Anyone can take an old PC and a handful of hard drives, stick them in a closet, and call it a media server. But if you have the kind of disposable income that Kaleidescape owners have (which is to say, a lot), somehow that doesn't seem very fulfilling.
For the past few years, Kaleidescape has built a small but impressive market for its ultra-high-end media servers, designed to remove as much of the hassle of archiving your DVD collection as possible. Unlike Media Center systems with photo, music, and DVR capabilities, these systems only store DVD content for playback through a home theater, although music support is expected later in 2006.
By adding plug-and play hard drives, you can store an unlimited number of DVD rips in a Kaleidescape system, and the user interface and the back end are a closed proprietary system, which the company says keeps users from copying DVD files once they're on the server. The company has had an ongoing feud with the DVD Copy Control Association over the licensing of CSS technology, but Kaleidescape continues to claim it is acting within the terms of its license.
Some of the hefty cost for one of these systems goes toward the personalized service users get. For almost every commercially released DVD, the company provides custom metadata, from grouping films by genre to noting the DVD chapter that starts the film, so that you can jump right into the movie, bypassing the DVD menu. Just drop a disc into the drive, and the system goes online to grab the related metadata from Kaleidescape's servers.
All these features don't come cheap. Celebrity clients such as George Lucas might not balk at the $20,000 starting price for a basic 1.5TB Kaleidescape Server, with extra 500GB drives going for around $800, but it's more than a little out of range for most home-theater enthusiasts.