JetStreamHD believe that they have the solution to you watching all that content you have amassed on your PC and want on your iPad2 via their new product, creatively named, JetStreamHD. It’s really just a media server but they claim it to be “the world’s first consumer electronics product to stream all of your digital media stored anywhere on a home computer network to the iPad,” so I thought I had better look into it.

Nope, I was right, it’s a streaming media server you put on your home network which will, wait for it, stream your home PC content out to the iPad. Before you ask the same thing I’ve been thinking (why not just use your PC/Mac?) let me state that the product is supposed to do all the transcoding and apparently supports adaptive bitrate streaming.

So that forced me to head out and do a little research. I found a cool 100GB cloud and app combo from Tech Guys and LiveDrive, but that’s just not the same, so I continued on.

I found a MacWorld article that listed a few options including:

  • Matthew Gallagher’s StreamToMe with serverside: ServeToMe
  • InMethod’s Air Video with Air video Server

Oddly, neither will stream iTunes Store purchased/rented movies or network TV shows which are DRM protected. Lame.

I also found an article at The Register that said Microsoft IIS 4 Media Services can stream content to iOS devices:

IIS Media Services 4 will convert streams to Apple’s HTTP streaming for their delivery to iPhones and iPads using a framework that detects the type of device contacting the server. The framework means you only need to build and store one copy of content, as the server would take care of conversion.

But that looks to not do automatic transcoding.

I came across ZumoCast which doesn’t require you to encode your stuff into a single format, but downloads there are stopped while they work out some issues.

Enjoy your entire collection of videos and music on the iPhone, iPad, and any browser; without the need to upload or sync.

Streams video of any format (mp4, avi, mkv, divx, rm, and more). No conversion necessary. Video can be streamed over any connection, even 3G.

Now I’ve got Orb installed so I sneaked a peek to see if it can do it. There is an iOS app, Orb Live ($9.99). As an added bonus they also have Live event streaming.

Now Orb is pretty cool in fact, and while a bit more than the other apps named above, can do all manner of streaming (see end of article for testing).

SlingBox also has an iPad app that lets you hook into your cable or satellite and DVR and then stream that content to your iPad. But that doesn’t really let you access all of your content if its on a computer.

Pogoplug and JetStreamHD seem to be in a race to get to market. They have the same price point, but Pogoplug Video doesn’t connect to your computer, but to an external hard drive. If you’re like me, you have a docking bay for hard drives and that could really be a useful way to get that content out to the world when I am there. However, I don’t have any external drives at present. They are all mounted and internal so I would have to get yet another drive in order to use this. Plus, there’s the question of capacity. I have 3TB in the computer. Sure that’s not all content that I might stream, but of the storage used, the only thing that comes close in size is my games collection.

Here’s what the $199 Pogoplug Video has to say for itself:

Pogoplug connects your external hard drives to the Internet so you have full access to your home content. Make your videos, photos, presentation files, or even your entire music library accessible online, without uploading. Pogoplug gives you the power to broadcast and share your digital life with ease from wherever life takes you.

Back to JetStreamHD, you need to buy a whole box, which is sort of a self-contained streaming media server you place on your home network.  It then will find and stream your media in formats that can play on the iOS devices. Cool, except. What about when you don’t have or know your external IP?

Also, for those of you who might have jailbroken or non iOS 4.0 configurations, you are out of luck. JetStreamHD requires iOS 4.0 or later. In order for the unit to get to your PC-based content you have to have a DLNA server and it only works with:

  • Windows XP and Windows Vista with Windows Media
    Player 11
  • Windows 7 media sharing
  • Tversity Media Server
  • PlayOn Media Server
  • Twonky Media Server

So what it does is connects to those services and streams the content from the PC to itself. It must then re-stream that content out to the web. It even states that it can do 1080p but I can’t imagine that being a very clear experience at all when you’re on your iPhone on EDGE.

The only other feature is that it works with Apple TV and Airplay. But if you have one of those streaming media servers up and running you can probably just watch the content via your game console or connected TV anyway.

The JetStreamHD is currently available for pre-order. The MSRP is $199 but they must need some cash as you can pre-order now for $119. Really, I don’t know that at that price it balances out against the $9 Orb option.

While writing this, I installed the updated Orb server and pulled the Orb Live Free application down so I could test it out and stream to my first generation, jailbroken iPhone. Something I would be unable to do with JetStream HD since it can’t run iOS 4.0 or higher.

What I found out was that even with the Orb free iPhone app, my jailbroken first generation iPhone and some time, I was able to stream much of my content to the phone from my home computer. On Wi-Fi the video was amazing. I am going to go out and do some other testing later today, but I already managed a WMV with WMV9 video and WMA audio, an Xvid with AAC sound and another Xvid with MP3 audio.

So do you really need a $199 extra piece of equipment eating more power and making your network more complex? No, not really. You could simply run a piece of software on a computer that you would have to keep on all the time when you wanted to stream media as well. Honestly, I just don’t see the value in it because while the Orb interface is less evolved, it does exactly what it is supposed to, it streams your home media content to your iOS devices. At present, I’m considering purchasing the Orb app for the iPhone for further testing. I have an idea that it might be worth the ten dollars. JetStreamHD might have adaptive bitrate streaming and a sleek interface, but does that really justify somewhere between $120 and $200 plus extra energy cost?

Doubtful. I would very much like to test a unit personally and check the quality of its streams against those of Orb to see just how much better, if at all.

UPDATE: Ars Technica reports (head there for the how-to):

Apple has finally introduced a way to stream your music, TV, and movie content from your computer running iTunes to your iOS device as part of the iOS 4.3 update. Though Home Sharing has been around since Apple released iTunes 9 in the fall of 2009, it has been limited to sharing media between computers—until now, that is.