With Macworld coming this week I’ve been actively considering what’s in store for us and the one thing I’m hoping to see (almost more than an Apple MID) is an AppleTV strategy in conjunction with some updated products.
Apple could, as I’ve thought for a few years now, easily own the (still fledgling) media center market. While the current crop of MediaCenter PCs offer far more than AppleTV they are not really targeted at a mass market. Apple owners must add additional devices to handle TV recording and since Apple currently only officially supports the iTunes ecosystem from both a codec and content perspective it’s a tad limiting. That said, what it does it does very well.
It’s easy to add a Mac Mini to your system, which offers more power than an AppleTV, but the simplicity of the interface should be a benefit not a hinderance to getting access to content. Most people (not the geeks though we are most likely to want this first) do not want a keyboard and mouse a the TV. You want to lean back and use the remote… The AppleTV is a potentially perfect solution, but it needs to evolve.
What’s the grand vision? In my mind it looks something like this:
Assume it’s all open for change, and consider that Apple actually has most of these parts in place now though they just don’t all connect … yet.
- I’m feeling the AppleTV is ripe to support an even larger drive than it has now, though ideally it would work with an Airport Disk / NAS which would give you considerably more flexibility and storage potential.
- In addition to enhanced storage options, the AppleTV needs to gain the ability to record live television. In an ideal world that would come through CableCARD, though ATSC tuners would be acceptable as a consolation. CableCARD would let you record premium channels like HBO, while ATSC is limited to what’s coming in over the air and unfortunately is not even available in all markets.
- Apple’s rumored Movie Store (rent and purchase) is likely to be shared at Macworld, and everyone believes that you will be able to purchase from AppleTV at that time as well. There’s no reason to assume (we are dealing with rumors here) that the store would not also support direct purchase of Music and TV shows. The iPhone already has a great purchase and sync function for music … seems like a logical extension to use in for AppleTV.
- I’ve added Subscriptions to the iTunes store and hope we see this eventually. It’s probably unlikely for Macworld this year, but is something I hope Apple really considers. Rhapsody has led to purchase for me and subscriptions bust the walls down for people to actively sample.
- The iPhone has some serious potential in my vision. Using Back to My Mac technology, the iPhone would be capable of controlling the AppleTV from within the home as well as anywhere you can get a connection. Apple actually already has the technology to control considerably more than just the AppleTV and the iPhone / (or iPod Touch) is a perfect form for this. Back to My Mac would just the way to do it from outside your home… Though it would potentially also offer a remote way to schedule recordings or purchases you want to watch upon your return.
- I also see the iPhone as a new addition to where content can be streamed (not just synced). Through wifi and the likely 3G successor we’ll see this year, you get a remote viewing platform to rival SlingBox.
While I realize that adding LiveTV goes somewhat against the grain in the Apple ecosystem of iTunes, it’s an important component to the overall media center vision as it’s still the primary vehicle for how most people consume broadcast material. It would be trivial to add…
Another detail I did not include in the illustration, but I feel is important to note is that Apple should really open the capabilities of the box up to developers. A plugin SDK would enable a new world of opportunities for content providers and even more importantly the addition of codecs. Let’s face it, there’s a whole world of content well beyond the iTunes store and the Quicktime world and simply letting people view that as you can on your Mac would be a win. Of course that challenges Apple’s H.264 vision a bit and so I’ll just leave it as wishful thinking for now. There are always hacks to get around things…
Apple has nothing but opportunity with AppleTV. While it’s been a hobby since it launched it’s time to rip the doors off their hinges and define the market. It’s easily within reach.