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  • A Tale of Two Bets

    September 21st, 2006

    I’m not a betting man. When I visit Las Vegas, the family budget at the slot machines is never more than $20, and usually we confine our visit to the restaurants and entertainment spots anyway. I don’t do much in the way of friendly bets either, but I got tempted during last week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, and I did it again this week, and I hope this doesn’t signal a trend.

    It all started when I was interviewing noted author and Macworld contributing writer Kirk McElhearn and we talked about the wireless system Apple is likely to use on its iTV. It’s important to realize that Steve Jobs never specified the exact standard, and there has been lots of speculation on the subject.

    Since the iTV comes equipped with the HDMI industry-standard high definition video connector, you expect that this new media center device will support HD television. It would make sense, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple intends to make HD content available for download, although you won’t get it in a half hour. Figure two or three hours or so, and then only if you have a high-tier broadband hookup.

    Regardless, you’ll want to be able to stream those TV shows and movies to your flat-panel TV with the iTV, or whatever it’ll be called when it appears next year. However, the existing wireless standard used in AirPort Extreme, 802.11g, would choke on the bandwidth required to stream high definition content. Even DVD-quality can stretch the boundaries.

    So it would seem natural that Apple would consider using the forthcoming 802.11n standard, which will only be available in preliminary form next year. It promises up to four times the speed of “g,” but existing products using an early draft standard apparently don’t talk to each other, which would explain why Apple would wait until something more reliable was available. Certainly, they’d want the product to be easily upgradeable to the final standard via a firmware patch.

    Kirk says Apple plans on sticking with “g,” partly because existing hardware supports that standard. This, however, doesn’t preclude that iTV coming with a wireless transmission device that hooks up to your Mac’s Ethernet port, perhaps.

    In any case, I made the bet with Kirk. He has some good points to his argument and I think I do as well. Only Steve Jobs and his crew at Apple know the truth, but we’ll probably all know during the keynote at Macworld San Francisco next January.

    As to my second bet: I’ve already suggested that Leopard will include all of the iLife applications. Since I’ve expressed this point already in a previous commentary, let me just say that I was talking with Macworld’s Jim Dalrymple on this week’s episode, and spelled out the logic behind my contention. Again, the famous gentleman’s bet of one dollar was offered, although in this case I suggested dinner as well, and Jim agreed.

    Now I suppose you might suggest that, if I feel so confident about my arguments, I should have put more money on the table. Perhaps, but when it comes to Apple, anything is possible. There could be unpredictable alternatives to the various possible scenarios that would make one point of view more valid than the other.

    On the other hand, I feel confident that I’m on the right track. However, this is open to discussion. Feel free to chime in, gentle reader. But, please, no more bets.



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    4 Responses to “A Tale of Two Bets”

    1. Hidalgo says:

      I’ll bet a new Airport is in the works. Ooops, you said no more bets.

    2. Todd says:

      Think you’¢re going to win one and lose one:

      There’s no way Apple will release iTV without 802.11n (or some other way to stream HD content wirelessly). I do think there is a missing piece however. Concurrent with the iTV rollout, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an 802.11n basestation that includes network storage of some sort. There are a couple of signs pointing toward an Apple plug-and-play media server/NAS device: iTunes7 listing “Multiple Libraries on separate hard drives” as a prominent feature — easy to keep your media content on a network server where it will be acessible to all; and TimeMachine requiring storage on a network drive or second hd being the two most prominent. Add these to the persistent rumors about some sort of Torrent-like functionality in future Mac OSs (add this functionality to Apple Media servers & OS and suddenly distribtion/hosting costs for HD quality content become much more palatable.)

      [Maybe the hard drive Eiger was talking about wasn’t inside the iTV itself, but was a separate product and he was a little confused about how they related.]

      Give this AirportHD media server the ability to talk 802.11g back to older Macs while streaming 802.11n to the iTV and newer Macs moves Airport into the HD future where it needs to be without completely abandoning the installed base (if you’re not streaming directly from your Mac, your Mac doesn’t need to be connected at HD bandwidths). Throw in HD video inputs of some sort at the media server (probably as some sort of add-on; can’t see this device without USB2 at least) and Apple displays with integrated 802.11n and iTV functionality and very quietly Apple has taken over the living room.

      On your second bet, I can’t see Apple rolling iLife into the core OS. I can see them bundling iLife with a .mac subscription — sort of makes sense with how tightly most of the non-iTunes iLife apps integrate with .mac. “Subscribe to .mac and get the current revision of iLife for free,” or vice versa. It wouldn’t astound me if they bundled iLife with the OS, but I just think linking it to .mac (which is overpriced for what it is), would make more sense.

    3. justme says:

      I think that all Macs and the Teleport/iTV/Apple iPod Video Express will include 802.11n after MacWorld..

      But I’m not positive that this means that HD content will be streaming from a Mac to the iTV… I don’t think the HDMI port on the iTV requires Apple to be selling HD content so much as the HDMI port on the iTV points towards the iTV providing up-scaling for all video on any Mac to the native res of your TV. (SDTV, EDTV, HDTV 720p, HDTV 1080p)

      Now, if rumored bittorrent ability in MacOS X 10.5 becomes a reality.. iTMS HD content would be more feasible.. and yes, 802.11n would allow that HD content to be streamed.. I just don’t see Apple limiting the iTV that much.. For the price, I’d sure hope it’ll upscale as nicely as the OPPO DVD Player for instance, either using the DCDi chip the OPPO uses, or the ATI/NVidia/Intel equal…

      As far as iLife? I’d like you to be right, but I doubt it.. Todd’s thought is a better… bet.. iLife/.mac bundle.. Heck, if all 3 were bundled there’d be dancing in the streets… I’d be surprised if any bundling happened tho.

      Just my $0.02US

      just me

    4. Jon says:

      I think people are reading too much into the HDMI output. IMHO, it’s there because HDMI will the ubiquitas connection for future digital TVs and devices that connect to them. Particularly lowend TVs that will most likely have only one or two connections.

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