iTV: How Apple will screw themselves out of an Insanely Great product

saintjude

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 6, 2005
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Stream video to your TV? Could be handy.

But there are two very, very important things that are likely to be painfully missing:

1. Where's the TiVo functionality? The thing is already networked...it would take little effort for it to get TV listings. A box that can stream recorded video from computer to TV is only half as useful as a box that can also stream and record TV to my computer. A video recording and streaming iTV could eat the market shares of both TiVo and Slingbox type systems. The chip needed to do this doesn't cost more than about $30-$40; raise the unit price a little and get the job done right! Or...is this another case of Apple shafting the customers on product functionality in order to try to force them to BUY all their video/TV content off the iTunes store?

2. Compatibility with video formats that people actually USE. Go ahead; search your hard drive, look on the internet. What format is the planet's de-facto standard? AVI. I must have half a terabyte of anime, TV shows, and movies in various non-Apple formats, from the generic .avi's to .ogg (Ogg-Vorbis) and .mkv (Matroska) packages. If history is any indicator, Apple will only support Quicktime formats, as used by their iTunes video store. Apple's audio streaming solution (the Airport Express) was acceptable (if a little clumsy) because most people's music was in MP3 or AAC to begin with; the device had compatibility with the installed media base.

Would you buy a car that could only use Mercedes-brand gasoline? I sure as hell wouldn't. Witness the success of .avi-capable DVD players; THEY are giving people what they want. If Apple is going to keep their not-invented-here stick firmly lodged up their nether-regions by not supporting .avi out of the box, they MUST at least provide easy ways for third-parties to provide the necessary video support. A set-top box that can't play .avi's is about as useful as a one-legged donkey.

Critics have said George Bush exists in a sort of information bubble, isolated from the real world. I'm starting to think The Jobs exists in a similar bubble, surrounded by Apple technology, protected from the real-world ecosystem of video formats that people actually use. (Perhaps people would actually use Apple's video formats if they hadn't been so greedy that they charge an upgrade fee to actually gain access to Quicktime's full functionality. You can get plenty of .avi tools for free.)

I'm not sure if Apple is truly that stupid and just doesn't understand what's going on in the real world, or if Apple has become that greedy, that manipulative in their Microsoftian efforts to force people to live only within their product ecosystem. Either way, Apple and The Jobs should be ashamed of themselves.
 

Dont Hurt Me

macrumors 603
Dec 21, 2002
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Yahooville S.C.
Jobs still ignores the TV and the gaming Market while market leader Microstink have embraced gaming and the TV. Perhaps Jobs turtleneck is three sizes to small.
 

rtdgoldfish

macrumors 6502a
Jul 4, 2004
571
0
Jacksonville, FL
As far as TiVo goes, this might be a feature that hasn't been announced yet. An article around here somewhere said there is a hard drive built in to the iTV. Guessing it will have some sort of recording option.

The reason Apple uses QuickTime formats so much is because of the quality. The H.264 codec is amazing. The amount of space vs. the quality is nowhere near AVI. To me, AVI is just used to provide low quality video at a small size. I could be wrong here but an AVI file at DVD quality will be much bigger than a QuickTime file of DVD quality.
 

zwida

macrumors 6502a
Jan 5, 2001
587
0
NYC
saintjude said:
I'm not sure if Apple is truly that stupid and just doesn't understand what's going on in the real world, or if Apple has become that greedy, that manipulative in their Microsoftian efforts to force people to live only within their product ecosystem. Either way, Apple and The Jobs should be ashamed of themselves.
I suppose this should go without saying, but there may be other explanations than the truly stupid vs. truly evil dichotomy you've set up.

In addition, you've had to make some assumptions about the product in order to lambast it. We should at least wait until the sorts of specs you're criticizing are announced before we rip them to shreds.
 

Sdashiki

macrumors 68040
Aug 11, 2005
3,512
8
Behind the lens
Xvid and by proxy, Divx is the defacto standard.

just because THAT becomes packaged in an .avi, means nothing.

Quicktime CAN play Xvid with the right codec, can it not?


I doubt apple will lock out the ability to upgrade with codecs etc.
 

blueflame

macrumors 6502a
Apr 3, 2003
824
25
Studio City
I agree with the OP, although, even if they dont add waht i think they should I will still buy it, jsut for it being an airport express+. which by the way, it should be called airport express AV
andreas
 

balamw

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Aug 16, 2005
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zwida said:
In addition, you've had to make some assumptions about the product in order to lambast it. We should at least wait until the sorts of specs you're criticizing are announced before we rip them to shreds.
When has the lack of hard data ever stopped people from labmasting a new product they just don't quite get. Lest we forget. Thread 500: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=500

We don't know enough about iTV yet to dismiss it as many are trying to, nor can we be sure it won't just be a pretty limited extenstion to the Airport Express.

That said, I like what I've seen to date and unless it's got a major Achilles heel, I'm ready to order one as soon as they'll let me have it. However, from what we've seen it looks like iTV may only appeal to those who alreay own an HDTV and maybe have decent internet bandwidth, and thus be a bit of a niche product in the US.

B
 

kwajo.com

macrumors 6502a
Jul 17, 2002
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wow Balam, thanks for the Thread 500 link! That was one of the first threads I remember reading on Macrumors and it brought back a ton of memories of old posters, old opinions and the good old Apple niche we used to have. thanks again!
 

emotion

macrumors 68040
Mar 29, 2004
3,186
3
Manchester, UK
I remember the iPod getting lambasted as a concept when Apple released it. This is similar in concept to an iPod but for video. It's not a PVR, you need a device that works globally not just in one region and differing standards make this tricky.

I do however agree that it needs to cope (or have an easy way for iTunes to cope) with lots of video formats.

Edit: haha just read what thread 500 was....I'm glad my memory works still. :)
 

matticus008

macrumors 68040
Jan 16, 2005
3,341
0
Bay Area, CA
Well, for starters, they don't want to take Elgato's market away. Elgato has a mature product line with the only real PVR software for the Mac. Unless Apple can beat that right out of the gate, it would implode on arrival. The other reason is that if they included an analog tuner, people would complain about the lack of HD support. If they included an HD tuner, people would complain about the price. That's all sidestepping the whole broadcast flag/cable card fiasco that's ongoing.

Skipping the tuner lets them focus on the delivery and presentation. Let the customer decide how s/he wants the media content delivered. If it's recording TV, use a tuner; if it's iTunes, use the Mac or an attached iPod; if it's just a person's hard drive or the Internet, there's network streaming.

As for format support--AVI isn't a format. It's a wrapper, and Quicktime can play many of the formats stored in .avi files. Anything MPEG-based is going to work, and that's the real standard set for media devices. If you're using a strange file format that only computers can play...then all you need is a network share, not an iTV.
 

saintjude

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 6, 2005
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AVI isn't a format. It's a wrapper, and Quicktime can play many of the formats stored in .avi files.
Technically true, but you know as well as I that avi is synonymous with DiVX and other extended MPEG4 streams. An avi container with MPEG1 or MPEG2 in it is about as hard to find as a brilliant Microsoft interface designer. Quicktime's codecs do NOT play the overwhelming majority of avi files on earth. And iTunes, which is going to be the source of media for this device, doesn't even acknowledge the existence of avi's.

Happily, DiVX makes a decent codec...but you rather certainly won't be able to install it on one of Apple's historically hermetically sealed i-devices. We're still waiting for a damned developer's kit for the iPods.

From the front page:
And also explains that it is very easy to control and the appeal to content developers is to provide them roll in selling content to the DVR/TVR audience.
...if they've forgotten to set their TiVo device or their TVR or they just have no plan to do it but they want to watch an episode that they missed, they can go to iTunes, buy it for $1.99, [send it] to the set-top box source wirelessly and watch it on the television."
Well. Well. Well. Still think Apple isn't deliberately crippling this thing to try to sell us DRM'd TV shows at $2 a pop? (Hell will freeze before I buy DRM'd files.)

Elgato has a mature product line with the only real PVR software for the Mac. Unless Apple can beat that right out of the gate, it would implode on arrival.
A monkey can create a DVR program. Apple was building Macs with video digitizers (you know, TV in a window, recording shows to disc) in them 13 YEARS ago; they should have kept up the tradition.

if they included an analog tuner, people would complain about the lack of HD support. If they included an HD tuner, people would complain about the price. That's all sidestepping the whole broadcast flag/cable card fiasco that's ongoing.
The broadcast flag is, at this point, a political fiction; there is no reason to even try to support it. The cable cards are a somewhat more interesting possibility; perhaps in the second generation (a card slot isn't expensive.)

Apparently I've fallen behind the times on chip pricing (well, that happens.) You can get an analog TV digitizer chip these days for closer to $10. A simple HDTV tuner (just the chip that grabs the signal from the antenna) shouldn't be a lot more expensive; throw in a DVD-RW drive (less than $30 in quantity) and you could have a $400 iTV that recorded and played back video in analog and HDTV, burned to DVD, played from DVD, streamed video to anywhere you wanted on the internet.... Now that's a killer product.

But, no. Apple's going to give us an 'adequately nice' product. If people can live with Windows, they can certainly live with a second-rate TV streaming hub.

When has the lack of hard data ever stopped people from labmasting a new product they just don't quite get.
I 'get it' perfectly; it's a remote Front Row terminal for your entertainment center. It's not tomorrow's technology. It's not even last year's technology. Sure, it'll be handy and cool...just a little feature-poor and inflexible.

As far as TiVo goes, this might be a feature that hasn't been announced yet.
There don't seem to be any video-in ports on the prototype, and with it planned to ship in a matter of months and with a price set, I think it's extremely unlikely that an ambush feature upgrade will be coming.

The amount of space vs. the quality is nowhere near AVI. To me, AVI is just used to provide low quality video at a small size. I could be wrong here but an AVI file at DVD quality will be much bigger than a QuickTime file of DVD quality.
I'm not sure it's that overwhelming of an advantage for H.264, although I certainly agree that it's better. Technical merit aside, most of the video out there *doesn't* use that codec. I need compatibility with the media I have now, not with the media I might have some day.
 

balamw

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Aug 16, 2005
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saintjude said:
Sure, it'll be handy and cool...just a little feature-poor and inflexible.
But that's exactly where Apple has had a knack of finding the right mix in many recent products. (iMac, iPod, Airport Express). Simplicity instead of creeping featuritis. Supporting a small set of essential features well instead of supporting every feature under the sun poorly. You may see this as feature-poor and inflexible, but as long as it does what I need it to do without so much fuss, I'm there.

This is why I love my TiVos. I had a Dish PVR before and while it got the job done, it just wasn't "simple". The TiVo is simple enough that my 3 year old can work it with only a little help. It does the same job as a VCR, and one could say at the expense of some features (no removable storage), but it does the job better than the VCR or my old PVR...

B
 

matticus008

macrumors 68040
Jan 16, 2005
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Bay Area, CA
saintjude said:
Happily, DiVX makes a decent codec...but you rather certainly won't be able to install it on one of Apple's historically hermetically sealed i-devices. [...]
Well. Well. Well. Still think Apple isn't deliberately crippling this thing to try to sell us DRM'd TV shows at $2 a pop? (Hell will freeze before I buy DRM'd files.)
Generally fair points on the broad stroke, but this isn't so much a full-blown media player as a living room extension of iLife and the iPod. Simply put, I would expect Apple to support all the formats that iTunes and the video iPods handle. You can stream music/video from iTunes or playback from an iPod drive--that seems to be the gist of it. I'm sure there will be authoring tools to convert to that format, but that's just part of the game. They're not trying to take on media center PCs or MythTV. For what it's worth, the open source answer to iTV is MPEG4-only, lacks a tuner and a hard drive, and has no wifi support yet. Oh, and only composite output.

Apple is just trying to help people get their digital media into their living rooms--or for the pro-business side, trying to grow the slowing "iPod economy" and create a bigger market for their iTunes video files. None of it's criminal, and it appeals to customers at the same time.

A monkey can create a DVR program. Apple was building Macs with video digitizers (you know, TV in a window, recording shows to disc) in them 13 YEARS ago; they should have kept up the tradition.
A monkey can write a capture program. A complete DVR solution is a much different beast. Talk to the Media Portal or MythTV guys; it's no cakewalk.

Apparently I've fallen behind the times on chip pricing (well, that happens.) You can get an analog TV digitizer chip these days for closer to $10. A simple HDTV tuner (just the chip that grabs the signal from the antenna) shouldn't be a lot more expensive; throw in a DVD-RW drive (less than $30 in quantity) and you could have a $400 iTV that recorded and played back video in analog and HDTV, burned to DVD, played from DVD, streamed video to anywhere you wanted on the internet.... Now that's a killer product.
Anyone who's been around the board long enough knows that I love the arbitrary pricing discussions, so I just can't leave this one alone ;). It's not just the DSP. It's the added cost of RAM and the greater CPU muscle, not to mention the greater dependence on consistent high throughput to keep away the long pauses and stutters and random artifacts. I "test drove" an HD DVR in my home for a few days--it was hot, loud, and sluggish. Maybe that was just cable company bloat, but I don't think "embedded" and "HD" play nice quite yet.
 

Counterfit

macrumors G3
Aug 20, 2003
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saintjude said:
Apple's audio streaming solution (the Airport Express) was acceptable (if a little clumsy) because most people's music was in MP3 or AAC to begin with
Except that audio format doesn't play into the AirPort Express at all. You can stream any audio to it with the right tool.

So anyways, this product in months away, and we don't know most of the details about it yet.
 

Veldek

macrumors 68000
Mar 29, 2003
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I really hope that they offer the ability to stream more formats to the iTV. In the moment, you can play avi in Quicktime, but you cannot play it in iTunes and this is from where you'll have to stream, so there's still something to do for Apple.
 

Eraserhead

macrumors G4
Nov 3, 2005
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Veldek said:
In the moment, you can play avi in Quicktime, but you cannot play it in iTunes.
Hmm, I seem to be able to right now in iTunes with an Xvid avi, it's not as advanced as quicktime (you cannot change the brightness for example) but it works.
 

balamw

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Counterfit said:
Except that audio format doesn't play into the AirPort Express at all. You can stream any audio to it with the right tool.

So anyways, this product in months away, and we don't know most of the details about it yet.
Actually iTunes provides streaming of MP3 and AAC to the Airport Express without Airfoil, by converting them both to Apple Lossless first. You only need AirFoil if you're trying to stream something other like OGG or FLAC.

I agree that we're all just guessing now.

B
 

aristobrat

macrumors G5
Oct 14, 2005
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saintjude said:
1. Where's the TiVo functionality? The thing is already networked...it would take little effort for it to get TV listings. A box that can stream recorded video from computer to TV is only half as useful as a box that can also stream and record TV to my computer.
How would Apple manage the different tuners?

In the US, there's OTA analog, OTA HD, analog cable, DirecTV, Dish Network, digital cable, and this new fiber digital stuff that Verizon is doing (FiOS).

How many models of iTV would there have to be?
 

TEG

macrumors 604
Jan 21, 2002
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aristobrat said:
How would Apple manage the different tuners?

In the US, there's OTA analog, OTA HD, analog cable, DirecTV, Dish Network, digital cable, and this new fiber digital stuff that Verizon is doing (FiOS).

How many models of iTV would there have to be?
The thing is... NTSC (OTA Analog), ATSC (OTA HD), QAM (Digital Cable/Satellite/FiOS) are very similar, and can all work in the same box, that is what TiVo does.

In reality, I cannot imagine Apple jumping into the DVR/DMR/PVR arena. Apple already has a strong ally in TiVo, as they use Macs for most of their business. (The only reason right now that there is no TiVo to Go for Macs is that it costs money for an MPEG2 Decoder for Quicktime, where it is free in WMP, and they are having problems de-encrypting their files in a timely fashion in OSX.) I honestly think that the iTV should be marketed to those people who don't want a DVR, just want to be able to play stored content on their TV, that way Apple can also create a cooperative agreement with TiVo to stream content from a Mac to a TiVo (Or Buy out TiVo).

TEG
 

balamw

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TEG said:
The thing is... NTSC (OTA Analog), ATSC (OTA HD), QAM (Digital Cable/Satellite/FiOS) are very similar, and can all work in the same box, that is what TiVo does.

In reality, I cannot imagine Apple jumping into the DVR/DMR/PVR arena. Apple already has a strong ally in TiVo, as they use Macs for most of their business. (The only reason right now that there is no TiVo to Go for Macs is that it costs money for an MPEG2 Decoder for Quicktime, where it is free in WMP, and they are having problems de-encrypting their files in a timely fashion in OSX.) I honestly think that the iTV should be marketed to those people who don't want a DVR, just want to be able to play stored content on their TV, that way Apple can also create a cooperative agreement with TiVo to stream content from a Mac to a TiVo (Or Buy out TiVo).

TEG
Just note that the TiVo box that does what you mention above will retail for US$800, while the announced price for the iTV is $300.

Do you have a link for your TiVo to Go assertions? The reason I ask is that my experience has been quite the opposite. OS X ships with an MPEG-2 codec that allows DVD playback out of the box, while WMP in XP still cannot even play a DVD without third party MPEG-2 decoder. It's more likely that it's a DRM related issue...

B
 

aristobrat

macrumors G5
Oct 14, 2005
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TEG said:
The thing is... NTSC (OTA Analog), ATSC (OTA HD), QAM (Digital Cable/Satellite/FiOS) are very similar, and can all work in the same box, that is what TiVo does.
So then don't you find it a little odd that there isn't currently one single product anywhere on the market that can record from all of those sources like the iTV would have to?

Is it a cost factor that prevents TiVo and others from putting all of those different tuners and unscramblers in one box?

If TiVo (the gods of DVR) just last week released a box that for the first time ever can record digital cable directly, I'm really doubting that we'll see anything soon from Apple that does that.
 

rdowns

macrumors Penryn
Jul 11, 2003
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I'm sure the networks that Apple courted so hard to sell their TV shows in the iTS would just love Tivo and streaming technology in the iTV box.
 

aristobrat

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Oct 14, 2005
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rdowns said:
I'm sure the networks that Apple courted so hard to sell their TV shows in the iTS would just love Tivo and streaming technology in the iTV box.
It's just an integration of the iTV with an already existing TiVo that's recording shows, right?

It's not like they TiVo isn't already hooked up to their TV sets .. it'd just be viewing it thru the iTV interface and not having to use the TiVo remote as much. :)
 

BornAgainMac

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Feb 4, 2004
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I would prefer the Tivo feature be a USB attachment to your computer. Let your computer schedule, manage, and store content. Keep the iTV component simple.

AVI is also just a container for video. It is the codecs that causes the problem. Quicktime plays AVIs but it doesn't have the codecs for all AVI files such as those encoded with Divx. I made some AVIs using a product called ATI All in Wonder and when I played the AVIs on another PC they couldn't display the video. I didn't have the Install CD for the Wonder card and ATI didn't provide them as a download. ATI had their own special codec in those days for AVIs.