In a world of cloud-based applications and media, it seems very 20th century that it's been difficult to stream movies and TV shows from collections on our home computers or media servers to mobile devices like iPads and iPhones.
But a new product called JetStream HD is aiming to change that dynamic. Launching at Demo Spring 2011 in Palm Desert, Calif., this week, JetStream HD combines hardware and software to serve up your personal media to an iPad, and in the near future to other devices like iPhones and iPod Touches, and possibly Android tablets.
JetStream HD users who pay the one-time $199 fee will get a special appliance that they connect via an Ethernet cable to a Wi-Fi router in their home. Any content from a home computer or media server that they want to view on the go is then captured wirelessly--or through a USB connection--and streamed over the Internet to their iPad. JetStream HD requires a visit to Apple's App Store for its dedicated iPad app, which authenticates the user, ensuring that only they can view the content.
The idea here is that users should be able to access all their rich media any time they want no matter where they are. JetStream CEO Grant Hall argued that while other services like Stream to Me and Air Video offer personal media streaming, they depend on software running on a user's home machine and therefore can be hamstrung if that computer lacks sufficient horsepower. As a result, Hall suggested, they cannot usually stream in high-definition.
By comparison, he said, JetStream HD can do just that, utilizing video conversion technology embedded in the appliance to boost the quality of the movie or TV show to HD when it arrives on the mobile device. That means, Hall said, that users should have no problem getting the quality they're used to from content like Blu-Ray movies stored at home.
At the same time, viewing video content in HD on the mobile device is meant to be continuous even if a user moves their iPad from a Wi-Fi connection to 3G--if they have a 3G-enabled device. JetStream HD auto adapts to the bandwidth available, Hall said, meaning that users generally have a seamless experience even if they move outside a Wi-Fi network. If the bandwidth available drops, users "may see [the] picture soften slightly," Hall said.
In addition to video content--either movies, TV shows, or a user's personal own videos--JetStream HD can also stream photos or music. In that, it is similar to what another product called Pogoplug does--send a user's personal content to mobile devices via an appliance that plugs into a wireless router in the home. Pogoplug will also soon make it possible to stream video.
Scrapes for metadata
Another feature of JetStream HD is that its software is designed to search the Internet, scraping for metadata related to the content that is available for streaming. They will see lists of content available from their home computer or media server and related information such as genres for their movies, the season and episode number for any TV show, and cover art for music. The JetStream software also provides search options so users can enter keywords and find content they're looking for, Hall promised.
And if new content is added at home, it will automatically be added to the database, meaning that it will instantly show up as available on the mobile device.
The appliance has two USB ports, allowing users to plug in two external hard drives or thumb drives. In the future, Hall said, the service is likely to be configured so that a USB camera could be plugged into the appliance, allowing for applications like a security system where users can see what's going on in or around their home at any time via their mobile device.
Hall said that JetStream will begin taking orders for the product this week and it is expected to be released in April or May. The Canadian company is funded through a combination of the founders' own money, some support from the Canadian government, and investments by family and friends.