While this certainly doesn’t capture all the company memories, it reflects many of mine (or at least the ones I took pictures of, with my old Kodak DC210 single-megapixel digital camera)…
2000-2001: the early years
Sure the company was founded in 1999, but it was in a different office and we were really beyond tiny back then (and were called even channelDOT for a few weeks). We established worldwide HQ at 1525 Union Street, a convenient block from my apartment at the time.
Back in these days, while we were pitching the vision of the “connected home” we were really up against a lot of negativity. We had to explain why consumers would likely network their homes in the next few years (we were right) and why they would, in turn, have networked media devices in the same timeframe (not so right). I remember listening to a major consumer electronics manufacturer share their vision of the future: embed SD cards into every device instead of a network port. Wow.
Also at the time we developed on a “ready to go” embedded Linux platform using chips from National Semiconductor (ah, the trusty Geode). At the time, virtually every company seeking to bring new products, features, or services to the TV were using the exact same box. I have a hunch more were used by developers and demos than were ever brought to market (although Pioneer sure came close!).
CES 2001 was the first year we demonstrated at a trade show. We had a suite at the Venetian and spent about 48 hours prior to the beginning of the show transforming it into our demo home. We wired a network (under the carpets mind you), took over the TV sets, and hung our own posterboards instead of the hotel’s artwork. The bathroom became the storage “cluster” and the whole thing was topped off with a bowl of blue M&M’s. For the branding, of course.
While CES was the first show for the year, it was Comdex 2001 (you remember Comdex, right?) where we got out into the public eye (a little bit). As partners with National Semiconductor, we had a kiosk in their booth. Both Woody Deguchi (the VP of Asian Sales – also the Asian VP of Sales, but that’s a bit of an inside joke for Woody and myself) and myself had TV appearances, and I even demoed to Paul Allen and his gang (no joke, he was surrouded by about 12-15 people at all times).
2002-2003: real products
It’s one thing to demonstrate a vision of the future. It’s another thing to showcase products that are en route to the consumer marketplace. Pioneer worked with us on the Digital Library, a “media server for the living room” along with it’s companion “media client” for other rooms of the house. At CES 2003 I actually got on stage with Pioneer’s hired talent (yes, I was invited) to help explain the product, as it was so new to both the company and the consumers.
We also had deals with HP, Fujitsu, and Creative Labs (and a few others to boot), all interested in the networked home and networked entertainment products. In fact, there was such interest in our platform, we ended up hosting an Interoperability Forum in Japan, and had over 15 different manufacturers send senior engineers to come listen and learn from us. We were concerned that UPnP, the de facto standard for device-to-device interoperability simply wasn’t strong enough to provide a useful value proposition for consumers. We were right on that one, but the “M1 standard” wasn’t really the right strategy for the company to pursue either, and was eventually shelved.
During this phase we achieved partnerships with other technology and infrastructure companies, including Intel (a relationship that blossomed for several years). We attended trade shows around the world (I was unfortunately introduced to CeBIT) and it was my first year as a United 1K member. Again, a blessing and a curse.
2004: best of show
I’ll never forget CES 2004. We were in development of a series of products with Denon Electronics, including the flagship NS-S100. This device was a networked DVR with dual tuners and a removable hard drive. It could do just about anything you’d ever want a DVR to do. Best of all, you could very easily start watching a show (or live TV) in one room and pick it up in another room. It did everything. And it did it all really really well.
A team of judges from TechTV (read: two guys slightly less geeky than me) came by to see the product. They liked it (heck, most people liked it). They came back with a film crew, took a bunch of footage and told us when they’d announce finalists, which we were in the “home media device” category. They returned for more footage. After asking me three times if I was sure we’d have someone there, I had a little bit of a good feeling about things. It also helped that, at the time, there weren’t any other major new or exciting products in the same space. Brad Dietrich (cofounder and CTO and coworker of mine since we both went to CMU in Pittsburgh!) and I went to the award ceremonies. When we won in our category, I was thrilled. When, less than 10 minutes later, we won the Best Overall for CES award, well, there were no words for the joy I felt. I was practically in tears and called my then-girlfriend (now wife) then my parents. I’ll never forget the moment, and once I find which backup drive it’s on, I’ll put up a little video on YouTube.
I left Mediabolic in June of 2004 to join Sling Media as VP of Product Management. It was a difficult decision at many levels, but was the right one for me. The experiences learned and connections made at Mediabolic helped prepare me for my next career move, and are really the foundations of much of what I do professionally. Needless to say, they carried the torch quite well in my absence, hired some great talent, and now, with the Macrovision acquisition have the opportunity to bring excellence in networked entertainment to the masses.
Thanks Dan & co for all the great times and great memories, and congratulations once more.