by Giles Turnbull
So Steve pulled some surprises out of his hat this morning, unveiling not just a video-enabled iPod (which everyone was expecting), but also a completely new home entertainment, or "media center" strategy, which no-one was expecting - at least not with the iMac.
There was much speculation about an Airport Express that handles video (surely this can't be far away), and in the past there's been plenty about the possibility of the Mac mini having center stage in Apple's quest to conquer the TV room. But the iMac? I don't think many people saw that coming.
It makes a lot of sense though. An iMac plus a low cost TV card suddenly looks like an attractive option for a TV, as long as you don't expect too much in terms of screen size.
With the creation of the Front Row remote control interface, Apple has turned the iMac into an appliance, a mission that Jobs has taken on personally for years now. He has always wanted the computer to offer appliance-style (think TV) simplicity so that it could appeal to the wider masses. With Frontrow, he has that simplicity.
And with the changes to the iTunes Music Store, now offering music videos and selected TV shows, he has the beginnings of some high quality content to offer to those masses.
Apple always thinks about the nitty-gritty stuff. When you buy a TV episode from iTunes, it appears automatically in your Front Row menu. You don't even have to drag anything from anywhere; it just happens.
It's all such a change from just a year ago. Steve has never been very positive about the idea of video on an iPod.
Look, here are some of the things he's been quoted as saying on the subject:
Well, Steve must now have decided that battery life is no longer an issue, that the screens are just the right size, and that there's some perfect content.
Yes, there is content that's high quality. Getting Desperate Housewives and Lost among the first batch of programmes is Jobs doing what he does best.
His introduction to them went like this:
"What's the number one TV show? Desperate Housewives. And what's the number two TV show? Lost. And what channel are they on? ABC. And who owns ABC? Disney."
"I know these guys."
Steve's TV executive pals have agreed to be his lab rats, as he undertakes the next great Apple experiment; can he do to TV what he's done to music?
It's all about supply and demand. In the past, Jobs has made a point of saying that people won't buy a video iPod because there isn't the demand for it, and there isn't the demand because there's no supply either. No-one was offering low-cost downloads of interesting content.
And content is what people demand. With the ABC/Disney/Pixar content sourced for this announcement, Jobs is effectively making a public declaration to the rest of the TV media industry: "See what we did with music? We can do it for your TV shows too. You can still make money out of this. Don't hesitate; join us."
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