iTV for me?

I'm sitting on an airplane waiting for them to fix it, so this is as good a time as any to get my thoughts about the iTV down.

For starters, what took so long? I think the iTV is going to be an essential accessory for any iLife using Mac owner. Not only will this be the bridge that brings video content to you TV, but it will bring the rest of your iLife content with it.

  • iPhoto albums

  • Show off your GarageBand tracks

  • Play your iTunes with fantasic cover art and visuals

None of this is new. I've had my ReplayTV loaded with photos for half a decade. Any time the unit is paused or idle, I get to relive my latest vacation or family photos. You've been able to load you self-made music on to your iPod and play it back on your stereo since the very first one. You can stream your iTunes with an Airport Express to your hi-fi, granted without the cover art and visuals.

The thing that is new is the tight integration. I'm sick of seeing the photos loaded on my ReplayTV. I'm sick of them because it's a pain in the ass to load new ones. It's a pain to change the album that gets displays. Even worse, I have to make copies of the photos, burning disk space on the ReplayTV, to enable the feature. I can push and pull video content off of the ReplayTV using the incredible DVarchive, but I still can't just display the pictures sitting on my networked computer. There are countless better solutions available. Elgato makes many of them. Still, I haven't bit because of the seemingly minor inconveniences that prevent a product from getting sustained use.

For example, I bought my parents a photo viewer for Christmas one year. It could read every format on the planet and even came with a remote. My Mom shoots family photos like she's the papparazi and we're Bradgelina. She was excited at first, but I doubt she's used the viewer in the past year. Why? Because it's too hard. You have to pull the card from the camera. You have to have the photos you want to see on the card. You have to use the crappy remote that came with it. You don't get to use your hard work from the desktop side, tagging and sorting in to albums. That work is tremendously valuable, but not when it's locked up in your computer and your friends are in the living room wanting to see pictures of your trip to Alaska.

My hope is that iTV will fix this. Photos will just be available. Music will just be available. Movies will just be available. No additional fuss, just enjoyment. Think how amazing cover flow would look on your 60" plasma. The cover art will be the size of a record sleeve, yummy. The ultimate will be when your TV sits idle, the screensaver fires up, and you see fresh pictures from your subscribed photocasts. Grandparents will flip when they see photos of the grandkids crawling without having to do a gosh-darn-thing. No emails, no printing, no websites. It just shows up.

One last discussion point on content before I move to the hardware.
It's in the codename, it's not in the stated features. Steve Jobs better get on that stage at Macworld and pull a Ron Popeil.

But wait, there's more! If you call right now, you not only get the iTV that shows pictures, movies, and videos from the iTunes store, but we'll also include, at no additional cost to you, this fresh release of IdiotBox (not the real product name). IdiotBox is your TV, your way.

Just like TiVo and ReplayTV, IdiotBox will be a top of the line PVR app, Apple style. It will run on your Mac and work with a $49 tuner that you buy separately. This would be the missing functionality that would allow me to replace my aging ReplayTV and laugh that $800 Series 3 TiVo right out of Best Buy.

The Hardware

First, the positives.

  • Size - At one time I would have moaned that it isn't home theater component width. Screw that. I'm done with that form factor. If the box doesn't need to be that wide, let's not make it that wide. I haven't seen it stated for
    sure, but it appears this is the exact footprint of a Mac Mini. If it isn't, it should be. Stack a Mac mini on
    the iTV and you have your complete content solution, even if you don't have any other computers in the house.

  • No DVD player - Good! We don't need that hardware in this box. Rip your DVDs to your hard drive. At the worst,
    shouldn't you be able to play it from the optical drive in your computer? Leave the cost out. I'm ok with no optical drive. I'm funny like that. I want to own the physical DVD, CD, 12" for the visuals, smells, and feel. However, I don't need that experience every time and I certainly don't want to handle it when I want
    to enjoy the content.

  • Component and DVI outs - Thank you. If Apple left it at composite and s-vid, like many of the products this will compete with, they would have been instantly hammered with the "I can buy poo-poo-junk.super.play on eBay for $30".

  • No wall wart - I will pay a premium for features like this. I hope the world is paying attention.

The negatives

  • TV tuner - make it happen

  • No Bluetooth remote? Apple, get on it! Someone needs to kick this off. If you put Bluetooth in the iTV, you
    instantly enable it to be hidden away and not require line of sight. You instantly enable it to work with whatever controller we can dream up. You instantly enable two-way remote conversations. Album art, smart menus, searching. If folks don't like your minimum remote, that's ok. They can build their own out of any Bluetooth enabled PDA, or dare I say, iPod! If they add Bluetooth, they could also make this thing an A2DP sink. A2DP is suspiciously missing from Apple's product lineup. I refuse to believe they've ignored it completely or decided that they just won't support it. They support system audio out crappy headset connections. They have to be cooking an A2DP solution.

  • Cost - $299 is an ok price point, but not for what I've seen so far. Will an HDMI cable be an extra $79? If you give me PVR capabilities, $299 is a steal. If you don't, I'm going to have to buy poo-poo-junk.super.play off of eBay.

So will I buy an iTV, even at $299? Probably. I'd still like it to come with Bluetooth, and PVR software :)

No comments: