt. “I think Kaleidescape and us are the only ones to build our own engine from the ground up.”

Pricing
As media server products come down in price, the skeptical public becomes more open to the possibilities.

“As you get down to less than $3,000,” says Storm, “dealers with old Escient customers are saying, ‘I think I can get them to upgrade for that.’”



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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics


News · Boxee · DVD CCA · EHX · Fusion Research · Streaming Media · All Topics
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