XstreamHD Promises Full HD Movies from Satellite to Cheap Set-Top Box In Minutes

XStreamHD_Satellite_Mashup.jpgIn November, we got a vague press release about XstreamHD, a new kind of satellite video service that claims it would go where DirecTV, Amazon, TiVo, Apple, and Netflix couldn't, and deliver full 1080p movies with 7.1-channel sound to the home. Well, new details have come to light that make us hanker for a test run of this crazy new service. However, I also see a few major question marks here that will hopefully be addressed in January at CES.

The XstreamHD secret sauce requires leased satellite bandwidth to beam movies to a server box in your home. The servers will range from 500GB—capable of holding 30 to 70 titles—to 2TB, presumably with a peak of 280 programs. There will be installers, though you'll have the option of installing the small satellite dish yourself, and link it to the box via coax. Once on the box, the content can be served throughout the home via Ethernet (if you've got it). No talk of wireless yet.

There's no mention anywhere of the words "on demand." Vudu, which recently began distributing HD content to its internet-connected box, has impressed us with high-quality video delivered the second you click "Play." Picture quality is important, but not if you have to wait hours and hours for it. The PC Magazine piece prints some bold claims from CEO George Gonzalez, that "consumers will be able to watch movies within five minutes." But within five minutes of what? Asking for the movie, or receiving the movie according to some predetermined satellite broadcast schedule.

The analogy used by Gonzalez is that it's a "virtual Blockbuster." This sounds a lot like what MovieBeam tried to do, that is, cache a bunch of movies to a server, then let you pick the ones you want to pay to watch. Also, I'm not sure Hollywood is down with this: HD rentals are not permitted until at least a month or two after DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray sales—plus download to own—so if the movies really are rental only, they will certainly be delayed.

Pricing isn't announced yet, and though I think of Kaleidescape's insanely high prices, Gonzalez told PC Mag that users will be "very surprised" at the price, calling it the "low end of the DVR scale." Right now, that's around $300, so I'm gonna call it: $US299.

Stay tuned for our coverage of this at CES, when Gonzalez reveals all, aided for some reason by actor/producer/Catherine Zeta-Jones lover Michael Douglas. [XStreamHD; PC Magazine]

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