Update: More on the Apple iTV
The biggest announcement of yesterday's Apple special event is obviously their prototype iTV video streaming set-top box to be released during the first quarter of next year at a $299 price point.
The iTV has Ethernet, USB, HDMI, component video, RCA and optical audio ports. It also has Wi-Fi, presumably 802.11g although nothing has been said anything as to whether that really is the case, and an IR port on the front for the Apple Remote. The iTV will come with an updated version of the Front Row interface.
The O'Reilly team disagree fiercely on why Steve Jobs has given us this surprise look at a future Apple product, Apple never talks about future products. It's company policy. But whether the advanced look at the iTV was down to rumour control or whether it was supposed to be ready for release, and wasn't, now we know. Suddenly over two years of rumours about the iPhone, and the almost taken for granted release of a widescreen iPod, get thrown out of the window. For once we have an idea about where Apple is heading, we actually have a firm basis to try and draw some conclusions about their future strategy. They're heading into the still almost uncharted wilderness of video on demand with their new set-top box.
Apple are betting the farm that broadcast television is basically dead, and they seem to have decided that they aren't going to be competing head to head with the TiVo Series 3, or the Microsoft Media Center. They're seem to be betting that people don't really want a DVR, they want to be able to downlload the shows they want and watch them directly. It's a bold move, one which they can only win if iTunes 7 and their new movie store succeeds. Although conversely, it's possible that the new movie store will really only take off when the hardware to use it arrives, after all that's what happened with the iPod and the original iTunes store.
I could be wrong. After all the prototype box they displayed was just that, a prototype. It's possible they could integrate a TV tuner directly into the iTV and turn it into a DVR fairly trivially. After all the eyeTV from Elgato shows exactly how small a package you can fit that sort of hardware into these days. At which point, with the iTunes infrastructure behind them they probably could thumb their noses at TiVo and the Media Center with impunity.
Of course that name really has to go, at least in the UK, unless they want to get into a legal tangle with ITV, and some of the very broadcasters they need on their side if they ever want to close the iTunes divide and start offering TV shows outside the continental United States.