Plain and Sane

Building a Generic Solution

In keeping with its name, Generic Media created a Web site as plain as those white boxes in the grocery store aisles that read "Soap" or "Dog Food."

But shouldnt a company involved in streaming media offer something a little flashier?

"I think theres so much hype on some Web sites that it obscures the message," says Peter Hoddie, president and co-founder of the Palo Alto, Calif., company. "Were not a consumer company. Our customers are other businesses. So, for a serious business, I dont think its appropriate to have all the dancing dinosaurs."

For content producers trapped in a maze of conflicting formats, bit rates and platforms, Generic Media offers a clearly marked exit with its one-size-fits-all technology. Using the Generic Media Publishing Service, content producers can store master files in any format on Generic Medias servers. From there, the files can be translated on demand into any format requested by end users, who also avoid answering a series of bothersome questions about software and processing speed. Generic Medias system detects the details on the receiving end before streaming the file.

The system not only reduces headaches, but costs as well, Hoddie says. Instead of spending more than $50,000 for one streaming deployment encoded for either Apple Computers QuickTime, Microsofts Media Player or RealNetworks RealPlayer, Web site operators can send the file in any format through Generic Media, which acts as a translator for all users.

On top of that, Generic Media allows content producers to bring their media to market without fear of obsolescence amid the power struggles between players and formats.

"What Generic Media does is give them a way to ride out all these changes," Hoddie says. "As the technology evolves, Generic Medias server will continue to upgrade."

The companys major clients include Canon DV, Dreamspan, ProMax Systems, R/com MediaSchool, Sony and Japans largest newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun. R/com MediaSchool is a distance-learning company that uses Generic Medias system in its virtual seminars and certification in Web design, video production, music composition and new media authoring. Generic Medias major investors include Softbank, which recently supplied a $12 million round of financing.

While riding out the forces in a turbulent streaming media environment, Hoddie and company are making their own changes at the top. Hoddie recently stepped aside as CEO to make room for James Martin, formerly senior vice president of AOL.

At AOL, Martin managed the post-merger $500 million Netscape Communications division, including and Netscapes Client Product division. Hoddie — who started Generic Media last year with Angela Lai, the companys vice president of engineering — was a pioneer in developing Apples QuickTime technology, and played a major role in establishing industry standards such as MPEG-4.

Looking Toward the Future

With Hoddie focusing on the technical side of the business, the new hierarchy shows that 2-year-old Generic Media is entering a new phase in its development, the executives say.

Despite his commitment to streaming media, Hoddie is acutely aware of its technical challenges. Studios planning to offer video-on-demand over the Internet, for example, face an uphill battle, he says. "If the record labels cant figure out how to sell you a song, how are the studios ever going to be able to do it with a full-length movie?"