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back to article Steve Jobs: struggling to redefine the TV paradigm

Getting into the mind of Steve Jobs isn't all that simple, and sometimes you just have to wait until he tells you what went through his mind in order to explain the latest Apple phenomena. But the picture around Apple TV is starting to clear with some rumours and snippets revealed this week. The first is a rumour only, that …

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The problem with AppleTV over DVDs

Fine, you can download a film to your AppleTV, you might even own it (subject to the fine print of the DRM contract), but if the box gets fried then what?

What if you want to upgrade your box?

How about if you want to lend the film to a friend to watch? I can hand over a DVD without needing to lend them the player too.

Set top boxes with hard-drives like the AppleTV are great for recording tv-shows (OK, so the Apple box doesn't let you record broadcasts, but others do) or for downloading a rented film to watch, but I'd much rather own the media itself as a separate entity that doesn't tie me down to the one hardware supplier.

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OK, that explain the aTV

and an excellent analysis it is - quite possible a masterstroke from apple. For those of us in the world (admittedly stupidly rare) who have joined the revolution and don't have a TV , we're a bit stumped with it all.

What I'd like someone to explain though (anyone?) is why bother with a Safari for Windoze release? There must be some method to the madness?

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Forget to buy - this is about to rent.

That's the same problem as there is with iTunes music store and it's not stopped that from being considered a success.

In the short term this is competing with DVD rental services, in the long term with TV on demand services as well (and maybe even broadcast tv). If you want an 'archive' copy of a program you'll still buy a DVD of it.

Undercut LoveFilm by a small amount with the convenience of the film of your choice and none of the hassle of sending out physical copies and dealing with postal issues. Fantastic. Lovefilm can't compete becasue they lack the set top hardware

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Try "Struggling with a FLOP", is what Stevie is dealing with.

The ONLY honest retail sources (BestBuy, CompUSA, etc., NOT Apple Stores) , since Apple is a notorious LIAR about retail sales (and stock options), are reporting an predictable complete indifference for the Apple TV. It has been and will be a FLOP.

Why?

1) It's Apple, clunky to use and forces you to use iTunes.

2) The resolution SUCKS

3) It's as usual, Apple Over-priced.

4) No content, only YouTube idiots can get excited about this (pixelated video).

and 5) Since it's Apple, it will be buggy as time goes on, just like the last 7 years of complaints about G3 - G4 iBooks, MacBook and MacBook Pro's.

He's a brand new bug just today - http://www.macfixit.com/article.php?story=20070615083747809

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Anonymous Coward

No HD = AppleTV death

When the AppleTV debuted I thought Apple would leapfog everyone with downloadable HD content. After all, 2005 was declared the "Year of HD" by Jobs. Well it's 2007 and no sign of HD anywhere on iTunes.

Renting is exactly what I want to see. Movies and TV shows, but only if they are HD. Give me a season pass for Heroes in HD for around $15 for the season and I'll ditch DirecTV and go with AppleTV. Right now iTunes is MORE expensive and lower quality then simply getting the DVD set. Apple is NOT giving me any reason to move over to AppleTV. All they are giving me is crappy YouTube videos (some of the worst quality stuff on the net) to watch on my big screen HDTV. Huh? WTF?

Apple used to be about delivering a superior product. I'm just not seeing that in AppleTV. Meanwhile MS is delivering HD movies and TV and HD games with the XBOX 360. C'mon Apple!

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Too dependant upon other technologies...

What about the bandwidth? Downloading films takes huge amounts and takes a considerable time - particularly HD. This is a non-trivial issue and will remain this way for the foreseeable future as there's just not the capacity in the internet for widespread massive bandwidth usage.

Of course there is alternative delivery methods which is far more suited to huge bandwidth: over an aerial. And the AppleTV doesn't do this. So we need a second PVR box alongside it to do the off-air recording (and writing to DVD for a 'keeper').

Then there's the issue of 'ownership'. Sorry but if some exec seriously thinks I'm going to download a movie for the same price or more than buying a 'real' one from Amazon, they're seriously mistaken. It's one thing to pay 69p/99c for a single track, it's something completely different to pay £10/$20 (it's a safe bet that the greedy bastards will jack up the prices in region 2) and not own the box.

YouTube - just wake up and smell the coffee. Some consumers actually left school a long time ago and want a little more from their entertainment than crap quality videos of boxing cats. Fun for a quick skive off of work, not exactly a whole evening's entertainment.

Of course it could be a good filler whilst we're still waiting for the movie to download.

So, to summarise, the AppleTV does half a job and not very well. It's dependent upon a massive upgrade in infrastructure. And it's massively tied to to DRM and iTunes.

uTune if you want to. I'll use a PVR.

And how long will it be before the PVR manufacturers wake up and provide the extra bits that the AppleTV does? Sony, are you listening? No, I thought not.

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Content is always the killer Skills Application Layer

If Apple were to Create their Own Direction with Original Engaging Content, Spinning off ITs Core Script for Third Party Tangential Scripts to Server with Continuity, Apple's In House Productions with Specialised Media Partners would enable preferential Live Feeds to Appled Devices, for PreViewing with Feedback as, of course, being a Digital Feed, Trafficking Statistics revealed by Computer Analysis will reveal Product Interest Markets, and with Hollywood type media taking and making their parallelling, reactionary take on the programs shown and the Scripting which will follow, will IT be possible to create a Unifying Media, with a "Listening Script" Driver..... 42 Provide ur Innovative Imaginative Programs/Social Programming.

For that little Gem of a Kohinoor Diamond, you gotta know more than just a few Bit and Bytes about Life and ITs Drivers Loves. You gotta Know what IT Feels like to Give, with Absolutely Everything you've Got ..... for Hearts and Minds Peace ...... a Great Contentment. And if you don't believe IT, go and ask anyone who you imagine should know.

Which would also mean that Apples Lead in a Virtual Global Governance Program with Media showing Political Direction for Provision and Administration of Global Assets ...with Material Assets as Props and Humanity, the Strength in Depth Layers of ITs Supporting Cast for Pipelined Future Productions....... News to Build Upon with your Shared Hopes and Dreams/Vivid Benign Imagination.....and the Bigger the Shared Dream the More can be Shared 42 Make IT Real and NeuReal2.

Not so much a Job for Vistas, much more a Revelation for IT Evolution in Perfecting the Hack?

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You're all MAD!

Where the hell is all this bandwidth going to come from?!

The ISPs are already struggling with the consequences of their gross overselling as it is. Add in a mass market for even DVD-quality, let alone HD, movies and there's absolutely no way in which enough stock can be shifted to make a business plan work. It just can not physically be done in the UK or the US at least (I have no idea how bad overselling bandwidth is in countries where 100MBit lines are available).

So, just forget it - good quality movies over the Internet are probably the best part of a decade away here or in the States.

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Baby steps

I started out thinking how to integrate with cable or satellite - but that does not really matter... current "channels" and current distribution pretty much become irrelevant, its about content. Mental shift.

Problem now, as I see it, is quality and replication of my ability to channel hop at will without incurring a $1.99 or $9.99 fee every time I watch 2 minutes of something. Tell me I can watch the Superbowl (and all the NFL games) live in HD and you've got something pulled together.

Brian

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nice analyses

More than any other Apple product, I think the future for AppleTV is quite open. Steve's comment at D ("it's a hobby") shows that it hasn't gone as he planned.

The most interesting comment was that they'd thought having iTunes as the lynchpin was the way to do it, but users wanted to bypass the computer entirely.

I think there are 3 keys that would make AppleTV successful

1) Rental (choose between DVD quality (ie better than now!) and 720p quality).

2) Rent/buy direct from AppleTV (not via PC), with ability to redownload purchased content if the AppleTV is stolen or movie accidentally deleted.

3) Agreements with the biggest ISPs so atleast the backend bandwidth is enough (my local ISP has just made an agreement with Apple for free downloads (iiNet Australia))

Wildcards that may help:

- A standard def 4:3 AppleTV

- DivX support

- Advertising support (could Apple insert ads to make our rental free?)

- Perhaps we need a way of getting existing streamed video off websites - but I think the quality may be too low for that.

- Bittorrent downloads for legal Podcasts (...independent producers can't afford the bandwidth)

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I have a better idea

What if instead of $299 TV unit, there were a $399 TV unit AND a game console? We could call it the "XBox 360" then we could start a service to download TV and Movies (both HD and regular), as well as allow subscribers to play multiplayer games, VOIP chat, purhcase games, demos and other content to our "console". We could call this service "XBox Live" - wait....who am I kidding, thats probably the better part of a decade away.

Josh

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S

Sky?

My Sky digibox does this, and has done for several years now - admittedly I only have 24 hours to watch a film and I can only watch it once (they used to have multiplay on?) but it's virtually on demand - to the nearest 15 minutes usually. Why would I want to buy a $300 box in order to repeat this functionality?

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A UK Apple TV owner's view

Good article. It's a video iPod for the living room, and it's a DVD player for the internet. PVR stuff, library management etc, is on your PC or Mac. With terabyte disk drives and software like "handbrake", DVD's can be put in iTunes just like CD's, ready to play any time, in any room of your house, or on your iPod. But putting that function directly in iTunes is a legal line Apple can't itself cross.

To see everything Apple TV does, look at the tour on apple's new web site:

http://www.apple.com/appletv/tour.html

It's simple, beguiling, and good enough. Walmart and Sky and equivalents are blocking content from the iTunes store. But photos, music, podcasts, Youtube/H264, DVD ripping and PVR on your PC are plenty to prevent Apple TV from stalling.

What's wrong with Sky: expensive monthly subs when internet users don't actually watch that much broadcast TV.

What's wrong with XBox 360: noisy; too many buttons; grannies don't buy games consoles, it's not in the iPod ecosystem.

What's wrong with "true" HD? The same as with SACD and DVD-A high definition audio. Upsampled regular DVD is good enough and much more convenient. A year of Sky HD teaches you that.

Apple is saying "this is the way it has to be", has made the product, and is waiting for the content producers to come in line. And they will. But it may take years.

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Robert Long: Google

The bandwidth for this will come from Google, bet you.

Yes, the thing should fill itself via an aerial, but without, say, six tuners - this is what they have.

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Anonymous Coward

Google?

"The bandwidth for this will come from Google, bet you."

I would take that bet. My home town of 60000 people has NO CABLE at all. BT is the only option and they can't even reliably manage more than 2Mb to houses within sight of the exchange!

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Adrian, Webster

Do you have any criticisms of AppleTV that aren't also true of the iPod?

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Jim

Nice article.

I personally think that the aTV sucks because of output poor resolution and the fact that it won't integrate with DVD software, to stream your pre-owned DVDs to any part of your house.

But those features will come IF Apple is able to demonstrate a viable system, the Apple zealots will provide an ample alpha testing community after all.

The real question for scaling video-on-demand is when will the ISPs get in on the act? Downloading video via unicast will put a massive strain on any open network. Multicasting may provide an answer but that is not something that a content provider such as Apple or Google can exert any control over.

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Anonymous Coward

Films over the internet...

"So, just forget it - good quality movies over the Internet are probably the best part of a decade away here or in the States."

This is suprising, since the company called T-Com (german state telco) just launched a tv over ip service in Hungary. You can watch tv, rewind within a set timelimit (around 24 hours) and also record to your settops harddisk. They also sell pay per view movies, charged to the monthly common telecom bill. The only thing they lack is archival to dvd and real hd capability. (they have 16:9, but not true 1080p hd) The box also doubles as an internet appliance and can be used with a voip setup. (including video conferencig) Because they provide the box and the network the extra traffic never goes over the public internet. This is why both iptv and voip runs in their own priority tunnel (both use standard voip protocols). This also prevents the users from tapping into these data streams with conventional equipment. The key is the use of an adsl or cable modem with vpn support for protected content and head stations that double as a centeral media servers.

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Bronze badge

NIce idea, shame about the DRM

This could work pretty well. But I hope it doesn't. The last thing we need is another closed system dominating the market. Hopefully it will flop until others can offer a similar service without linking it to a specific platform.

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Please!!! :-(

I hear everyone above and I see the same comments from many bloggers.

"I want .. . . . . EVERYTHING, . . . . in my hand . . . . . . for free. I want all channels recorded all the time ready for just what I want now. For free, Easy to use. " :-)

YEP. and NOPE, not going to happen. Sorry.

What will work is what will sell to enough people at a high enough profit to make it worth while. The iPod showed that when you find what people want, at a price they will pay, they buy it. Period. 100,000,000 units in just a few years and counting. What works, works.

Keep in mind that this is difficult for companies too. We are a fickle bunch of customers. We "say" we will buy something like subscription music, but only small numbers come and actually spend money. If it sold like hot cakes, the companies would not be closing down. Steve Jobs is trying to tell us and the music and video industry that "What sells, is what sells. Period" Apple is trying to make the hardware and software that can make it work and to get the "owners" in line to sell it that way. But Apple does not do Magic. Sorry

I hear bloggers say they want unlimited bandwidth. Great. Its not here. Suck it up. As above, many places still have very limited access. And the perfect software that cannot be hacked (to deliver protected rental ) still does not exist. Of course people are stealing much more music and movies other ways, but music and movie execs are really a stupid bunch and do not want to see reality, only their wish of reality.

SO. Take a breath. I think that Apple is doing a great job, one step at a time. They are trying to make sense of what we want and trying to figure out a way to get it to us and still make money. If you have all the answers, well, its still America. Become the next Google and show us all how stupid we are. Until then, Take a breath.

en

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I rest my case m'lud

From the BBC website:"Warnings of 'internet overload'

http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/click_online/6756899.stm

OMG, it's happening right now! Please don't download that HD movie - you'll wreck it for everyone:-)

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AppleTV is New TV

At last, an article that seems to get where AppleTV is coming from (the DVR is dead), now people just need to make the mental shift to acknowledge that most TV isn't live. VCRs, PVR etc were created so that TV doesn't have to be watched 'live' & it can fit into our schedule. Because of this, downloading is fine, it doesn’t have to be instant and can happily chug away overnight. In fact 95% of the TV I watch is like this so I don’t need 100Mbps connections just a reasonable download plan (20GB/month is enough for six 720p show episodes per week) & a couple of Mbps.

I’m running AppleTV in NZ and our services are way behind – we don’t even have mainstream HD broadcast! Thanks to AppleTV & a utility called TV Shows I’ve been able to download, convert & watch Lost Season 3 in HD 2-3 weeks before it’s aired here in SD (it would be an overnight job if my iMac was current). As soon as this is available via iTunes NZ I’ll happily ditch my Sky subscription and cough up. You can get an idea of how this will work by subscribing to an HD podcast via iTunes (say, recent casts of Dinner with the band), you click one button & later in the week when you have a few minutes to watch TV – there it is in HiDef!

Just as people tried to shoehorn AppleTV into other, unsuccessful media adapter moulds I think too many people are trying to apply current TV rules and practices to a totally new concept – the one we’ve been asking for….for the last 30 years.

Have fun with New TV, McD

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Anonymous Coward

appletv how much??

i am an apple fan boy, but this is not something id consider... the main reasons BANDWITH as mentioned not all of us have 100mbit links to a decent exchange! library films costing about$9.99?? play.com fill flog most older films for about a fiver! :) and you get a nice box!

the hardware... well... no HD... that in my mind places it in direct competition with my original Xbox, running XBMC :) except that upscales DVD and has had youtube (yawn) support for years!

the xbox remote is emulated by all universal remotes, and the interface is so simple to use my girlfriend has no issues with it...

an xbmc xbox with big hard drive (if you dont want to stream) can be assembled for about £70 nowadays! and it will play more video formats than the apple...

what would you loose? i think very little.... :)

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Comparison to Sky!

LOL at the comparison to Sky above... err the main benefit of Apple TV in that instance is the lack of the £40+ a month subscription to get these movies of which you speak, regardless of if you watch them or not, you still pay Mr Murdoch.

I think it's an interesting article and i can see something very clever coming from Apple, don't forget Jobs recently told .Mac users to "watch this space" regarding rumours of a tie in with Google... so there is a possibilty there.

I may wait a while ona purchase here as i was all ready to order the Netgear EVA-8000 as it had the ability to play Divx etc out the box, but this sounds interesting.

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Why Safari for Windows...?

Porting Safari to windows makes no sense as a browser.

Whatever Apple's up to it must revolve around having Safari on Windows.

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AppleTV is HiDef

For those who've never seen it the 720p content is great! Given that 90% of all "HiDef" LCD TVs being sold have 1366 x 768 panels the question is why are you holding out for 1080i or 1080p? It takes forever to download something you'll never actually see!

McD

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