WhyTV?

by Erica Sadun

Giles, I'm going to respectfully disagree with your thesis about iTV and rumors. I think Jobs showed a product that should have been ready for today's launch and may have gotten delayed. I don't think Apple has suddenly changed gears about nondisclosure--and here's why.

Many of us have speculated about what the big win of a $14.99 price point would be for the new iTunes Movies store. It's nearly the cost of a DVD. It doesn't come with an actual physical product. Simply introducing the new movies and leaving it at that would have a lot of us walking away from the store saying that we could do better. At Walmart. At Netflix. Where-ever.

I think the iTMS (or the iTS if that is what it is now called) needs iTV. It had to have a way for you to watch those movies on your TV. In your living room. While sitting in your most comfortable chair.

Sure, you can hook up your iPod to the TV. But it's a pain. And at over a gigabyte per movie, there are a limit to how many movies you'll want to sync down to your iPod.

But with iTV? Suddenly all your paid iTunes content becomes part of your living room. You're not shelling out fifteen bucks to huddle around your personal computer. (*kof* Amazon *kof*). You're using your media the way you want to use your media and where you want to use your media: at home with iTV, or with your iPod on the road.

21 Comments

Roshambo
2006-09-12 18:51:26
Erica, I believe you're absolutely right.
Leish2
2006-09-12 19:23:20
I think iTV is going to be an OS X 10.5 - Leopard thing ... hence the delay.
Zac
2006-09-12 19:36:51
How is this any different from what Giles said?
Reid Bode
2006-09-12 19:41:21
My theory is that iTV is going to be based off of the upcoming 802.11n standard. It hasn't been finished yet, so Apple cannot yet release iTV. With the amount of media iTV will recieve, it seems like it will have to have the speed of 802.11n.
Plus, the "true" iPod video and maybe even higher resolution downloads will arive at the same time. Where else would you (legally) get HD content, besides a HD-DVD/Blu-ray disc in your computer?
Orrin
2006-09-12 20:54:32
I agree with both points Reid makes. For iTV to really work they videos need to be at least DVD quality too. 640x480 is nicer then before.. but again who would pay $14.99 when I can have a higher quality disc with bonus features, multiple languages, etc for almost the same price.. I'd pick my butt up and buy the DVD. But if I can get higher res with a little bit of a cheaper price point, with the convienence of buying & downloading online, I'd do it.
Erica Sadun
2006-09-12 21:09:21
640x480 actually is pretty much DVD quality--assuming that the pixels are square so you get the proper 4:3 aspect ratio. 720x480 authoring uses a different pixel shape (rectangular).
joey
2006-09-12 22:51:41
$14.99 per movie? Please. My Netflix subscription is less than that and I get two movies at a time, as many as I can watch and mail back per month. True DVD quality. Dolby Surround. My Comcast On Demand is about a third of that and I get the movies AS SOON AS I CLICK THE BUY BUTTON. No download. No extra hardware to buy. No down-synching or whatever. People will still buy iTunes movies, but this is garbage. It's PT Barnum, taking advantage of all those "Oooh, It's on the InterTron!" suckers.
gilest
2006-09-13 01:57:39
Erica, we don't need to disagree! :)


In fact, I agree with you completely. My (tongue-in-cheek) point was just that Steve pre-announced iTV because it suited him to; you're right, iTS *needs* iTV.

Orrin
2006-09-13 04:11:32
I bet you notice the resolution difference on an HDTV set that runs 1366x768 nativly (and how many times did Mr. Jobs mention using iTV to watch your media on the tv on your wall in your living room?), and if there is a possibility that higher resolution will be coming at a later date, I'd wait until then because we all know that Apple isn't going to give us an upgrade on the files we have already bought (watching the videos I've already purchased at the glorious 320x240).


And compared to a HD video file at 1920x1080, 640x480 is a joke.

Alasdair Allan
2006-09-13 06:48:49
I really can't decide whether Apple are going down a pure video on demand route, or whether they'll turn around in first quarter next year and add a TV tuner into the iTV. Of course if they add a TV tuner they're not only cannibalising iTunes, but they've just opened box on the TV broadcast standards bogeyman.
pauldwaite
2006-09-13 09:03:10
Woo, we all agree!


If iTV does end up being 802.11n, do we think it'll work alright with existing Apple 802.11g products? I'd imagine that real-world 802.11g performance wouldn't be sufficient to stream movies. I could be wrong, I'm clueless about this stuff.

Erica Sadun
2006-09-13 09:54:43
I suspect Apple will be offering a new generation of wifi basestations using 802.11n. As for 802.11g? I'm hoping there will be an option to stream at a lower quality/bandwidth.
Flip
2006-09-13 10:24:36
$14.99 is a big win? I tend to buy DVDs at Fry's when they go on special for $4.99.
Erica Sadun
2006-09-13 10:27:18
I think we all agree. $14.99 is not a big win.
Terrin
2006-09-13 14:47:57
I disagree. The 802.11n standard will not be ready until early 2007. In other words, Apple is likely relying on a third party standard to be ready before it can ship the device.


Instead, Apple probably released its downloadable movie feature early, as opposed to delaying iTV, to 1) either keep up with Amazon and other such companies, or 2) to appease the market, which has been punishing Apple for its lack of announcements this year.


I suspect Apple also had to hold off on its true video iPod because of manufacturing problems like some rumor sites have reported. I suspect the new high end iPods are just meant to get Apple through the Christmas season. When the Wi-Fi standard is ready, I suspect we will see the iTV ship, as well as new high end iPods.


Another point: except for the Wi-Fi stadnard being ready, the iTV really does not contain any revolutionary technology that would be hard to manufacture. It essentially is a jazzed up AIrport Express. Accordingly, it makes no sense that Apple would not have this ready if it was meant to be ready. It makes much more sense that Apple released iTunes 7 early.

Erica Sadun
2006-09-13 16:11:37
Terrin: That's a really good point about Amazon and the timing.
Paul Laroquod
2006-09-13 19:06:56
"640x480 actually is pretty much DVD quality--assuming that the pixels are square so you get the proper 4:3 aspect ratio. 720x480 authoring uses a different pixel shape (rectangular)."


Not exactly true. Almost every DVD sold today is produced in anamorphic widescreen, which means although they are 640 x 480, (a) they are almost never meant to be displayed in a 4:3 aspect, (b) the pixels are not square, (c) the DVD looks a lot better than on a high-definition TV that has the resolution to benefit from the vertical squeeze pixels (unlike a standard TV/DVD player setup which squeezes the image by discarding the extra pixels), and (c) unless the iTunes movies will also be anamorphic (which is not impossible) they will be significantly lower quality than a DVD.


I should also point out that there is no way that Apple is going to deliver a full DVD-length datastream online (which would probably mean at least 3 or 4 gigabytes per movies) -- so the iTunes movies will be a lot more heavily compressed than DVDs, and while h264 is good, it ain't THAT good.


I am very skeptical that iTunes movies will be able to hold a candle to the DVD versions. And then there's all the special features which are now standard for the DVD industry. Considering everything that's missing, an iTunes movie should probably be no more than half the price.

TStout
2006-09-14 07:24:03
I agree with Reid, et al, that the iTV is being held up for 802.11n. During the presentation, Steve mentioned 802.11. Odd for him not to reference it as "Airport" something or other unless it wasn't. By completely leaving off the letter designator (not b, not g), methinks it's probably n.


To gaze further into the crystal ball, I think iTV, the new iTunes (with a multiple libraries feature prominently displayed), and, most especially, the requirement that timemachine in Leopard store its backups on a secondary or network drive heavily points to an OS X based home media server of some sort with 802.11n networking built in (independent of the Mac, more like a Buffalo Terastation, but Apple-fied in its plug-and-play simplicity; an "AirportAV basestation").


If there are going to be video inputs (cablecard, OTA, etc) to enable DVR functionality, expect them to be on the server with the content streamed wirelessly to the iTV boxes or Macs around the house. Jobs has a history of really hating cables and getting rid of the cables and boxes going into each TV is just the type of innovation Apple does best. Imagine being able to hang an HD flat panel display on the wall plug it into a power outlet and, with it connected to only an iTV (or built-in iTv functionality in the Apple branded HD displays) able to stream DVD-quality movies, CD-quality music, HD photos, etc. from a central Apple media server located elsewhere in the house. Very clean, very Jobs.


Erica Sadun
2006-09-14 07:39:45
TStout -- I really hope you're right. A home media server would rock.


I've looked at buying an eyeTV unit for myself, but none of them really do yet what I'm looking for. I want a tuner which records in real time to mpeg-4, with enough quality for good (standard) TV playback, the full mythTV/titanTV scheduling and info.


Right now I record on the TiVo, then re-record from the TiVo onto a Neuros memory-card based unit, then sneaker-net the memory card to my Mac and painfully copy the memory card onto my hard drive. Occassionally, I'll do the reverse--putting home movies and old TV shows onto a memory card for playback at the TV.


I'd sure like to move that big awful mess of TiVo, cable tuner, etc. out of my living room and into my office so they're all hidden and I don't have to listen to all the machine noise. Then I'd love to use the iTV (or whatever it's called) interface and remote in my newly decluttered living room.

Paul Laroquod
2006-09-17 14:34:10
I have changed my mind from my earlier post. After watching Steve's full keynote, I now think that judging from his presentation, it is very likely that the iTunes movies are anamorphic, and that changes the equation quite a bit. Anamorphic DVD can look pretty good. It all comes down to H264 now -- how 'near' *is* the 'near-DVD-quality' compression?
rahrens
2006-09-19 06:29:49
Joey;


Why the animosity? This thing doesn't threaten you somehow, does it?


Oh, and you realize that there is NO wait for a download from ITS? You can start watching ITS movies within one to three minutes from when the download starts, so they're really streaming the movie to you. Dolby Surround is also encoded into these new formated movies, too.


Steve wants to make this an experience. That's the Apple trademark - the Experience, including the capital letter. But this kind of thing has to start with smaller steps. You know the old Chinese proverb? About a journey of a thousand miles beginning with just a single step? Well, this is the single step.


Until Apple can release the iTV as a renamed, fully functional box using 802.11n wireless, the smaller 640x480 format is the best they can do. I'm betting that if not as soon as, but soon after the release of the iTV as a product, a newer, larger format will be available. Perhaps not exclusive, maybe as an option for those that have faster web connections.


But I agree with TStout; the Experience is Apple's goal. Make it easy, eliminate as many wires as possible, make the entire thing as elegant as possible from right outta the box. It's going to make downloading and watching movies from your computer as easy and pleasant as getting them from your cable company.


Will it be as cheap? No, obviously, Apple does not yet have the market share in this venue to force the studios to toe that line, but how often does your cable company get new releases the day the DVD comes out, as Apple has promised? If they did, I guarantee the price wouldn't be $5!


Give this time; the venue is new and unproven. Once (if) the studios see the numbers of downloads rise, they'll see the $$$ signs, and will fall all over themselves to sign up, just like the music folks did.


And so will folks like you - once you see an advantage in it.