Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Snapstream Emphasizes Enterprise Focus – BeyondTV Product “Mature”

Snapstream Enterprise Logo BeyondTV 4 Logo

Over the past few years we’ve seen Snapstream, maker of HTPC software BeyondTV and Enterprise TV Search Service change their focus more and more towards the enterprise side of their business.  Snapstream started their business with a consumer-based PVR software and over time became one of the best known HTPC (home theater PC) software companies in the business.  But in recent years Snapstream has found a great deal of success with selling a “TV Search Appliance” to businesses who needed a simple, but powerful way to search for and record clips based on search terms and phrases (read this article for more on how the Enterprise product works). 

Snapstream Enterprise Appliance

Today Snapstream stated that their focus was definitely now on Enterprise and any future development for BeyondTV would be small improvements as opposed to major feature adds.  Snapstream considers BeyondTV a “mature” product which means it’s unlikely we’ll see a new “BeyondTV 5” version from Snapstream.

Snapstream Company Timeline:

  • 2003 - Snapstream Personal Video Station was showcased in Bill Gates keynote address at the Windows XP Launch  (somewhat ironic since Windows eventually added their own PVR program to their Windows Operating System)
  • May 2003 - Version 3 of Personal video System was launched in May 2003
  • December 2004 – HTPC Front-end Beyond Media launches to public
  • November 2005 - the latest version of Beyond TV  BTV4 (note there have been many free upgrades since 2005) was released
  • January 2008 - Snapstream ended their trial of free TV listing web service “Couchville”
  • November 2008 - Snapstream discontinued sales of HTPC front-end software Beyond Media
  • December 2008 - Snapstream launches new Snapstream Mini version of Enterprise software
  • October 2009 – Snapstream clarifies the company focus towards Enterprise with continued

Those are only some of the highlights of course, but it gives you a picture of the changes over the years at Snapstream

I interviewed Snapstream founder and CEO, Rakesh Agrawal November 2007 and at that time Agrawal talked about their relatively new (at that time) Enterprise product and said that their plan was to split Snapstream’s focus between the consumer and enterprise product.  He noted that there were many goals in common between the two products and talked about how both would provide synergies to each other.  But there was a noticeable excitement from Agrawal when he talked about the enterprise product and it was obvious that Snapstream had a product with great potential in the Enterprise TV Search Appliance.

Today on the beta section of the Snapstream forums they clarified what customers of BeyondTV can expect going forward.

Here’s an excerpt from the forum post:

“There have been a number of threads on the forums and emails directed to me recently about the future of Beyond TV and where SnapStream is headed.
As such, it seems like a good time to clarify our position going forward for consumer and beta releases.

What's SnapStream's focus these days?
Our focus (by which we mean "what we are working on now") is on polishing our technology to work in the enterprise space in support of our Television Search Appliance. In terms of current new development, this means a new backend tailored to expandability/reliability and writing a ground up new api.

As a consumer user, where does that that leave you?
Beyond TV is a mature DVR product that provides a simple user interface to a powerful recording engine. We still believe that if Beyond TV's feature set meets your needs, you will be a happy user. However, if you are not happy with Beyond TV as is, it means that you will probably not be excited about the changes from our upcoming work…”

To be clear, this direction and focus of Snapstream has been obvious for quite a while.  Many times on their forums and elsewhere Snapstream employees have reiterated their focus on Enterprise.  What is significant is that they have outlined this in writing on their beta forums and attempted to address any questions regarding this shift in focus in that post.  It’s obvious they don’t plan to add any significant features to BeyondTV unless its something that would directly benefit their enterprise product.  They addressed what types of things we might see in the future from BeyondTV with this comment:

“Will there be new betas of the consumer version of Beyond TV?
Yes, but with four main caveats.
1. The new features will be mostly under the hood, so you shouldn't expect a new Full Screen Interface. A new Web Interface is being worked on, however.
2. There is no set schedule as of yet for the next Beyond TV Beta.
3. Since our TV search customers are driving our development, these new releases may or may not interest you as a "consumer" user.
4. Some of the things we're working on may not ever be released to the consumer space.

So what kinds of new development is happening?
*A new, database driven ground up re-write of the base services.
*A focus on increased stability and scalability. For instance we expect our business customers will be able to have more than one machine clustered together to have distributed libraries, tuners and showsqueeze machines. As mentioned above, we haven't decided yet which (if any) of these features will be released to the consumer space.
*A new, web Interface that focuses on simplicity and speed.”

The Snapstream BeyondTV users that exist today will likely stay with BeyondTV for the most part as the product works well and is an easy to use PVR.  But as people look at competing HTPC products with more significant HTPC development this certainly minimizes BeyondTV in the realm of competing HTPC/PVR products going forward in my opinion.


Read the full announcement on the Snapstream Beta Forums