Black Pearl Systems, the startup co-founded by former Apple executive Tim Bucher, came out of stealth mode Wednesday, revealing its new name Lyve Minds, and a device called LyveHome that will help users back up and access their personal media across a variety of devices through dedicated apps.
Gigaom first broke the story about the existence of Black Pearl Systems in June. Back then, I pieced together from a number of clues that the company was developing Android-based mobile media sharing technology, possibly branding it Lyve. Turns out I was right about most of it, except for one thing: Lyve Minds isn’t actually developing a tablet, as I suggested in my story back then. Instead, it’s getting ready to unveil a service that also includes a novel kind of local storage device.
Recreate the cloud in the living room
Bucher told me in an interview this week that the main idea behind LyveMinds is to provide consumers with an easy way to back up, store and share all the photos and videos they take on mobile devices — something he described as an unsolved problem for most consumers. Sure, some people back up all their media to the cloud, but with HD videos, and bigger and bigger photos, this can quickly get expensive and tedious. “Most consumers don’t pay for cloud storage,” Bucher said.
Lyve Minds’ answer to the problem is to recreate the cloud in your living room. The company’s apps will let phones, tablets and computers talk to each other and access personal media on each of them. Lyve supports iOS, Android, Windows and Mac OS at launch, with plans to add more platforms down the road. The company’s apps will back up photos from a mobile device to other devices in the network, free up and reallocate space and always keep multiple copies of each file.
A key component of this is the LyveHome device, which will offer consumers storage space for millions of photos. Bucher declined to share exact storage size figures, in part because the company wants to market it around real-life use cases as opposed to technical specs, something that he argued was more true to what consumers are actually looking for. “They don’t really care about gigabytes and terabytes,” he said.
Some key details still under wraps
LyveHome may sound a bit like a kind of personal media sharing hub or a network-attached storage drive, but Bucher said that comparison wasn’t really accurate. For one thing, LyveHome isn’t at the center of the network, but merely an addition to a distributed architecture that copies and replicates videos and photos across devices. Users can simply add more storage by throwing another LyveHome unit in the mix, something that isn’t quite as easy with your regular connected hard drive. “We don’t allow people to use the term NAS in the company here,” he said.
Lyve Minds is still keeping a number of details about the LyveHome device under wraps, including the pricing and some key features. The company also didn’t share any photos of the product with me, but Bucher said that it is relatively small, and includes some kind of touch screen. He added that the company plans to show the device at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month, so we should soon know more.
Black Pearl Systems was founded in 2012, and has been in what Bucher described as a “pretty intense stealth mode” ever since. Bucher told me that he didn’t even tell most of his friends and family what he has been up to. However, the company hired a number of high-profile developers from companies like Netflix, Apple, Palm, TiVo and Amazon’s secretive Lab126 R&D unit. Bucher told me Tuesday that Lyve Minds now has about 90 employees, with the majority of them being engineers.
The company initially wants to concentrate on selling LyveHome, but eventually, users will also be able to use the Lyve service without that particular device. Bucher also acknowledged that Lyve Minds is actively cooperating with other companies to eventually bring Lyve functionality to additional devices. “There is a lot of activity working with other companies,” he told me. And Lyve’s Terms of Service hint at the possibility of paid services at some point.
The real question is: who is footing the bill?
I’ve been following Black Pearl Systems closely ever since I stumbled across it earlier this year, in part because I was intrigued by the long list of impressive talent the company was able to recruit for its efforts. Anyone who can win over key engineers from such a breadth of successful businesses in the Valley must have an interesting vision, and deep pockets.
Bucher didn’t want to reveal who is backing Lyve Minds, but he said that the company has “quite a few investors” as well as some strategic backers. I wouldn’t be all too surprised if those strategic backers included one or the other well-known software or consumer electronics brand — and I’m impressed that Bucher’s team managed to keep us guessing for so long.