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The April 23, 2002 Issue Provided by System Dynamics Inc.
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Managing Media Chaos -- OpenGlobe

Does this scenario sound familiar? Some of our CDs are in Dave's car and some are in Sandy's, some are at Dave's PC and others at Sandy's, some are on the shelves near the dining room CD player and others are in a drawer in our family room. Some have gotten into the wrong jewel cases and some are missing their liner notes. We have friends visiting and want to play that new CD we're sure they'll love. But...where is it? And how do we keep track of the music we've downloaded to our various PCs? And what about the growing video chaos now that we have a DVD player?

We think of this mess as our personal media chaos but suspect we've not alone.

We spoke with Rob Hudson, VP Marketing at OpenGlobe, who sees problems like ours as their opportunity. He explained that OpenGlobe sees its role as letting users manage their media and thus increase the value and connection they have with it. This means things like ".. easily store and access their media collections, discover gaps, import and use digital media, create favorite playlists, ... explore new artists or genres, get customized content, receive media recommendations, and opt in to personalized purchasing opportunities" plus "access Internet radio, entertainment news, collect album art and liner notes for every disc in your collection".

OpenGlobe is part of Escient Technologies, LLC. The parent company's tag line captures something lots of us hope for: "We make technology behave." OpenGlobe's sister companies include Escient Convergence Corp., whose heritage is designing high-end media management systems; and Gracenote, which operates CDDB, the largest online music database (see the following article).

OpenGlobe goes about simplifying users' relationships with their media two ways:

  • They create core hardware and software technologies which are embedded in consumer electronics and PCs by OEM partners
  • They create consumer-focused Internet-delivered content and services to complement the home entertainment products deployed by OpenGlobe's OEM partners.

The two thrusts mutually support one another. For example, the Compaq iPAQ™ Music Center stores over 5,000 songs and organizes and identifies your songs through an on-screen "Visual Music Guide" to create song lists and groupings. The associated OpenGlobe™ Entertainment Services power the Visual Music Guide by identifying the CDs through an Internet connection as they are recorded. Song titles, artists, album covers and genre information are also downloaded and users can listen to and purchase music from the Web.

Cuba Gooding  biography --> Click for larger pictureWhen the user presses the OpenGlobe button on the remote, they can access free services including track lists, biographical information on the performers, links to related performers, and opportunities to buy additional CDs.

Filmography --> Click for larger pictureOpenGlobe is also developing a comparable service for DVDs. This includes biographies of actors, "filmographies", and of course more buying opportunities.

Some of the types of products created by OpenGlobe and examples of partner implementations are:

  • distributed home music servers (Escient FireBall)
  • digital audio jukebox/server/players (Compaq iPAQ Music Center MC-1)
  • home-networked audio receivers (Kenwood Axcess)
  • CD/DVD changer management systems (Escient Tunebase 100/200 and PowerPlay)
  • reference design for UPnP-compliant network audio entertainment receiver/players (Texas Instruments)

Rob told us that the goal for OpenGlobe products is mass market acceptance: "our beachhead is the family room". This requires making products with simple-to-use interfaces at consumer price points.

With all this focus on CE products, we asked whether OpenGlobe includes PCs in the equation. "The opportunity to fill a need and bridge the gap between the learning in the PC space and the needs of the entertainment space is significant. It will evolve to a rich combination of PC and home entertainment (HE) innovations...not one or the other alone. OpenGlobe really seeks to jump start the HE piece and leverage the PC trend, so maybe that means that we are in the right place at the right time."

( www.OpenGlobe.NET ) ( www.EscientTechnologies.com ) ( www.EscientConvergence.com ) ( www.Gracenote.com )

While OpenGlobe's current target is the mass market using consumer electronic devices, other products are going at the problem of organizing and accessing music for more "technically advanced" homes. One example is the Turtle Beach AudioTron, discussed below. It assumes that you already have a home network and are willing to record digital music files on one or more PC hard drives. When you're not at your PC it provides a 'smart stereo component' that uses your home network to stream music from the computer hard drives.