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A Tale of Two Bets

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.