Is Kaleidescape Worth the Money?

11 Nov

kaleidescape cinema1For years one of the most controversial names in the audio video industry, Kaleidescape none the less developed an extremely loyal dealer and customer base.  The ease with which it enables users to search their entire movie catalog is absolutely astounding.  But in this age of extreme bandwidth speeds, is a system like the Kaleidescape worth the investment?

The Interface That Sells Itself

One of the most powerful features of the Kaleidescape system is it’s user interface.  While electronic components boast powerful features they often fall way short when it comes to how the end user controls it.  An effective system must be designed for the lowest common denominator.

Apple’s iPhone is the perfect example.  Hand an iPhone to a child 2 years of age, then stand back and watch.  (I would caution you to have a decent protective case before attempting this test)  Within minutes they will begin to figure out how to use it.  The interface is so intuitive that a baby can use it.  Sounds silly right?

But this is exactly what Kaleidescape was banking on with their systems.  Their interface is so intuitive and so powerful, that people tend lose sight of the dollar it takes to buy one.  I once asked an AV dealer how he sold so many of these $30k systems.  He said “Easy, I turn it on and say ‘Look at this'”  And that’s basically true.

For years there was no good way to browse through a large catalog of movies.  Changers were slow and often required you to manually enter all of the movies information.  And God forbid if someone were to take a movie out and put it back in a different slot.

There were other players that jumped into this field such as Escient.  But they ended up failing miserably.  Much of this was due to hardware and software issues that became a constant stain on their business.

Moving Forward

In the beginning the biggest advantage the Kaleidescape system had was that it was memory-based.  You would burn your DVD’s to a hard drive and then you would be able to access it instantly from within their GUI.  You could even stream the same DVD to multiple rooms if you had multiple client units.

This particular aspect of the product is what landed them in hot water with the Motion Picture Association, who claimed that it was copyright infringement to copy a DVD to disc.  The court battle was long and drawn out.  In the end Kaleidescape agreed to build a changer into their system that would be required to be online with the disc inserted for the hard drive-based system to work.  It’s a workable solution since you still get the capability to access your movies instantly.

Streaming Movies Online

The biggest challenge Kaleidescape now faces is that broadband speeds have become so fast that it’s possible to download high resolution movies in a matter of minutes.  This means that you can watch just about any Blu-Ray that you want as soon as you select it.  One company that provides this services is Vudu.  You can buy or rent the movies.

Once you select the one you want, it begins to download to your client unit.  It will stream full 1080p over a fast enough Internet connection.  And the biggest advantage is that a Vudu box costs less than $150.  Compare this to the price tag of a Kaleidescape system that comes in north of $30,000.  With such a vast difference in price you have to really want it bad to justify the cost difference.

If it was on my dime, I would save the $30k and use that to stream a few thousand movies over the next couple years.  How about you?