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AlBlue’s Blog

Macs, Modularity and More

Movie downloads and new hardware?

2006 Mac

Looks like this afternoon's presentation should be fairly interesting. Whilst it looks pretty certain that there will be full-length movie downloads from iTunes, the interesting speculation on whether there will be anything else (hardware or software) relating to multi-media downloads. My money is on a beefed up version of Front Row, installed on all new Macs with the subtext of positioning a Mac Mini as a home theatre device (but without explicitly calling it that). I doubt that there will be any TV-related items directly; Elgato already has that covered, not to mention the differing broadcast codings and the fact that in the next few years, the transmission of TV is going digital anyway.

I also can't see a hardware video streamer being created; after all, the Mac doesn't have any concept of remote display (even though it used to under Nextstep -- sob) so it's not clear how it would even be used. And you'd need a reasonably beefy video card or CPU to do decoding, which means you'd also need memory; basically, it would be a small network computer (or a Mac Mini without a hard-drive). Making a mini smaller and hard-drive-less doesn't seem like a practical option to me; however, the airport express is just decoding MP3 and sending it out to an audio stream, which is a lot less work. (Also; MP3s are pretty much at the limit of what they'll need to be for ever -- but movies are going HD, which requires a lot beefier network and video card.)

As much as I would like an iPhone, I doubt that that is likely for this event, though perhaps sometime in the next 12-18 months. It's possible that there will be a stepping-stone device (such as an all touch-screen iPod to enable for widescreen movie viewing) and that an iPhone will take the same form factor in the future. Just look out for any built-in microphone slots, which will give a strong clue that an iPhone can't be far behind.

The next obvious question is how they'll link the iPhone. It's quite likely to work on quad-band, seeing as these things everywhere now, but the market at the moment means that operators end up customising the handsets to have logos or other built-in stuff on them (or to hobble a phone's capabilities). I think that there will have to be a lot more negotiation to get an iPhone working; quality (e.g. call quality as well as functionality) are likely to be important. I also can't see Apple running a mobile phone company; though a MVNO might work, I think it would be too outside of their core competencies to get right, especially from an investor's point of view. But at some point, I think there is room for one more big player (Google? Amazon? Apple?) to provide a decent mobile device that can also let you surf the web without hideous data bandwidth charges, and one that works seamlessly in conjunction with a wireless network back at home.

Anyway, at least Steve should look more relaxed this time. Let's see what happens at the announcement...