From Media Servers to Streaming Services

From Media Servers to Streaming Services

Anthony Nguyen
Jan 3, 2012

It wasn't too long ago when media servers were all the rage, but more and more people are starting to realize that meticiulously orgnaizing all of your music requires a huge time investment, time that many of us would rather spend outside or browsing YouTube videos. This explains why streaming services, despite their bumpy business models, may be the most convenient option of them all.

Services like Hulu+, Netflix, and Amazon Instant have garnered much momentum over the past year. By placing themselves on nearly every Internet-connected device, the convenience of simply launching a service and streaming your favorite shows from the comfort of your living room far trumps organizing files in a directory any day. Also, with smart recommendation algorithms, one can find even more shows/movies to watch, all with their metadata intact.

It may sound gratifying or perhaps even fun on paper, but when you're talking digital media, that's a lot of work to meticulously sift through and tag everything they own - way more than your old school CD/vinyl collection. We're talking thousands of assets here. With the power of new software and technology today, this process of tagging should be streamlined and easy - and make the experience sexy while doing so.

As far as bridging the gap between Internet, TV, and the user, one fine example of service providers sending the right message is Vimeo's Couch Mode. Originally introduced for Google TV, this feature pushed the boundary for 'video playlists' and is now one of the biggest draws for using the service (in addition to the sheer simplicity of their UIs). It only took a few months after when YouTube and other video streaming services followed suit.

We feel the next step in this area is mastering the 'video playlist.' Cross-streaming service playlists and the ability to collaborate with friends would be even more awesome. We just need to wait and see how flexible the TV and movie studios are first before seeing the first steps towards a new digital channel for the home theater experience.

This brings us to the final layer of the transition of media server to streaming services; that is, the device itself.

Like any technological transition, having a 'middle-ground' device is usually the best answer if you've truly invested heavily in the media server, but still want the benefits of streaming services. For those individuals, WD TV Live ($100) and Boxee ($160) are both excellent options for the money.

Otherwise, Roku (Starts at $50) is a great option if you've decided to make the jump to 'online streaming-only' and rid yourself of the whole concept of the media server all together.

What are your thoughts on the media server to streaming services trend?

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