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I, Cringely - The Survival of the Nerdiest with Robert X. Cringely
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The Pulpit
Pulpit Comments
February 16, 2007 -- Appeerances Can Be Deceiving
Status: [CLOSED]

Three problems

1] If it requires removing DRM, and its on all AppleTVs .... why am I buying the movie again ?? Its on my p2p appleTV box, I'll just take it and watch it


2] The studios hate the 'liberal' policies of the Apple DRM policy now. We are going to believe they will remove any protection then distribute all movies to everyone for free ?


3] The AppleTV has a 40GB HD, if a movie takes 600MB each that is one small movie store.



I don't get the AppleTV either. What makes sense is if Apple combines the SAN capable new Airport Extreme with the AppleTV to act as a nice family server

Jo T | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:02AM

Actually, the TV is about an inch wider and thicker than the new AirPort and Mac mini. Just look on the tech specs page.

Richard Neal | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:03AM

Hello Robert,
while Apple's iTV and AirPort Extreme/Mac Mini are indeed stackable, they surely do not have the same footprint - at least according to the specs on Apple.com.
Apple TV: 7.7 by 7.7inches and AirPort Extreme 6.5 by 6.5inches.

Otherwise: Great column.
Andy

Andy | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:07AM

Maybe they are counting on the OS in the Mac Mini to do some "content skinning." Change Tony Soprano's face to your funny-looking uncle, change the color of a car in a movie... you know, do what the Blu-Ray is touting but cheaper, with components that can be unstacked and still retain their total value.

Ike | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:10AM

Bob, what makes you think Mac TV users are going to be happy about volunteering their upstream bandwidth for free?

jc | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:21AM

40GB x 1 million is 40 Petabytes of distributed storage, and something in the neighborhood of 1.5 Petabits/second of collective network bandwidth.

A company could do a lot with that for eliminating bandwidth and storage costs. They could offload all voice traffic to VoIP, the iTunes storage idea, offer its own distributed processing net with the extra cycles, etc.

Or Apple could offer Google another arm of its Googlenet, with huge bandwidth and storage all hosted on competitor networks.

Imagine selling your grid instead of buying it?

Graham Fair | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:30AM
MT | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:34AM

I think Steve already made it clear that the hard drive was for caching audio and video content so you wouldn't have to have your computer on or worry about network glitches. If your whole premise is the mysterious nature of this drive then forget about it.

Also, the fact that you didn't check the sizes of the products noting that they don't really stack just says to me you're getting lazy in your research.

Furthermore, Apple doesn't care about the Mac Mini anymore. It hasn't been upgraded to the Core 2 Duo and it's grossly over priced. I think we can be pretty certain it's not going to be a key part of anything.

Kody Bryson | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:54AM

A content distribution network unstalled by stealth and firmware upgrade in the homes of how many apple TV buyers? If this is indeed the case, well done for figuring it out - stranger things have happened.

I would instead have expected to see a movie rental service tied to this thing. Time will tell.

coljac | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:55AM

>>Bob, what makes you think Mac TV users are going to be happy about volunteering their upstream bandwidth for free?




Maybe an iTunes incentive... faster downloads for the consumer, maybe more content for using the appleiTV specific iTunes store, and cheaper ($0) bandwidth for apple means a lower end price for the consumer. If they were going to do this, and actually tell people it was happening, there would have to be an incentive, which would not be hard to create.

bryon | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:58AM

Perhaps, Netflix rolls up into this strategy... Not only does Netflix rent films, they are starting to produce them. Hmmmmmm

Bruce Shirey | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:10AM

...And the the relationship of this hypothesis to the presence of Dr. Eric Schmidt on the Apple BoD is...?

George Smiley | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:27AM

Apple clearly states that the hard drive is for syncing content from iTunes. Think of the Apple TV as an iPod with Front Row permanently hooked up to your TV.

iTunes is the content hub. Apple TV is just another device that you sync or stream content to.

chaos pilot | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:50AM

The hard drive in the Apple TV makes a lot of sense if you don't assume there's a "server" permanently attached to the network. If someone has just a laptop, then I'm guessing they wouldn't want to leave it on just to stream content to a television.

Hence, the laptop's iTunes becomes the master and syncs to the Apple TV.

I like the concept of a massive P2P distribution network, though.

Craig | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:01AM

The Apple TV (7.7 inches a side) is larger than the Mac Mini and the AirPort Extreme (6.5 inches a side), though they have a similar appearance.

So don't fret, Bob... they don't make such a neat little stack after all.

Anonymous | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:08AM

Hmmm... Just one problem. AppleTV is NOT the iPod, and I would be surprised if Apple sells a million units of this product in any reasonable time period.

What do most people say: My TV works fine, especially if I have a TiVo or similar and a subscription to NetFlix; what do I need Yet Another TV box for?

William | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:40AM

Apple can't use the hard drive for P2P pre-seeding, since they already promised the customer that they can use the hard drive to store up to 50 hours of video or 9000 songs.

Unless of course they only use free space on the hard drive for pre-seeding, or the hard drive is actually bigger than the 40 GB that they tell the customer about.

Daniel Tams | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:44AM

While there may be straightforward explanations for the existing Apple TV, it doesn't deny the power of an always-on device with processing and storage in hundreds of thousands of homes, when harnessed for a common goal. Distributed computing, storage, and bandwidth would basically abstract the Internet from the hardware that runs and uses it, and that is a very powerful notion that isn't too far off.

Graham Fair | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:47AM


Another mind-boggling column, but tell me, is spelling appeerances wrong in the title some clever pun I'm not just getting or is typo?

Nitpicker | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:01AM

People have been talking about Apple operating a huge P2P network for years. One view has it that it would be done surreptitiously without people knowing it is happening. Fairytales! If that happened, people would be suing Apple for stealing their bandwidth.



The other is that Apple would offer some reward for participating. In theory it would be ok, but then imagine the complaints when people's Internet connection slowed down, especial for ADSL where the upstream part is pretty small anyway. VOIP cannot even get a reliable share of most people's bandwidth, and P2P would be more constant than that.

To say nothing of firewalls and other restrictions to the traffic...


David Morrison | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:10AM

Nitpicker, the title is a riff on peer-to- peer: 'A-peer-ances'

Bob, that's an interesting concept, but I can't help thinking that the reality will be slightly less cool and that it's just a neat DVR device with an Apple logo. I hope I'm wrong and you're right, though!

Marty | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:50AM

The system specs for Apple TV specifies access to a ”Broadband Internet connection (fees may apply)”. If Apple TV was just an appendix to your computer and iTunes, why demand this?

I think you could be on to something here Bob...

cubeXpert | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:51AM

I am still struggling a bit to understand this eco-system across entirely. Broadly there logically seems to be a content/delivery play. Who are the players who will be under threat in this model ? The last mile cable TV providers / production houses ?

Ravish | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:51AM

The hard drive IS preloaded with content that is locked by Apple. Apple will call this locked content software, but it is content that will magically unlock when the hardware is connected to the Apple intra network of distributed content. The consumer will have access to this content if consumer buys content from ITMS, otherwise it will be open to other users in the distribution network.
Hmmmmmm? Will Apple, Inc. and its users transmogrify into the Apple Distributed Republic? An internet community you buy into? Watch out if Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt start venturing into e-currency business.

Kevin Kunreuther | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:56AM

My network is still capped at 10 Gb download and 2 Gb upload.
No way am I allowing an always-on Apple TV to replicate it's data using my network connection. I can only use Bittorrent a few days and then I have to stop using in order to have some bandwidth left over..

Alex Boschmans | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:56AM

I don't think the appleTV was intended to be stackable with the others.

The dimensions on the units are 7.7" for the appleTV, while the mini and airport are 6.5" square.
So the mini and airport will stack beautifully.
Thus the combination of mini and airport are perfect for stacking and add up to what the TV is(sans HDMI)

Peter | Feb 16, 2007 | 5:06AM

Hey nitpicker....re-read the article and see if you can spot any references to "peer to peer", and then ask again about "appeerances" (hint: ap-peer-ances.... geddit?)

bob | Feb 16, 2007 | 5:09AM

I think you may have over-analyzed the usefulness of the stackablilty feature. Apple products are fashion accessories. Having it stackable is cool looking. It might get you some lovin'.

Dr. FeelBad | Feb 16, 2007 | 6:01AM

I've had a Mini connected to a 60" Sony LCD TV since the Mini was released. I've been able to watch iTunes content and movies on it forever. What I want is the ability to record TV shows with the ApplTV and possibly have it do a better job of connecting to my 1080i TV without the use of 3rd party utilities and manually adjusting for overscan.

I want it to be a HD DVR, but a 40GB hard drive isn't going to do the trick.

Michael | Feb 16, 2007 | 7:29AM

"But I STILL don't know why those components were made stackable."

Because the Apple Displays will have WiFi too and we will be able to create a central server with a Mac Mini Server, the Airport Express and the Apple TV.

Frederick Montero | Feb 16, 2007 | 7:58AM

Maybe Apple can save a few cents by having boxes the same size?

Bob Gustafson | Feb 16, 2007 | 8:02AM

It is interesting to ponder an Apple-Google relationship whereby Apple takes advantage of the Google fiber as you mention a few weeks ago.

Staypuft | Feb 16, 2007 | 8:05AM

The 802.11 antenna in the Mac Mini is just under the top horizontal surface. If the Mac Mini is designed to be stacked, it suspect it needs to be on the top of the stack so the antenna is not blocked.

mike | Feb 16, 2007 | 8:18AM

What incentive would make me give my bandwidth and power supply for this Apple TV product? WHAT?

A lot of good free content would certainly be one. Besides, I do have no amount limits bandwidth for a tenner a month from UK Online http://www.ukonline.net

Anon | Feb 16, 2007 | 8:30AM

I don't think there needs to be a utilitarian reason for the components to be stackable and to look the same. It could just be part of Apple's branding, similar to how iMacs and iPods share many visual cues.

Sloe Moe | Feb 16, 2007 | 8:35AM

If it were *my* job to guess, I'd think that hard drive would one day be used as a video recorder. Notice the USB port on the back of the AppleTV that appears to be used for nothing right now. Maybe in a few months Apple will sell me a dongle that hooks up to my cable feed.

And to push it a step further, maybe that dongle will take not only my cable feed, but also inputs from my VCR, my DVD player, my handicam...whatever. Maybe Apple is going to finally solve the problem of having 5 remote controls in my livingroom.

PLEASE, Apple, give me a nice Apple-esque user interface to manage the 21st century hydra of remote controls and devices and menus that infest my livingroom.

Samuel Greinke | Feb 16, 2007 | 8:35AM

They weren't necessarily made to be stackable. They were made to be visually identifiable as Apple products. If they look similar, you know they're Apple just by a quick glance. I might be wrong. You're right that everything has a purpose. That purpose is not always technological. Tech columnists often forget that.

David Brandon | Feb 16, 2007 | 8:39AM

Interesting speculation Robert, though of course Apple have already said that the HD is there to hold content when the Mac's off: In this sense the Apple TV is no more than a headless tethered iPod with WiFi, and thus the future prototype of a whole bunch of wireless iPods. But of course it's much more than that, and the distribution of movies and music on iTunes is intimately tied up with this new platform. I expect to see games too.

The P2P speculation is fun, and I hope Apple are thinking big. As for the stackable thing, remember that you only need to stack some combination of 2 devices to make the form factor useful: That's to say there may well be more devices from Apple and others on the way (HDDs and hubs are already available, both of which I can see stacking nicely with any of the 3 Apple devices). Form factor is a great selling point in the consumer space, and while it's less easily controlled than, say, the iPod dock connector, it's still another reason to stay with Apple devices.

Robert Sharl | Feb 16, 2007 | 8:47AM

I can't see AppleTV owners accepting en masse to suddenly become servers to such a grand scheme, and giving away control on part of their paid for bandwidth. The secret approach here is an aggravating factor. That would be an instant cause for a massive class action suit. Now if Apple can come up with a big advantage given on a voluntary program to become a part of the thing... Like a free movie every month or so (like there's a free single each week on the iTunes Store)... Or a great enhancement of quality and nature of service...

I think the biggest feature AppleTV lacks is some PVR capabilities, and that could be a new box to stack on the others, containing a TV Tuner and an optic R/W drive. Perhaps Leopard on the next MacMini update could bring answers to all those questions. Secret features, anyone ?

But for now, we can only imagine those things to patch what seems to be a lackluster product and vision from Apple. Bring on the PVR and the games, and a truly modular system like that would be a killer for me.

Bonraisin | Feb 16, 2007 | 8:50AM

The devices are not in fact designed to be stackable.

During the September 12th event in which Apple gave a preview of the (then) iTV, I had the opportunity to ask the engineers behind the device a few questions. The first thing I asked after picking up the iTV box, was "is it the exact same footprint as the Mac mini, it seems a little big?" They replied without hesitation, "it is not the same footprint--you're right, it is slightly bigger."

J.

jgreen | Feb 16, 2007 | 8:56AM

So wait - I pay for the hardware, hook it up to my connection, am providing a backbone of sorts for Apple's movie distribution scheme, and then I still have to pay 10 bucks to download a less than DVD quality file of a movie? What's the incentive? BitTorrent eats the hell out of my connection if I let it go as it wishes....I don't see tons of people liking their home internet connections being consumed to offset the costs to Apple.

Pete | Feb 16, 2007 | 9:12AM

First, thanks for the comments. Second, have I told you recently how much I love your stuff? PBS should add an Amazon (NOT PayPal) donation button to this page so we can tell 'em we like you.

Third, this column is delightful but feels unlikely. Is Apple really that ingenious? Jobs is clever for sure, but unless he's got a few pocket geniuses I don't quite buy it. Frankly, I think "he" (whoever wrote the essay) is right about the technical issues with DRM control. Vendors are promising quantum computing computing within a year, sometime in the next decade every DRMd digital video will be cracked. This war can't be won without trashing democracy.

Lastly, have you ever tried streaming video in an environment of leaky microwaves, overlapping WLANs, multitasking CPUs, overheated routers, etc, etc. It's nowhere near reliable. The drive is needed as a cache.

John Faughnan | Feb 16, 2007 | 9:28AM

I wouldn't be surprised if the Apple TV eventually gains the ability to, at the very least, browse and download from the iTunes store directly. Same goes for the iPhone (or a 3G capable future version), though the wireless carriers add an additional hurdle, as they want the "media-store-on-the-go" market for themselves, customer indifference not withstanding.

I see two roadblocks for Apple preventing them from having launched both devices with the feature built-in. First, the contracts Apple has with the content owners likely contain restrictive language about what an "approvewd device" is for various aspects of the service, or some other language representing lack of vision on the media industry's part. Second, and tying in with the DRM issue presented in the column, is that as DVD Jon showed us, Apple's DRM is applied at the client end. Depending on the exact innards of the Apple TV, it could probably handle the encryption process for a background download and still play something else with no performance penalty. I don't know that the same could be said for the iPhone, and the power consumption from such a process wouldn't help the situation either. Storage does become a consideration, but the reverse-sync feature for protected content in iTunes 7 seems purpose-built for this scenario.

Matt Green | Feb 16, 2007 | 9:40AM

Apple could offer a subscription plan like NetFlix but limited to 40GB of content at any one time. Delete an item and the next item in your queue starts downloading.

And for a reduced subscription rate, you agree to allow Apple will use whatever content you have on your AppleTV box as part of its P2P network.

It doesn't have to be stealthy. It's money.

mark | Feb 16, 2007 | 9:58AM

Umm, I think Apple already answered the question about what the hard drive is doing in there. Yes, the Apple TV will work without a Mac or PC being available on the network, because you can sync content from one machine to it via iTunes.

Think of it as a Video iPod that doesn't happen to be portable.

skronk | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:01AM

Nothing you've said seems farfetched at all and, in fact, why would Apple otherwise even ship an AppleTV? Today's Airport Express and other tools do a fine job of moving audio content around the house...but it's not seamless with video...nor does it address what a pain-in-the-butt it is to deal with the whole movie watching chain.

I signed up for Netflix and now Blockbuster's program. They're liberal for keeping movies for a time, easy to use and have a great selection. If a subscriber has kids, however, then they *instantly* understand that having movies as atoms (i.e., discs) is fraught with issues. Damage, lost discs, and any inherent delays in receiving the new discs from a queue still puts up numerous psychological barriers that I feel every week.

I've thought long and hard about Dr. Schmidt joining Apple's board. I originally thought it was more along the lines of coupling personal, participative publishers to the Web and marrying Apple's design acumen with Google's global engine...:


http://www.iconnectdots.com/ctd/2006/12/will_apple_own_.html
http://www.iconnectdots.com/ctd/2006/12/assembling_a_ri.html

...but now I realize it's so much more than that. This direction with AppleTV makes SO much sense to remove friction which, by the way, still exists with cable headends offering on-demand viewing since I have minimal control over the content unless I'm willing to consume it right then and there. Just like when Apple streamlined the entire *value chain* of music from the cloud-to-desktop-to-device, the secret sauce or magic wasn't just the thing you held in your hand...but rather was the holistic management of that chain.

Video is crying out for just such a frictionless value chain and I think you nailed it.

Steve Borsch | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:11AM

#1: There will be no Cars 1.5 direct to DVD. One of the very first actions Jobs did when he took over Disney was to kill all direct to DVD efforts within the studio.

#2: Jobs talked about removing DRM from music, not video. I believe he acknowledged that music DRM was broken because there was too much of it already distributed unprotected on CDs. Movies, on the other hand, have always had their digital content protected.

Clint Chaplin | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:14AM

I suspect Apple TV will gain features with Leopard. That is why Steve classified Leopard as having secret features. At the time, Apple had not announced Apple TV yet, so it would not talk about such related features.

I read somewhere recently that it is rumored that Apple's Leopard will include a bit torrent client of some sort. This would not surprise me. As you mention, it would cut down on Apple's digital distribution costs.

I think, however, Apple TV's hard drive is useful for its stated purpose. Namely, to store content so that you do not have to rely on the streaming. After-all, if my broadband goes down, I would still like to use the device.

That is not to say Apple does not have other plans for the product. However, these plans are likely contingent on the device doing well.

I also suspect iTunes will be updated with Leopard to increase Apple TV's usefulness.

Terrin | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:18AM

The 40 Gig drive is used for the obvious: saving television shows. 50 hours of them. In fact, 40 GB might not be enough for some people, and I imagine Apple will get some flack for it.

Buy a monthly pass, and while you're at work, the AppleTV will sync and download the latest show once it's available; then it's ready for you to watch when you get home.

This is a game-changer in the world of television production.

james | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:18AM

The resolution of this thing still seems a lot less than optimal. 40 GB is much too small to actually store much of anything on it, even temporarily. Perhaps they only inted to use it as a buffer.

RB | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:28AM

I think the stacking question isn't as calculated at the author makes it seem. Number

  1. people like 'pretty' ("ooo! shiny!") things so leveraging an existing aesthetically appealing, and proven instant identification in the market makes sense. I agree we wouldn't stack them but the form factor would look good anywhere.
  2. this could simply be cost - an existing mould, form, or design has already been completed. Why not use it instead of starting from scratch... and if it was re-designed, wouldn't there be some concern that it would need to be tested in the marketplace again?
  3. less likely but also possible is retail display. While we wouldn't stack the 3 devices at home, in an Apple Store, the could be stacked to display the 3 products in the same square foot. Sales staff isn't going to drag a customer to 3 corners to show off the different products - "Look! They're all right here next to this big screen!"

DaveR | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:28AM

According to the MacWorld keynote, Apple TV is like a big iPod. The hard drive is used to store media that has been "synced" from a Mac or PC.

Richard Stahl | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:34AM

If Apple installs a P2P network like you are talking about, Apple will have to start a new front in their war. I have been reading all your columns over the last few months, and the first thing I thought of when you mentioned this AppleP2P thing, was the battle this will start with ISP's.

ISP's, namely cable companies, will not sit idly by while Apple uses their Cable Internet subscribers to drive away the Cable TV business.

FilteringCraig | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:39AM

I believe that the reason for stacking will come in time. When I look at Apple TV, I think it's missing some functionality. It's too tied to iTunes -- it looks like the only way to get content in there is to buy it from Apple. While that's a nice idea for the future, most people get their TV content from cable. What if the missing component is an ATSC/QAM DECODER? Then, stacking makes sense. Stack it with Apple TV to use as a cable box with the ability to pause/rewind live TV, stack it (one or more) with Airport Extreme for whole-house video streaming, or stack it with a Mini for a true PVR (or stack all together for a full Media Center experience).

Some Guy | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:39AM

Playing Devil's Advocate:


(1) If you pay for a case to be designed and manufactured, then happily find that the electronics for two other unrelated products fit into the same case, why would you design a different one?


(2) If Apple wanted to compete with YouTube and wanted to let ordinary mortals upload content to an iTunes-YouTube-alike site, they'd realise that H.264 encoding is much more expensive to do in real time than H.264 decoding, so might use a hard drive to let people encode their video at slower than real time speeds, instead of buying more silicon clock cycles to do the number crunching quickly (depending on whose H.264 chip is under the hood). But that, of course, assumes they're running some kind of a P2P network, albeit one biased toward selling content to end users from a central server farm, rather than a fully distributed content delivery network.

Michael | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:40AM

Brilliant! Steve Jobs has figured out how to out-Google Google! The camel really has his nose inside the tent, this time!

Dave Sacher | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:44AM

On the practical level, including a hard drive is a reaction to the current state of Apple's hardware product portfolio: Apple's selling more laptops than desktops. If more Apple customers have mobile Macs, the likelihood of a machine being available to consistently stream is reduced. By including a hard drive in AppleTV to cache content, parents who have MacBooks can push content to the AppleTV for their kids to watch while they have their computers at work, on the road, etc. This perspective isn't as sexy as a new P2P content distribution network, but it's a reality.

Chris | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:49AM

The Mac TV stuff would be a hard sell in my house. We (some of us!) can't handle the 3 remote controls already -- HDTV, Cable STB, and DVD. Adding a 4th remote would be a total downer.


Our Cable STB is a Comcast/Motorola DCT6412 (160 GB), which seems to have all the physical capabilities of the AppleTV and more. (Except the software is poor.)


My vote (and discretionary dollar) goes to the vendor who can integrate our TV system for a non-technical user. It is a scandal if my spouse can't operate the system. Downloadable content (esp. low-res) is way down on my list!


Apple, how about some help for us 'Boomers?

Martin CT | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:54AM

Turn your brain off for a moment, Bob, and you'll see that they stack just because it's cool. No other purpose is required, especially for Apple.

Bruce | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:54AM

When I first saw the Apple TV and new Airport Extreme I thought about some stackable conspiracy theory. I immediately wet to the specs to see they were all different sizes. I am starting to wonder why this would not be the first thing Bob would check out. I think he has been writing about this concept for so long that he could not bear to see that it was not so.

I agree that it makes no sense for them to not be the same size unless Apple wants to make sure we don't even consider stacking them. Why is the Apple TV not black which would look better with most entertainment systems anyway? Even the iPhone has the black and chrome techie thing going which is rare for apples minimalist aesthetic.

Anyway, Bob failed to include the new game development hype that Apple has gotten into - as we have been made aware of this week.

All I want is an Apple TV box to let me rent movies and record TV. Until then I will not buy one since I would never buy a movie or dvd.

Stan | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:00AM

Regarding the bandwith eaten by the iTV if Apple unveils a scheme like Bob's describing, rest assured that as you can restrict BitTorrent, either you or Apple will restrict its P2P application. Maybe there will be incentives to "give way" your bandwidth, like free movies once in a while, the "in a while" being based on the bandwidth you dedicate.
Like :
- I don't want to donate : no free movies, plus a "Low ID" on the P2P network, meaning you download not so fast from it.
- I want to donate 10k/s : one free movie/TV episode per quarter, normal ID
- I want to donate 30k/s : one free movies per month, High ID.

No higher options (like "donate 300k/s") because Apple does not want to upset companies sitting on OC3s which could get their bandwidth eaten by tech employees hooking an iTV to the internal network and letting it loose.

For the stacking, I have no idea. I think they just make them stackable like Lego does : you can stack a "Star Wars" block with a "Knights and Princesses" block, it rarely makes sense but they're letting you be creative.

Ant-1 | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:01AM

I submit to you that the only reason these components are stackable is because it is beautiful for them to be designed that way.

Think about it... Jobs has always been a stickler for perfection in the design of his products... He wants them fit together in this neat perfect stack, not because they are supposed to be stacked together, but because it makes his product line... more perfect.

That's all he wants. And maybe at some point he will make use of this neat little stack, but for the time being, that's all they'll be. It's a neat stack because good design dictates that it should be a neat stack, and beautiful things come from neat design.

Marli | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:04AM

They are not meant to be stacked, if they were they would probably have some sort of insanely great way of stacking. I'm pretty sure this is just apple's form of recycling designs and making the product line seem interrelated to the consumer so they feel safe buying more of the same looking stuff.

Joe | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:06AM

I agree with FilteringCraig about the biggest roadblock being ISPs. My cable service was capped this week after I uploaded at 100 k/s (a self-imposed limit) for half a day. That's only 5% of what I'm supposed to be able to do with my 15/2 service. When I called to get the caps removed, the tech told me any SUSTAINED uploading, even 1 k/s would get me capped at 140 k/s forever. Now that was for transferring a photo album for personal use. Can you imagine the ISPs allowing another company to profit from using their bandwidth.

Chris S | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:09AM

Just what I frigging (this word courtesy of Fake Steve Jobs) need. A brand new Apple TV, with embargoed content on a secret hard drive, sucking up all my much more limited upload bandwidth doing P2P filesharing, and getting me in trouble with my monopoly ISP for going over their unpublished service caps on my "unlimited" cable broadband account. Thanks a lot, Apple Inc.!

David | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:09AM

Why stack them? A dorm room, Bob, a dorm room. Or an efficiency. It's just a nice design touch for people who don't have much room.


Are you losing touch with the way the other half lives? :-)

dkh | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:13AM

I'm confused about what you're unclear on regarding the hard drive. Apple states what the hard drive is used for -- syncing content from iTunes to be stored on Apple TV. From their web site:

Open iTunes and Apple TV appears in your devices list, ready to sync. Set iTunes to sync unwatched TV shows, movies, and podcasts. Set it to sync new purchases. Or manually select what you want to watch. Set your syncing preferences once and Apple TV automatically updates as your iTunes library changes.

As for why they stack -- you know that Apple TV isn't the same dimensions as the AirPort Extreme or Mac mini, right?

Mac mini: 6.5" x 6.5"
AirPort Extreme: 6.5" x 6.5"
Apple TV: 7.7" x 7.7"

MT | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:16AM

"The 40 Gig drive is used for the obvious: saving television shows. 50 hours of them. In fact, 40 GB might not be enough for some people, and I imagine Apple will get some flack for it.

Buy a monthly pass, and while you're at work, the AppleTV will sync and download the latest show once it's available; then it's ready for you to watch when you get home.

This is a game-changer in the world of television production.
james | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:18AM"


Game changer? Ever heard of Tivo James? I love how every time Jobs farts there is a rush to proclaim that a new inhalable drug has been invented.

Just like Jobs' DRM speech was loudly proclaimed as revolutionary. Instead I look at it as a CYA tell-the-people-what-they-want-to-get-them-off-your back while it's business as usual. He's not looking to change the music industry, he's looking to deflect critcism towards them.

SJGMoney | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:19AM

Whenever thinking about future Apple products, I always start from what I want and then think about how Apple can get there. What I want is Netflix without the hassle of the USPS and physical media. I don't want to own movies. I only want to rent them. I don't need to rip them if I can have them when I need them for a small fee, so no DVR is required. However, the mini could become the DVR so maybe there's your stackable Tivo-killer?

Larry | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:19AM

Think about what Apple has given us so far in the Airport Extreme and Mac Mini. Now they bring us the iphone and appleTV.

I see a small army of devices all over my house. Each one similiar in design for easy visual recognition and stackability. All sharing media with one another. A precursor to the smart home of the future. I am sitting at my dining room table working on a new home movie with my Mac Book. My wife is relaxing in the bathtub streaming music to her Iphone. My children are watching the newest disney movie on AppleTV. My Airport Extreme is connecting us all together to keep the content avaliable to all. The P2P and internet features are just a bonus. In the end the media anywhere anytime aspect is what they are selling.

If Steve would have come out a few years ago and said Apple was going to create the A/V smarthome of the future, we would have all laughed at the thought. After all it has been tried and for the most part failed. But what happens if they don't call it a smart home system and just release each part on it's own merits?

Dan OH | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:23AM

Apple does not have to 'borrow' bandwidth from your ISP. If it comes out with another (stackable) box - a WiMax node, then it could own the ISP space too.

Bob Gustafson | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:23AM

Apple HAVE said what the hard drive is for - synchronising iTunes libraries with a twinned Mac or Windows box.

Of course, the HD inside the AppleTV is so totally underpowered (40GB? My iPod holds more than that) that it only can be useful for temporary storage and seems designed to be always attached (wirelessly) to a Mac somewhere and never be able to stand on its own.

Professor Quatermass | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:38AM

The notion of a P2P processor is intriguing. However, a 40GB, AppleTV hard disk drive isn't large enough to house all the downloaded near-DVD (480p) content you suggest, much less the 720p resolutions that people will want for the den.

Also, wouldn't what you suggest be some sort of subscription-based business model? That certainly would be different for Apple, nad so maybe, you buried the lead (as old newspaper pros would say)...

I think a HD in the AppleTV might be used for game downloads, but even this would seem to require more storage than 40GB. I think a couple of other points are interesting: USB 2 port only (no Firewire) and like the new Airport Extreme, no gigabit Ethernet (only 10/100). All Macs have gigabit Ethernet.

The USB-only keeps costs down and better positions the AppleTV for PC sales, though at a performance cost. But what's with the lack of gigabit Ethernet? Wouldn't that be necessary for 720p HDTV? The very best way to set up the Apple TV and new Airport Extreme (802.11n) is to run an Ethernet backbone, so that you're only hitting each device wirelessly from each computer. While more complex for the retrofitting into existing homes, this is not impossible to do. So why no gigabit Ethernet?

Maybe Apple has no immediate plans to offer even 720p HD movies after all?

Geo | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:55AM

How about Moviebeam 2.0? Jobs is the largest shareholder in Disney and Disney backed Moviebeam. Although, AppleTV would have to do something more than what Moviebeam does to justify the price. I do think it will be a piece to the puzzle, though.

Josh | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:04PM

I understand what Apple gets out of the P2P deal. But what do **I** get, for putting up my bandwidth for their use? I don't want my bandwidth sapped so they can make more money. What's in it for me?

I suspect they'll just bury the legal language which will allow for this somewhere deep down inside the User Agreement, which no one will read, and everyone will just agree to, same as always. And I'm sure most people won't care at all. But I will!

Jason | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:21PM

1. The point of the hard drive *today* is so you don't have to leave your Mac on all the time.
2. It uses a Pentium-M processor, underclocked
3. The point of the common design is about stackability, but for accessories, not Apple gear. A vendor can create one USB hard drive in a case that stacks with a Mini, AppleTV, or Airport Extreme. Single SKU, interchangeable.

Bill McGonigle | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:22PM

If Apple did what you are describing (which is using the bandwith of the users without their explicit authorization and without them either knowing about it alltogether or at least knowing WHEN it is being used and for what), there would be a public outcry. Think about all of those VoIP calls that suddenly start to break off and downloads/uploads too slow, etc -- it would all be blamed on Apple wether true or not. I, for ones, would feel very uncomfortable having a network applince on my network that is using my bandwith and is controlled by somebody else. I don't think this is happending.

Ilya Basin | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:23PM

yes, looking over the moviebeam info... seems like the secret sauce, also could explain the mystery USB port as well.

http://www.moviebeam.com/opencms/opencms/Pages/WhatIsMovieBeam/

now if Apple would design a remote larger than a pack of chicklets gum, they'd have another winner.

OS11 | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:24PM

"At $299 the Apple TV is a pretty expensive video extender, but if you think of it instead as a computer, it is darned cheap."

Yeah, if I think of it as a grapefruit, it would be darn expensive. Or as a Bentley, yes, it would be cheap. but thinking and reality don't seem to occupy your existence.

docwho | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:29PM

it just occurred to me...the front row/apple TV interface reminds me of the on demand video/games services common in hotels. potential large market for the new product?

UnkleSam | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:30PM

Watch the keynote, he says exactly what the hard drive is for. It's for syncing latest episodes / movies you purchase so you don't have to keep your computer on.

Kittyflipping | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:31PM

Ya.. read... it's because your iTV syncs with your computer like an iPod so that things you watch don't have to be streamed. That is really old news and this article is completely pointless.

Logan | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:34PM

I am sorry to be the one to let you know that yes the Mac mini and the Airport base station have the same foot print 6.5, but the Apple TV has a larger footprint of 7.7.

M Kirsch | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:35PM

What's the hard drive for? http://www.apple.com/appletv/

"Sync wirelessly from your Mac or PC."

Fred | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:36PM

As far as stacking goes, there will be consumer homes that will have two of the three that need stacking. Sometimes, the cable modem is near the computer, sometimes near the TV. The Extreme will be near the modem, and could stack in either place.


I would think that 40 GB provides some space for local storage of Rented movies (NOT HD)and the system can download your next movies in the queue before you view it. A consumer would just delete one that's already available and volia, a new release is ready for review. The Studio gets a royalty check when the movie is first viewed. Iron all the bugs out with normal TV, and support HD in next year's hardware upgrade.



And how many customers who purchased early iPods also purchased upgrades a year or so later?

Dave | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:36PM

The form factor similarities don't have to be attributed to a desire to stack with *each other*, but could have also arisen out of the desire to share that fit with peripherals. That stackable USB2 hard drive now stacks with both the mini and now the Airport with AirDrive [and in the future AppleTV???]. There are also similarly sized hubs, etc. etc.

There's also the design and marketing gains with having all devices [or appliances] sharing in appearance. Not to mention its generally 'cleaner' then having a square this, a rectangular other thing, and a dome shaped doodad.

Similarly with other devices like hubs. Might also be associated manufacturing wins, but not knowing much about that area I won't speculate.

Chris Casciano | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:37PM

But how on earth can Apple possibly pull of P2P given the extensive rulings against Napster and Kazaa, etc.? Clearly the courts are crazy-weary of centralized P2P infrastructures.

Dave | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:40PM

This one of the dumbest articles I've read. The author is clearly either very ill-informed, depending on rumor sites and ignorance for his tech information, or he's simply blind. Dude, read the facts on the product's website before trying to act like there's some sort of hidden information. Apple clearly state's on it's Apple TV page that it 'syncs' with a PC or Mac running itunes. Furthermore, this syncing idea was elaboriated greatly at the recent Macworld Expo. Now, in case you're not familiar, syncing is a wonderful computing technology that allows you to automatically take the contents of one hard drive (or folder in this case) and copy them identically to another folder or hard drive in an automated system. Oh wait, did I just let the cat out of the bag on the real truth? Oops, I'm sorry, the whole world now has discovered that this author knows nothing about researching, journalism, or syncing. What a shame.

Littletechguy | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:42PM

What a strange article, most of what you write about has been discussed already...the purpose of the drive, the components inside the box...there is no mystery AFAIK. Just weird.

heywood | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:44PM

I don't think they're supposed to stack. I think it's both a design/manufacturing efficiency (cost savings factor from commonality) plus a product identification/branding issue.
The common size/materials allows for reuse/commonality of production and packaging/handling materials and manufacturing/supply tooling and systems - if the quantity of products is large, these commonality/reuse savings can get quite large. Apple 'gets' manufacturing/distribution efficiency and it's effect on their bottom line. There's no reason for an Airport to look like a little spaceship, when it could reuse the wrapped alum enclosure of a Mini for less.

As for product identification - consumers will be able to start to associate that lean industrial shape/design as an Apple aesthetic/branding consistency item. The wrapped rounded alum enclosure identifies the products as being Apple trade-dress. (also those manufacturing Aopple add-on products that mimic that look may have an issue with Apple, or it might be Apple sanctions it because those peripherals can now work with any of the Apple products. (Think the all familiar Mini add-on harddrive in the same shape - it can now also fit with the Airport Express as a NAS drive, or with the AppleTV as an add-on drive.)

These two drivers may actually increase should other Apple products also appear with this form factor.

Tom L | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:46PM

I don't think they're supposed to stack. I think it's both a design/manufacturing efficiency (cost savings factor from commonality) plus a product identification/branding issue.
The common size/materials allows for reuse/commonality of production and packaging/handling materials and manufacturing/supply tooling and systems - if the quantity of products is large, these commonality/reuse savings can get quite large. Apple 'gets' manufacturing/distribution efficiency and it's effect on their bottom line. There's no reason for an Airport to look like a little spaceship, when it could reuse the wrapped alum enclosure of a Mini for less.

As for product identification - consumers will be able to start to associate that lean industrial shape/design as an Apple aesthetic/branding consistency item. The wrapped rounded alum enclosure identifies the products as being Apple trade-dress. (also those manufacturing Aopple add-on products that mimic that look may have an issue with Apple, or it might be Apple sanctions it because those peripherals can now work with any of the Apple products. (Think the all familiar Mini add-on harddrive in the same shape - it can now also fit with the Airport Express as a NAS drive, or with the AppleTV as an add-on drive.)

These two drivers may actually increase should other Apple products also appear with this form factor.

Tom L | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:46PM

Stackable units may be handy if there are enough of them sold to form local mesh-like networks:



If the prediction that Apple will pre-seed and the like is true, I assume they'll have to use some sort of fancy encryption to prevent me viewing it before paying. If they can pull that off, why not let my machine talk to my neighbour's?



Why should my neighbour have to use his own internet connection to download a film if it's already on my harddisk? This might also greatly reduce the extra bandwidth usage when pre-seeding films in built up areas.

bluuurgh | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:50PM

I have one question, are they actually meant to stack? At least is the Apple TV meant to stack with the Mac Mini and Airport Extreme? They're not actually the same dimensions:

Apple TV Dimensions: 7.7" x 7.7" x 1"
Mac Mini Dimensions: 6.5" x 6.5" x 2"
Airport Extreme Dimensions: 6.5" x 6.5" x 1.3"

Rick Curran | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:51PM

I'd have to agree with the previous posters, although the thought put into the article does play out with the techonology, we have already heard about each of these components. The theory is techonologically sound but likely just incorrect.

RDM | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:54PM


Huh? I could have sworn that during the Keynote, Jobs talked about the 40GB hard drive being a cache, and that it was possible to watch/listen to things off the drive without the source computer being available on the network.
The one thing keeping me from getting an AppleTV is the requirment for a new widescreen TV. Sure, I could give up the component input I currently use for the DVD player and plug the AppleTV into that. But since I really just want the AppleTV to listen to my iTunes music with a nicer UI than the squeezebox I'm loath to make DVDs look worse so the menus can look 'real nice'.

Robert Thille | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:57PM

Apple has pioneered some of the best media caching schemes around with Akamai. They sell billions of songs from the iTunes store and they can't handle the bandwidth for a direct-to-video movie release? The idea that somehow this is a problem Amazon has solved but not Apple is difficult to believe.




Additionally, Apple participated in the release of Cars to DVD without a problem. I'm not sure why it wouldn't be able to participate in the direct-to-video release of Cars 1.5.




Not to mention that I rarely see speeds higher than 100 kbps from BitTorrent and routinely download at 3-400 kbps from Apple. Somehow I don't think Apple is going to turn over the user experience control to a bunch of broadband connections with severely limited upload capacity.

Joey | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:59PM

Hi Robert,

Absolutely great article. I share your idea about Steve Jobs's call for DRM removal : that's part of his plan, for Apple to become the #1 Entertainment (at large : Music, Cinema, TV, Video, Gaming) company within the next few years.
You write : "Apple becomes a cable company without trucks or network costs" : definitely, a very interesting perspective, provided that Google could be Apple' s companion on the infrastructure side, including the network (I mean, all that hardware stuff : servers, fibers, etc.).
Last, on the stackable products : MacMini, Airport, AppleTV. I also believe there's something behind the fact that it allow manufacturing costs reductions by sharing the same components. Apple maybe has another new gadget in the pipe, that would assemble the puzzle, so we will say " wow, that's right, that was obvious", you know what I mean. Something that we all have right under our nose but are unable to distinguish from the mass : once it will be an Apple-branded stuff, we will understand. Maybe interesting to investigate which kind of applications we all do/need at home, to get a better picture of the possibilities ?
_Marc

Marc Duchesne | Feb 16, 2007 | 12:59PM

This P2P networks till needs to go through the ISPs at the very least, if not the backbone, to connect to one another. What makes you think the ISPs are going to allow their customers to start uploading data 24/7?

The only situations I could see the P2P stuff working as described is either in a college dormitory where you are all behind the same switch or in a dense urban area where the AppleTV could communicate with one another over wireless bypassing the ISP.

Matt | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:02PM

But I STILL don't know why those components were made stackable.

It's called design :)

Tom | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:05PM

1) It lets you take the AppleTV and 40gig of content up to the cottage for the weekend, leaving the computer & internet at home.

2) Bluuurgh -- If it's working a la BitTorrent, you probably won't ever have the entire movie on your drive... just bits of it. Not much need to encrypt it out the wazoo if you never have the whole thing.

3) According to Rick's dimensions, the most visually pleasing arrangement would be AppleTV on the bottom, Mac Mini in the middle, and Airport on top, for highest visibility & easiest access. Why?

4) Reduce Apple's network costs -- genius.

Derek Martin | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:06PM

Instead of holding just video's and songs, I could see the hard drive also holding Ads. Imagine downloading an episode of 24 off of iTunes for free, but having to watch 3-4 30 second commercials. This would be effective with google as a partner, as each AppleTV could show different ads that are relevant to the viewer. (ie, not show Heart medicne ads to 18-25 year old households) Advertisers would pay more per ad, since they are targeted exactly to the correct demographic. Basically, it would allow ITV, with the same content as TV, with a fraction of the ads.

Brian | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:11PM

Great envision. One thing - why does DRM create problems for such p2p network? I don't see any reason why it does.

Max | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:17PM

The stackable nature is probably a result of stacking neatly with a yet to be released expanded storage box which could be used to as NAS with the Airport Extreme, HD content for AppleTV and extra storage for the Mac Mini. Take your pick - one product that will sit nicely under all three...

-Steve J.

Jeff | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:20PM

RC-

Jobs did mention that the ATV syncs with your Mac (or maybe multiple Macs). ATV may be on 24/7, but with a HD, your Mac doesn't need to be, in order to watch TV. This way, you can be browsing away or playing a CPU or network-intensive game while someone is watching the TV shows or listening to the music from that machine, effectively off-line.

I think the AppleTorrent idea is a good one, and it's not entirely unlikely, but I do have one issue with it. Apple would gain extreme advantages from doing that sort of distribution at the cost of bandwidth from thousands of users who've paid for the privilege. Unless Apple is willing to compensate these users somehow (free music, cheaper video downloads), it's wrong and unethical for them to use outbound bandwidth--which is typically quite limited, even on broadband connections--without explicit permission.

If my IP phone suddenly starts sounding like garbage because there's a new Cars 1.5 release and my ATV is pumping out data that Apple is getting paid for, I'm going to be upset. And if I can determine that the ATV is pumping out data, and I haven't been told about the BT features, I'm going to be very concerned--as an average user--that someone's broken in and is stealing my private data. At that point, the ATV gets turned off, network features get disabled, and Apple loses a node.

Give me 75% off a movie (buy it for the cost of renting) and make sure I expressly understand it, though, and I'll be happy to participate.

Ben | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:26PM

I believe the intention of the hard-drive was clear at the second introduction of the product. The AppleTV appears in iTunes on the host PC/Mac just as any iPod would and you can choose to 'sync' music and/or video to it. There is also the rumor of games as well, but that's a pretty saturated market already. The AppleTV would then be able to play the music/video without connecting to the host PC/Mac.


40 gig is not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. High definition video (720p, as the AppleTV is capable of) is much larger and won't stream as well as the 640x480 as suggested in the article. I would anticipate an announcement soon after the AppleTV is released that iTunes will carry higher resolution movies (at least I would hope).


My true hope is that iTunes would have DVD ripping capabilities so that one could import their movie collection along side their music collection without being forced to purchase from iTunes.

KC | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:29PM

But would this be illegal in some way? Apple will be using a bandwidth they didn't pay for.
In may case if I monitor my connection and then I see the AppleTV "stealing" bandwidth, I will just turn it off.
Beside, how can apple as a company be sure they will have a good amount of appleTV turned on in order to provide the quality they promise...
It's a big risk for ANY company to make their quality dependent of something they can't control.

Juan Gallardo | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:32PM

Actually, the Apple TV is NOT the same size as the Mac mini and the AirPort Extreme (which are the same size). The Apple TV is actually several inches larger on each side, although the designs are very similar.

Robert Boyce | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:34PM

Who needs cables? Take it a step further, and we're looking at the potential for a mesh network made up of AppleTV's in high density areas.

Think it's a wacky idea? In Alameda, CA (the city, not the county) I live in a house sub-divided into 4 apartments. When I open my MacBook on the third floor where I live, I see no fewer than *12* wireless networks. Depending on where I am in the flat, I see different networks as they come in and out of range. Unless people are changing their SSID's every day or so, I've seen up 36 distinct networks under 802.11g -- and isn't one of the features of 802.11n an increased range?

Okay, so suppose AppleTV has a special backdoor to automatically detect and communicate with other AppleTV devices wirelessly. Instead of soaking up each individuals bandwidth via Cable, DSL, or whatever, they use the "free" wireless connection.

I can already detect the panicked cries over the prospect that you AppleTV would be talking to other networks without your knowledge or permission -- but that's for another discussion. Personally I can think of a few ways that Apple could alleviate privacy and security concerns by strictly controlling that particular wireless connection. Making it an optional feature (with the default setting up for debate as well) would help.

Side note: there's already a hard drive based device (on 24/7) with network access that a very large number of people own -- TiVo. The problem there is a majority of those devices still use dial up, whereas the Apple TV is pretty much a network device all the way. I'm wondering if Tivo will see this as a missed opportunity, or if they can figure out a way to update the existing Series 2 and better PVR's with bittorrent like capability.

John Halbig | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:34PM

For me to think this view is valid, I would think the price of the Apple TV would be less. $149-$199 for market saturation.

me | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:40PM

The problem with this distribution theory is that Apple TV will likely be behind a firewall that many users will not be happy if it bypasses without requesting permission to do so. Also this brings up issues of a commercial company using residential connections for profit. This is in many cases a direct violation of terms of service with residential broadband connections. Consider that Comcast actually bans users for 12 months if they cross an undisclosed bandwith threshold more than two months in a row as a means of enforcing terms of service.

Darkwind00 | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:41PM

There is a common design language between Airport Extreme, Apple TV, and the Mac mini simply because they are similarly sized products. They are simply all part of Apple's line of small home computing products.

The proof is this: if you stack them, does a gestalt design appear? Nope, you have a wobbly, hard to plug/unplug stack of gear with and no added value.

For similar reasons there will be no "expanded storage box". Each of these products is complete unto itself. There is no value or purpose in combining them into any form in close proximity.

Jeremy Roush | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:42PM

First we have Mr. Gartenberg extolling how MS is the only company that understands our digital lives and now we have Robert saying Apple wants to surpass cable as a distributor.

they should get together for coffee and see how else they both could be wrong :)

Steven Hodson | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:43PM

Not everything is a conspiracy.

It's there so you can turn off your computer and still watch your videos or listen to music. It's that simple.

My personal complaint is that 40GB is not nearly enough. 250GB is more like what I would need to store all my videos and music (no I'm not pirating content, I have a video camera).

me | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:43PM

I agree with Ben. Jobs may think he has rights to my network but he doesn't. The first time I find an unauthorized outbound connection from the ATME is the time it's address gets blocked for outbound connections or it goes off unless I'm using it.

There are way too many companies out there that think they have rights to my computer because I've purchased their hardware or software. They need to realize that they aren't married to me because I bought something from them.

R. Fuller | Feb 16, 2007 | 1:51PM

Hey R Fuller - What's an ATME?

Other Me | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:00PM

Steve certainly always gets his way at Apple.

However, the fact that 90+% of the world's computers run Windows demonstrates rather overwhelmingly that he doesn't get his way outside it. NeXT was a failure until such time as Apple decided to buy it, and that deal was not orchestrated or conceived by Steve.

The concept that he can overturn the basic concept of TV and write Akamai out of the loop is certainly ambitious, but I'm very dubious it will happen.

As for the elimination of DRM... well... I can't help but notice the double standard. Steve wants DRM gone from digital content Apple doesn't make, but it will be a cold day in hell before OS X stops checking for Apple hardware before running.

Wes S. | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:01PM

Dude, it's for gaming...

JC3 | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:01PM

Steve ALWAYS gets his way, you know.

No - Steve Jobs wanted the record labels to forgo
DRM for musics downloads but they would not, hence
FairPlay.

jci | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:04PM

The AppleTV will be able to sync like an iPod, storing movies, music, etc. on it for later viewing. This was all explained in the MacWorld keynote as well as on the AppleTV site: http://www.apple.com/appletv/sync.html

Kevin Ayers | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:04PM

Re the stackability of all of these products, you should note that the Mac mini and the Airport Extreme do have a 6.5" dimension on a side, but the Apple TV unit is 7.7" on a side. Similar look, but not exactly the same footprint.

Bruce Patrick | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:04PM

Watch the webcast again... AppleTV will download the 5 most recent unwatched video's or movies from your shared iTunes library. It was mentioned during the keynote. Not to say that it could be used for other purposes such as a possible future PVR with use of the "diagnostic" USB2 port. But as for now, we already have an answer for the inclusion of the hard drive.

Jason | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:07PM

Wow, this is moronic speculation on so many levels.

First off, as already noted, these products aren't exactly stackable. The Mac Mini and Airport extreme both measure 6.5 x 6.5, while the Apple TV is 7.7 x 7.7.

Second, Apple has made it clear that the 40GB drive is so you can enjoy the content even if your Mac/PC is off.

Third, what's that hard-drive doing in my iPod? Same reason -to store the content locally for instances where I'm not connected to my Mac (like in my car).

Fourth. Apple could host their own farm of Apple TV's if they wanted to do P2P/Torrent style distribution.

Fifth. Apple only wants DRM gone so that people stop calling for the licensing of Fairplay. They're moving the sandbox to prevent the focus on Apple's market-share dominance and potential monopoly disputes. Apple knows DRM isn't going anywhere, but it's smart to frame the argument as DRM vs. no DRM instead of Apple-only Fairplay vs. Licensed Fairplay.

Sport73 | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:11PM

Anyone else bothered by the idea of serving up content to unknown users from a TV extender box? Mightn't that be contrary to the typical "no servers" language in most ISP agreements?

Dave Brown | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:12PM

Bob needs to consider using spell check on his headlines... for 'appearance' sake.

Jim | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:15PM

I agree with the several comments that point to the other thing these three have in common, a USB 2 port. I see the "Apple Drive" that allows you to add ~500GB to either your Mini directly, your network through the Airport, or AppleTV.
The description of the Airport already touts this functionality.

"Share your hard drive
Now you can share an external USB hard drive over your wireless and wired network by simply connecting it to the USB port on your AirPort Extreme Base Station. Called AirPort Disk, it's perfect for sharing files, making backups, and more. You can even connect multiple drives and printers using a USB hub"


I see an apple hard drive in our future.

CRuss | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:20PM

Hello? A-PEER-ance is a pun.

AlanK | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:24PM

I have a hard time believing that Apple TV will amount to anything. It will become an Airtunes like device. That is, a device that Apple offers but has little value to most consumers. The reason is that most people are not going to shell out three hundred dollars to play content that they should be able to burn and watch on a DVD. In addition the user experience and content offering of iTunes video is not good enough to convince most consumers of it's value.

Apple's video offering and the iTunes video experience is woefully inadequite. Basic functions such as burning to a DVD are lacking. Prior to Apple TV, the only way one could view content is on the computer or iPod. Of course you could go out and buy a 50 dollar cable to connect your low res iPod output to the TV. Lack of a proper interface in iTunes for previewing, browsing or manipulating video causes trouble as well. Unless Apple redesigns the iTunes interface, or creates another althogether different UI for managing Video (which they should) I think you'll find that video distribution and Apple don't go hand in hand.

I think it is also clear at this point that Job's negotiating tactics for iTunes music are causing him trouble on the video front. Walmart's launch of content far exceeds the number of movie titles available in the iTunes store (1073 vs. 231) which should be an indication that Apple is no longer "first" in terms of being able to strike strong online distribution agreements (one of Jobs points of pride with iTunes). This I think more than anything shows that Apple needs to start playing more nicely with their "industry" partners. Job's DRM letter is not going to help his cause further.

I also think that we're seeing a distancing of sorts with Google and Apple. Notice who is NOT the e-mail launch partner for the iPhone, yes Google. It is Yahoo who gets the distinction of providing push style e-mail to the iPhone users. Interesting isn't it?

As far as an iTunes "peer-to-peer" network goes, it's unlikely.

I'm not sure if you have played world of Warcraft. If you have, you know how long it takes to download a 300 mb update. This is a directly a result of Blizzards decision to use a branded version of bit torrent to distribute their patches.

It's actually an infuriating concept - a company, using its paying customers to deliver content that it should be paying to deliver itself. I will not, and I think that many Apple customers would agree, allow Apple to free load over our connections so they can make a buck, or a billion. P2P is not an acceptable distribution channel for paid content. It's less reliable and not as fast as direct downloads.

I think perhaps the hard drive in the Apple tv is so that you don't need your computer to play your content on the televison. As advertised, it allows you to sync your iTunes library with the Apple TV.

Finally, as far as stacking goes. Is it possible that it's just easier to reuse the same case design in their cad drawings rather than continute to come up with new concepts?

Logan Greenlee | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:25PM

Congrats on the speculation, which is likely close to reality. Oh, and Jim, he spelled it perfectly, with great intent.

Steve | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:29PM

It's a pun jim. If you'd read the article, you see that it was about peer 2 peer networking, hence appeerances.

Zack | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:34PM

Apples plan is to reduce their badwidth costs by using their customers (paid) connections to distribute content?

Not with my bandwidth, you won't, Steve!

voodoo | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:36PM

JIM,

I think the appeerances stood for apPEERances as in Peer to Peer. Using the title, as a precursor to the rest of the article. Think Twice Post Once.

kirk | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:37PM

In a home environment with a wireless network, transmission speeds remain an issue. All it takes is someone microwaving nachos to disrupt a big game if it is streaming in real-time, so buffering is crucial to a good experience.

There are also nice UI features a hard disk can enable, such as TiVo's pause button which works not only on recorded material, but also on live TV. Not everything has an Apple conspiracy behind it, as most of their decisions appear to be based on sound design decisions.

Tom Ball | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:37PM

It's pretty simple really. The Apple TV is essential a big iPod that uses the TV as a display and uses the network to sync content from the main PC or Mac.


The idea of the HDD is that Apple TV will copy over your latest movies, TV shows (and one would presume certain certain playlists and podcasts) from the main computer so that you can play back this content when said computer is off. Simple, no?


It can of course also stream content, much like computers running iTunes can do today. But make no mistake, this device is essentially a headless iPod.

Kevin Rochowski | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:40PM

Yeah. Why would I give Apple free use of the network connection I pay for? Or free power?

As much as I have the ability to understand and control what goes on in my home computing network, I don't grant 3rd parties free use or access to my computers.

The potential convenience doesn't outweigh the concerns I have about it.


Mike | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:46PM

Jim - Would you believe pear to pear networking? I don't think so.

jamieg | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:47PM

Not that I'm in favor but this is a perfect example of what is driving the Network Neutrality debate from the telco's. Why let apple take their business away on their coin?

Alastair | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:48PM

He[steve] told us what it was for... It will que up videos that you want to keep native on the itv... So you don't have to stream... Say you have a laptop, and you keep it at work most the time... You can bring it home, spool some movies to the ITV, and you won't need the computer for playback.

Taylor | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:52PM

kirk, it was of course only fitting that apple release their new airport express wireless router which touts the 802.11n protocol. This would significantly aid in streaming HD content in the home :)

Brad W | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:55PM

$299 to buy a zombie p2p streaming device with no material benefit from that functionality to the person who purchases it?

No one will shell out $299 for a device with 40 GB Hard drive which is meant for streaming someone elses content. If i dont want Cars 1.5, why would i want it and the rest of apples movies taking up the space on hard drive I paid for? So apple can stream it to you on my dime?

Sorry, isn't going to happen.

Also, the mac mini is NOT mean to be stacked.

Apple even says dont place monitors etc on top of it, as the weight presses the top down on the DVD drive.

Dave Marcoot | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:57PM

Sounds pretty much like joost (aka venice project). The mac version is supposed to go beta pretty soon. Once that happens my mac mini hooked up to my living room tv will have capabilities similar to what you're describing.

Tom | Feb 16, 2007 | 2:58PM

Consider the following scenario. Suncoast video clerks break into your house and put pre-release blockbuster DVDs on your shelf. When you buy the DVD, they announce "It's on your shelf!". Later Suncoast video clerks break into your house and use your burner to copy that same DVD to distribute to other houses. But if you notice the DVD on the shelf and play it without buying it, or make copies, Suncoast prosecutes you for theft! Under common law, as I understand it, if a company sends you something without your request they cannot charge you for the contents.

Change Suncoast to Apple and DVDs to iTunes files and you have Bob's scenario!

The scenario works great with creative commons or public domain video and the Democracy Player which is an open source implementation of just this concept. But the concept falls apart if you are attempting to distribute content on a non-free non-purchase basis. Of course, it would work based on a blanket license basis (flat rate for any content, payment to author based on viewing rate.) or the present broadcast, or non-premium cable system.

Of course, if this model caught on, the studios and labels would rapidly vanish.

monopole | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:02PM

"Of course, if this model caught on, the studios and labels would rapidly vanish."

No, the studios and labels would tug on the strings of their puppet Congressmen and get laws passed outlawing Apple's new video service.

Rob | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:05PM

I'm not so sure that I agree with the first poster. I think that people will buy it simply because it is apple. It obviously is not the best value, but many of apple products are not. At under $300 people will buy it just to try it out and not fret to much. My guess is that it will have some wireless inter polarity with the i-phone so a great way to get content on it right before you leave your house.

John
http://www.monomachines.com

John | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:06PM

"Appeerances..."

If this is supposed to be some kind of wordplay I don't get it. Ever since I was a kid I've spelled it "appearances".

I figure it must be since it appears (appeers?) no one else has noticed it.

Dan Marois | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:06PM

They don't stack... Mac Mini/Airport Extreme stack up at 6.5 x 6.5 inches. The Apple TV is 7.7 x 7.7 inches. I've noticed this since it was announced--my question is "Why DON'T these devices stack up?

---jeff

Jeff | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:10PM

Apple Don't have to borrow bandwidth from your ISP if they ARE your ISP.


Has anyone figured what the ex MCI texan datacentre that Apple recently purchased has to do with all this?


By becoming an ISP rolled into the whole .Mac stuff, their network of peer box toting failthful will grow and the capped limits are not an issue.

pushingjelly | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:10PM

It's an interesting theory, but the problem is that 40 Gigs worth of storage space is hardly enough for Apple to pre-stage content or much of it. Considering that video file sizes are somewhat large and if we move up to HD even larger, it becomes a tiny drive. And more to the point - the content has to get from Apple/iTunes to the end users. So Apple has to send it to some people initially...I'm not so sure on this...

Jon | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:11PM

Complaining that you can't run OSX on a PC is different that the music/movie DRM model. Complaining about OSX not running on a PC is like complaining that Windows Mobile doesn't run on my Motorola PEBL. Apple is just treating their OS as if it were embedded (which I wouldn't be surprised of in the future if OSX was just a NAND chip on the logic board). However, music and movies are independent of hardware and don't have to supported. Plus in 10 years wouldn't you want to hear that tune again? With DRM it's possible that you wouldn't be able to without rebuying. Why would someone want to have OSX 10.4.8 ten years from now other than to run a machine that requires it? In that case OSX should make that machine work fine.

jon | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:18PM

I'm not sure that the point is making the Mac Mini, Apple TV, and Airport Extreme stackable, but making them the same form factor (which happens to be stackable in this case). These are/will be commodity products, and making the form factor the same reduces manufacturing costs and focuses future design efforts toward a common housing.

Your premise is very exciting. I look forward to seeing if it transpires.

Robert Eye | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:22PM

The reason the mini/rest of the line are stackable is simple: offering a clear and easy format for third party manufacturers... Moving the Airport to a squared-off, stackable form factor allows for the Mini-compatible hard drive case vendors to have an "airport storage" solution on day 1!

Also, stacking in the living room makes for less space consumption... Everyone I know has their cable terminate in the house near the tv... Which means that's where the cable modem lives, and whatever wireless router, as well. This way, I can have a nice-looking and functional stack of Mac Mini, Airport, and Hard drive/USB hub/AppleTV without a lot of extra cable-mess. Plenty of room left on the shelf for a Wii or Xbox right next to my Apple Stack (again, saving clutter in the living room with all these devices).

To the user who said Mac Minis are not meant to be stackable - They are not meant to be load-bearing pillars or anything, but we've run stacks of 4 Minis at work, and the guy on the bottom still happily eats/ejects DVDs... The fact that the form factor is identical helps distribute the weight - so while non-compatible/form-factor items like monitors might cause issues, I'd feel confident stacking 5-6 of these without issue.

Deano | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:35PM

They don't have to strip the DRM to do this--they could encrypt a single copy of the movie under a symmetric title key and distribute that copy to everybody through P2P. Purchasing the movie involves retrieving the pre-encrypted copy and receiving the title key encrypted under your own per-user key. And we know, thanks to DVD Jon's SharpMusique, that Apple has little compunction about weaknesses in the iTunes DRM involving malicious clients.

Brent Royal-Gordon | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:35PM

Bob, why make something up when it was clearly explained in the MacWorld keynote? Apple TV will sync with one Mac or PC and stream from the rest on the LAN. Any iTunes content on that "main" machine will show up on the hard drive. There is no mystery about why it's in there. It's just so that you can run Apple TV when the sync machine is off or sleeping.

WillisWasabi | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:43PM

Peer-to-Peer isn't as obvious as you seem to think. Plug an Apple TV into my home network and it still won't do peer-to-peer unless I open a port in my NAT router. It will be able to download, but not able to upload. Wonder how may other homes are setup the same way?

Scott D. Bartholoma | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:54PM

This is exactly how Joost (www.joost.com) works. The content is actually encrypted, so Apple could still do this with DRM'ed stuff.

There is a very good article at Wired on Joost: http://www.wired.com/news/wiredmag/0,72506-0.html?tw=rss.index

DV | Feb 16, 2007 | 3:54PM

I believe in the the second shooter on the grassy knoll, the Chinese minisub that took Harold Holt, and that the communists killed Marilyn Monroe, but this is a conspiracy theory too far.

How do you feel hundreds of thousands of consumers will respond to their broadband bills going up because Apple has decided to use their bandwidth without consent? 40Gb isn't a practical size to seed much content. If this new world order were to come about Apple would need to control petabytes of distrubuted storage with each node holding hundreds of gigabytes. They would also need to get around the firewalls in each household by opening up peer to peer ports.

While it would be fascinating to see, I think it's a bit of a stretch.

AJB | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:03PM

I don't suppose it ever occurred to anyone here that the 3 boxes are identical (and in so happen to be stackable) is simply because it's more cost effective to build one style of enclosure and use it for the different products rather than 3 different enclosures for no good reason.




Could it be that, much like ABC's Lost, we are SO desperate for there to be a larger picture that unites everything, we're inventing reasons that don't exist. That the HD is there for the simple reason of running AppleTV when the host is off.




And perhaps a cigar is just a cigar, Sigmund???

Robert Anthony Pitera | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:07PM

>Plug an Apple TV into my home network and it still won't do peer-to-peer unless I open a port in my NAT router.

Incorrect. If you have a central server coordinating between clients then you can initiate direct peer-to-peer connections through almost all NAT routers. That is how applications like Hamachi work.

squeamish | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:08PM

Most commenters seem to be forgetting the rumors we were hearing about P2P being built-in to a future version of iTunes, with users being compensated with iTunes credit for the upstream bandwidth they're contributing. If Apple were actually transparent about it (rather than hiding it, as Bob suggests), and offered an incentive for opt-in, I could see the system working quite well. They might not save as much money, but even a 50X reduction in cost would be amazing. And a major service leaving Akamai for something essentially grassroots would have ripple effects throughout the industry.

I've been wondering why the $300 AppleTV only has a 40GB hard drive. They claim that with the streaming, it's not important, but perhaps it's actually a partitioned 80GB drive, with the rest reserved for seeding?

Adam Simon | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:17PM

The explanation Apple gave at Macworld in San Francisco for the hard drive is that we will be able to pre-load content from iTunes onto the hard drive. Primarily to remove any potential problems with video not streaming across "n" fast enough.

Jon.Hersh | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:17PM

From what I understand, the hard drive is there to sync the Apple TV with one Mac/PC. It can also stream content from 5 other computers, but the 40 gig drive is there to sync between one mac/pc and the Apple TV.



Not really sure what the question is about, that information is available on the Apple TV site.

Josh Bright | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:25PM

Appeerances Can Be Deceiving:

ya gotta love the spelling...

aballoflight | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:26PM

what about the cost of the users bandwidth and the potential effect on other end-users broadband experience. Surely using my bandwidth to share content to another user is, um, illegal. Maybe if i opt-in to become a distibution node i get 10% off my iTunes purchases :)

V-man | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:30PM

One possible next step would be to have the Apple TV autonomous.

Why do I have to go through my computer to manage my music and my movies? A computer takes time to boot up.

If I have an Apple TV and an iPod, I'd like to be able to plug my iPod to the Apple TV, NOT to my computer. Same thing for movies. Why do I need to go through my computer? The Apple TV will have an operating system? Could it have iTunes then, so that I can access the Internet directly from it?

If the Apple TV could be an iTunes device (and why not a Web browser) THAT would be cool.

Laurent | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:33PM

The reason for them all having the same form factor is so that you could stack an Airport with either a Mac Mini or an Apple TV - I don't think the intention was ever to put all 3 together at the same time. The simplest way to make the Airport look good with either device was to give all 3 of them the same form factor.

James Allen | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:37PM

I hate to throw out the obvious after reading your very creative conclusion on why the hard drive is there. I mean, you cleary think a LOT about these things, and I don't want to imply I think you may have missed something so painfully obvious. Maybe they were made stackable because it would be more expensive to design a new enclosure from scratch than to shorten the perfectly good, distinctive, recognizable, practical, inexpensive to manufacture, and incidentally stackable box they already had?

Jake | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:42PM

But they dont stack.
Well, the airport and mac mini do, they are both 6.5x6.5 inches. The apple tv however, is 7.7x7.7 inches.
Also note that the mac mini and the airport are different colors.
I dont think that any of these devices are 'meant' to be stacked. The form factor of the mac mini is simply the basis for a new design language at apple, just as Aqua was 7 years ago.

Jon | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:42PM


Can't see any aerial connection or input for free to air or cable TV. S

Seems odd for a device which portends to change the way I watch TV, unless by change they mean no Oprah (Ok, I'll concede this is a good thing!).

Will I have to buy an eye-TV unit get this functionality?

Apart from that it looks brilliant, much better than my attempt at a HTPC, which while functional generates noise, heat, consumes electricity at a rate of knots and looks like a big PC in my lounge room despite buying a Antec case!

Jimbo | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:47PM

p2p from apple, um doubtful....

anonymous | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:59PM

Why is a removal of DRM necessary? Heck… Apple could SUPPORT DRM in its Apple TV just like it does so in its iPod. So the iTunes service would pre-load Apple TV boxes with encrypted content, and distribute it between those boxes in encrypted format. If you pay, you get to watch, with content decrypted on the fly. If not, then it just took up disk space and will be flushed when something you want, or the next Bit Torrent seed needs to be pushed out. Dollars to donuts the unit’s video chip has an onboard decryption unit.

Before I’d place money on DRM going away, it seems reasonable to expect that we’ll see units with larger hard drives so as to store more and more programming for longer periods of time. 40 GB drives are pretty small by today’s standards. Apple is just trying to minimize the costs now – to seed those 0.5 to 1.0 million units required to launch the P2P service – and then will offer larger disks with some kind of bribe attached… like being able to watch more of those private Apple channels. And we’ll fork over all that cash and upgrade our Apple TV appliances to help Steve Jobs build out his virtualized network. Nice work by Mr. Jobs – getting the consumer to pay, in advance, for his data center, and to house it for him, and power it, and make it resistant to natural disasters.

I can’t wait to see how this all works on user’s home networks with units hidden behind NAT fan-out boxes, or VoIP NAT boxes.

Darren Suprina | Feb 16, 2007 | 4:59PM

Steve Jobs has always had a thing for Cubes.

Oh and as someone already pointed out, they don't stack. The @TV is actually bigger than the Mini.

I use the MacMini now in my home theater for streaming music/video/etc. already. Having a $299 alternative to the $1000 I paid at the time would've done the job well.

A hard drive for buffering is a perfect idea for when your PC/Mac is turned off. And why re-stream the same stuff over and over. And how much can a 40gb HDD cost them these days anyway? $30?

-h

harley3k | Feb 16, 2007 | 5:03PM

Apple TV does not share the same footprint as the Mac Mini. Apple TV is 7.7"x7.7". Mac Mini is 6.5"x6.5". So perfect stacking idea is out.

kyleb | Feb 16, 2007 | 5:12PM

Steve Jobs did mention during the keynote address at MacWorld that the drive inside the Apple TV is used for transferring content to the Apple TV instead of streaming it over a network. There, mystery solved :)

Angelo | Feb 16, 2007 | 5:15PM

The problem with the network you describe and, incidently the largest problem Apple faces in becoming the next video delivery giant, is Apple would be reliant on the local high speed internet providers lines. Both the Cable companies as well as telecoms already have interest in delivering video content to the home user. If they felt threatened by Apple using their own lines to cut them out of the video distribution business. They could respond in a few ways: shut the Apple network down by either limiting upload bandwidth even further than today's meger allotment, directly targeting and throttling Apple's network or just jacking up the prices on high speed internet to account for the lost revenue.

While I do agree that Apple would love to roll out the network described above, I do not see how the cable/telecom companies would let it stand without getting their money.

Ryan | Feb 16, 2007 | 5:27PM

Steve Jobs was very clear that the hard drive is for the purpose of caching synced content from the host computer's iTunes library. This eliminates the need to have the computer connected 24/7.

ammon | Feb 16, 2007 | 5:33PM

I would imagine that the hard drive is so that you can have your computer asleap or off while you watch T.V. Just my guess.

Tim Kelly | Feb 16, 2007 | 5:34PM

The 40G hd is for Front Row content caching. It is also the firmware (nah, OSX) storage and can take a few GBs along with the cool applications.

The BitTorrent possibility is very desirable, indeed. There have been rumoured feature of Leopard in this regard, but we shall see.

I agree with you that a million-node torrent network is not technically impossible. How Apple will implement the BitTorrent protocol in a proprietary kind-of-way so that only registered iTunes clients can seed and download, will be interesting to see.

As for me, I totally support the idea since it would robustly enhance the current iTunes throughput (point-to-point link to a point-to-multipoint mesh) capacity and overall latency (wait times for every packet).

As for the supposed bandwidth cost savings, I'm sure that is not the main reason but a welcome causal effect, nonetheless. Yes, Steve does get what he wants.

As for why the Mac mini - Apple TV - and Airport Extreme - having the same form factor? They are not intended to be "stack"ed as you surmise but to blend more with each other. The Apple TV next to your HD screen, Mac mini (the next rev will have 11n, mind you) can be anywhere in the house but usually near the entertainment section of the living room, and the Airport Extreme near the Mac mini.

Customers are very picky when it comes to how their gear blends with their living room decor. If those three devices had differing form factors they would be harder to sell as a bundle.

College dorms would benefit the most from the stackable form-factors. ;)

winmac96 | Feb 16, 2007 | 5:53PM

Maybe others found the description sufficient but until I was walking my dog the details remained fuzzy, So I'll explain what I believe is Bob's claim. This iTV device is a closed box (ie no direct access to its hard drive). At most 5 GB would be used for its stated purpose (playing streaming content from a local Mac or PC). The 40 GB drive is too big for this purpose and too small for a home video library so what does Apple have in mind for the remaining 30-35 GB?

Anyone familar with swarm downloading as used in bit torrent knows that large files are broken into uniform small pieces. Apple could use that cache of 30+ GB to scatter pieces of fairly popular and even some not so popular movies. No one needs to have all the pieces for anything. The important thing is to have all the needed parts for a movie the user selects to be available on other iTV units that are accessible through the local ISP without requiring the ISP to move blocks to and from other parts of the internet.

Apple would serve as the tracker to keep transfers of pieces as local as possible. This would make the ISP relatively happy because this activity would minimize the use of the ISP's connectivity to the rest of the internet. It could make users happy because downloads could occur at the speed of your ISP connection rather than your fraction of the ISP's connection to the rest of the internet which is often dismally meager.

The reference to DRM is still puzzling to me. When a user orders a movie, Apple's tracker would route blocks of the movie from iTV units that are as close as possible. When it is done assembling the entire file they would have the option of applying any DRM or watermarks before making it available to the user just as they already do with iTMS and tracks that you download with iTunes. The blocks cached on the internet would be unscrambled but randomly distributed across iTV devices. In fact I would design it so there would be two copies of the movie you order. The visible one with a watermark that iTV plays and the blocks of the movie that are in your local cache but not assembled into a visible file.

If Apple can sell a few million of these devices and spread them across the internet and also make the necessary deal with the movie studios it could be a very sweet deal for Apple. It is sort of a botnet for movie distribution with individuals paying for the device and the internet connectivity. I suppose Bram had something like this in mind when he started talking to the studios about how they could use bit torrent. Damn, I don't own enough Apple stock!

Steve Bryan | Feb 16, 2007 | 6:30PM

Stacking the mac mini and the router makes sense. Throw in an external hard drive for a sleek home server. That should look nice enough for the living room. tvs in bedrooms to extend the love. I guess that only sounds good to me.

Dave | Feb 16, 2007 | 6:33PM

Why does he have to get rid of DRM? Valve is already doing exactly what you describe with Steam (down to the p2p distribution), has been for years, but the whole thing is DRM'd six ways to sunday; a "launch" involves sending decryption keys for the pre-distributed content, and then you transition to the standard copy protection regime once it's extracted... Very clever, to be sure, but they've hardly taken over the video game world as a result.

Not that any of this DRM stops copying, mind you, but I'm just saying, I think you're right, but it's not as revolutionary as you claim, nor does it really bear on the DRM question (which is a good question, just not today's).

David | Feb 16, 2007 | 6:40PM

Robert,

Pre-loaded is the only way to go. You are so right there. Combine this vision of pre-cached content with some predictive code on use patterns (something say…Google could whip up from use data they collect on us), and the kind of growth of desktop storage we have seen (and Jim Gray talked about so very well) and you get the sort of shape of the future. Given the actual growth of storage, and the tendency of people to want to watch what others are watching, you can really drop the actual bandwidth you need to server cable like experiences with networks that look a lot like what we have now. Think of it as IV drip TV…24x7x365 my network feeds me just a little at a time of what ever is next, and there it is all shiny and local when I am ready to watch it. When you also get the P2P share benefits this is just too sweet a play not to make, and Apple is big enough and smart enough to make it.

Scale up from here and imaging those Google storage centers. Not only does you home PC under the TV have all the shows you want to watch now, but just down the road (in network terms) are all the things you could EVER watch…Hundreds of thousands of hours of content to choose from in NEAR real time, or for a little more cash (or is that cache?) you can have it now…Think about it.

Cecil Thornhill | Feb 16, 2007 | 6:52PM

Hmmm, looks like Juan works for an ISP or TelCo ... that argument is specious moneygrubbing BS. Good point re: relenquishing control of quality though.



Apple's customers pay for the bandwidth, they can use it for whatever device they like. Of course, this presumes that Apple is above board about their usage and allows for easy configuration or disabling of P2P/torrents traffic. Or they could just make a clever ad explaining how this lack of choice is actually a great feature, just as they do with every other product that they Market.

Aaronium | Feb 16, 2007 | 6:54PM

I think the HD in the Apple TV is so it can download content directly from iTunes. Goodbye Netflix envelopes, hello slick TV/Movie selection, download, & queue system.

I would ditch Netflix in a heartbeat if I could get the same content sent straight to a neat little box under my TV. Come to think of it, where is the Netflix VOD system they were hiring people for a year or two back? Maybe they realized they needed a platform to download. Hello Apple.

Oh, is DRM even necessary in such a closed system? Sure the drive could be ripped out and accessed by another PC, the content could be packet captured, but how many of the masses would bother? That's mostly what DRM is about, preventing casual copying?

Please. Please. Please.

Brookesy | Feb 16, 2007 | 6:59PM

I think this is definitely about enabling semi-independent operation of the AppleTV and pre-loading some content.


Of course advertising could be loaded, but Apple and the media companies want to sell their own product and there's no better way to sell media than to let people watch some and get interested. Well, people don't want to wait for a trial half-hour to download if it's uncertain whether they will like it. So it's important to pre-load in order to advertise content for impulse purchasing.

Jay | Feb 16, 2007 | 7:06PM

You are kidding me aren't you?

Apple has already told you what the harddrive is for. It's for the one machine that is authorised to synch video to it in much the same way music and video is synched to the iPod. Of course it will stream from 5 other machines but not STORE content from them but there will need to be some caching going on - wow, another use for that harddrive.

http://www.apple.com/appletv/sync.html

There's no secret to what it does. Oh wait, Apple even tells you in clear precise words on the specs page:

http://www.apple.com/appletv/specs.html

40GB hard drive for storing content locally

Loweded Wookie | Feb 16, 2007 | 7:28PM

Haha, I bet he doesnt even know what 'sync' means.

Joe | Feb 16, 2007 | 7:31PM

Hey Bob, you got very interesting guesses here.
Here's my 10 cents to the discussion. Please observe that I'm not an Apple employee (not yet :-)
1) there won't be a firmware upgrade. The software is locked and will be unlocked when Apple decides to do it.
2) Apple TV will use spare bandwidth - wireless bandwidth. It will not clog your Internet upstream with unsolicited traffic. However if you are willing to receive a 35% rebate on major movie releases, you'll have to exchange it for some of your bandwidth, for example, while you're sleeping.
3) Apple TV will be a P2P node. A wireless mesh P2P network where you will deliver content to your neighbors, which will deliver content to neighbors who are far away, etc. Think about the size of this wireless mesh network at a large metropolitan area.
4) Apple TV pricing will fall aggressively in the next few months, bringing more nodes to this network.
5) Apple Inc. will unlock a *publish* feature, where OSX users will be able to publish directly from iMovie to the Apple TV network.
6) The device will present YouTube content in a few months, so if don't have a Mac, you still can participate by publishing to YouTube.
7) Google will have exclusive rights to supply ads to Apple TV network.
8) When you publish a video, you'll receive cash rewards by Google, something like they do on the Web.
It will bring tons and tons of professional and amateur content to the Apple TV network.
Do you remember how many sites were available by 1993? Quite a few. How many sites do we have today? In a few years we'll make an analogy: how many TV channels we had by 2006? How many do we have now?

Wagner | Feb 16, 2007 | 7:33PM

Lame Post Bob!

I am usually a fan of these columns so I am doubly dissapointed with this sad column - the net is already overly crowded with uninformed voices, and I dont like to see my favourite columnists waste my time with similar unresearched drivel.

When iTV was announced too many people were saying it was a Video Airport Express (a push device acting as a peripheral to the computer) when clearly it is in fact a living room iPOD with its own storage and autonomous software.

The two main differences:

1) From the menu on the TV you can actively pull content from the computer (which in this instance just acts as a file server).
2) Using iTunes you can sync all or some of your content (not just video but music too) to the hard disk of your AppleTV - and then watch/listen to it when you choose, without starting the computer.

It is an elegant solution and completely necessary for the 90% of the population who dont think it normal to have a PC running day and night! There is not mystery here, and never was. The mystery is why Bob is wasting our time without doing his homework.

Ewan

Ewan Makepeace | Feb 16, 2007 | 7:53PM

A small niggle on your assessment regarding stackability. When I first saw images of the three devices, this is what I thought. Once you get up close, however, their dimensions are different and you would end up with a small pyramid.

The day after the keynote speech in SF last month, I asked David Moody (WWVP Mac product marketing) about this and with regard to the Apple TV and the Airport base station, he said that you would not want to do this.

In other words, Apple does not think they should be together.

Graham K. Rogers | Feb 16, 2007 | 7:53PM

From a networking perspective, what you are describing sounds very similar to what Valve has done with their Steam Content Distribution System. A resident application runs in the background on your PC, and keeps all your game content updated. It even preloads content in advance of the official release date and continually updates it. Kinda slick, actually ... you can pre-order a game or add-on and when it's released you instantly have it on your system. Matter of fact, as I understand it Bram Cohen himself was heavily involved in the development of the Steam protocols.

screwmaster | Feb 16, 2007 | 8:00PM

The author of this article is an idiot. The first page for apple tv states you can sync to it like an ipod OR stream wirelessly. If the author took 1 second to read anything about it, he would have known that.

anonomous | Feb 16, 2007 | 9:20PM

Cringely, while this network distribution model is interesting, it's worth highlighting as you pointed out last week, this isn't about reducing network cost (although it would for Apple), it's about transferring that cost from Apple to individual broadband users (and thus their ISPs). I think it unlikely that a company like Apple would do something that will both piss of users _and_ their ISPs - unless they have a very good reason. But then again, there is the Steve-factor...

dj | Feb 16, 2007 | 9:47PM

You wrote: "1.5 megabits per second, which could be easily handled by the Apple TV's 802.11g or 802.11n wireless connections and probably even by old 802.11b."

Theoretically, but not true in practice. I have been running a home theater PC with minis and laptops for the past 3 or 4 years, and both b and g fail to support streaming video. It's not the peak capacity that's the problem, it's the stability and reliability. 802.11 has drops and is unreliable, which show up as video glitches during playback. I tried everything that I could think of, but I finally had to put in ethernet cable to get completely stable, glitch-free video playback. I can't think of an application more in need of a big buffer than wireless video streaming.

tubbyman | Feb 16, 2007 | 9:52PM

"On the practical level, including a hard drive is a reaction to the current state of Apple's hardware product portfolio: Apple's selling more laptops than desktops. If more Apple customers have mobile Macs, the likelihood of a machine being available to consistently stream is reduced. By including a hard drive in AppleTV to cache content, parents who have MacBooks can push content to the AppleTV for their kids to watch while they have their computers at work, on the road, etc." - I agree with this as a possibility, if it is a secret P2P network apple in building they would have to offer cheaper and/or faster downloads for sharing bandwidth, have an option to turn this off and allow the user to tweak how much bandwidth they'll share a month.

ross | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:07PM

I don't think they are intended to be stacked, for a technical reason and an aesthetic reason.

The mundane technical reason is heat dispersal. Apple already asks you not to stack Mac Minis or stack things on top of them.

I don't think that Job wants the things stacked, like common stereo equipment, with a rat's nest of cables in the back. That would be the very opposite of his view of the World As It Should Be. In that world computers sit on a quiet corner of the desk, unencumbered with cords and wires at all -- just pure slabs of art and design.

It is likely that the Mac Mini's proportions are several engineers work to come as close as possible to what Steve considers the idea proportions of a small computer. If that is true, then Jobs just told them to make the other devices to look like the Mac Mini as a design statement and the hope that the little slabs of design and art would all three infiltrate the American home.

But it is odd that they aren't using the excellently small Airport Express form factor. Perhaps they couldn't get everything to fit, perhaps it was a total design choice.

David Rouse | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:07PM

another mis-statement that took all of 2 seconds to find

the apple TV (at 7.7 inches) is over an inch larger than the AEBS and mac mini (at 6.5 inches each)

http://www.apple.com/appletv/specs.html

there goes the stack

starbird | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:10PM

I have an interesting theory about what Apple is going for here. I think that they will see how well this will do, and if it does quite well, they may release a full television version; A television with the now Apple TV integrated.

Think about it, they already have monitors. LG has products out now that have hard drives with DVR functionality built-in to some of their products, I think this makes since.

Imagine this, A 30"-40" flat screen TV with all the functionalities of Apple TV, DVR, watching TV shows, movies, plugging in your iPod and listening to it on surround sound speakers, etc.

twilight | Feb 16, 2007 | 10:40PM

Maybe the hard drive can be used as an Apple branded DVR with Front Row as the interface. Good bye to my favorite tool -Tivo and Cable DVR's. Why pay a montly fee when you can buy AppleTv with DVR. The options are endless.

I have one complaint about the P2P network that is talked about above. What gives Apple the right to use my internet connection for their financial gain with out paying me back for their use. I do pay extra for my Cable Modem. Also, are they going to guarantee the safety of my network from some Hacker who figures a way past the firewalls? No, I do not think that I would be a willing or non-willing cog in the P2P network.

mgm | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:05PM

I think very important clues are hidden in plain sight on the new airport extreme. It is IPv6 enabled, plus it's default is set to tunnel to the IPv6 internet. Also, it has a setting for wide area bonjour. I think these two things are going to be integral in a new service that allows funtionality similar to sling box possibly. Just a threory, but I know the Bonjour tab seems like it's for dyndns, but it's for new funtionality/ service to be realeased with Leopard. Apple tech suport was very coy about it's functionality except to say it's for a new service.

Matt | Feb 16, 2007 | 11:25PM

This is just zany enough to be real, but almost too good to be true. I'd buy into this in a heartbeat. is even Steve Jobs this much of a visionary? Maybe. The Apple TV news and rumor I am collecting and commenting upon at http://www.couchapple.tv is growing, and I find myself wondering just how much more outrageous the speculation can get. I can hardly wait until my own Apple TV arrives so I can find out how mcuh of this is possible and how much is just dreams.

Guy McLimore | Feb 17, 2007 | 12:31AM

Oh Bob, hitting both of your fetishes at once, Apple worship and P2P. :)

I really haven't figured out what the Apple TV gadget is aimed at, the specs are too pathetic (Barely qualifies as HD in an age where 1080i is already obsolete) for the hip upscale market Apple normally aims at and the $299 price means they certainly aren't going after the budget market segment. So I'll forget about it for now and see what happens.

But the P2P nonsense really needs to stop, you should have figured it out by now. P2P is good for small sites trying to distribute large items (linux distros) or for disorganized warez trading. Mass media is NOT a suitable use for P2P. It doesn't work because the end points on the network (at least 90+% of nodes where an Apple TV might sit) are all asymetrical. So assume they do have enough computing power to estimate how many of DSL provider X's customers in town Y are likely to want Cars 1.5. Unless they can also make a pretty good guess as to which ones will want it and simply preload it onto their machines there is going to be the small matter of transferring copies from the cache machines to the customers. Assume they have twice the number of seeds as downloaders. To leave the victims unaware they won't be able to use more than half (making the BIG assumption they aren't already using BitTorrent, Limewire, etc) of the upstream so you get about one upstream with two seeds per. Or a really slow transfer that couldn't possibly hit 1Mb/s on a best case. And since these boxes only have a small drive they won't be able to precache much content.

Then you get the PR aspect. If I'm giving Apple a sizable chunk of my net connection I will be expecting some compensation. Like a free movie per N gigs of transfer I upload. And the DSL/Cable companies will start flogging bandwidth caps really hard. No, P2P to end user nodes is a dumb way to distribute media.

Getting big caches onto most of the major providers networks is the big win though, it helps ISPs feed more bits to their customers that they don't have to buy backbone connectivity for so they would welcome it if pitched on it the right way. So more Google rumors, K?

John Morris | Feb 17, 2007 | 12:37AM

Cars 1.5 can be delivered using DirectTV-like satellite dish to millions of subscribers in one hour.

It will be matter of only decoding key supplied to enable viewing.

No needs to abuse costly and already overloaded networks.

Most likely your guess is wrong.

TAG | Feb 17, 2007 | 1:37AM

Get real Cringely. Please stop theorizing reality. It requires you to be unrealistic and uncredible. I think I just gave up on your column. You answered your own question:

"Apple might tell us that the Apple TV can play video from the hard drive without requiring a Mac or PC on the network. This is an answer that I would believe and I really hope it is the case, because wouldn't it be great to still watch a movie even when your computer isn't running in the next room? And it might be true because Apple loses nothing since you'd still need the host computer to load video into the Apple TV."

Bevan | Feb 17, 2007 | 1:58AM

Imagine it's TiVo with sharing. All you need pre-store though, is ten percent, a Fat Buffer for streaming-type delivery. The next Apple TV on your block might have the second ten percent on it's 'spare space', and so on.

Why do they stack? What if part of the 'price' is CPU time...
then grid computing and music/video sharing go hand-in-hand.

Ernest Blake | Feb 17, 2007 | 2:09AM

A moment's worth of research would have shown the author (whoever he or she may be), that the admittedly stackable devices have very different dimensions. The mini and the AE are 6.5" by 6.5", and the Apple TV is 7.7" by 7.7". And is stackability really a clue? They are flat on the top and the bottom! Jeez, conspiracies abound.

gary

Gary Randazzo | Feb 17, 2007 | 2:29AM

I have two iPods right here and they're the same form factor. Clearly they are meant to be stacked, but why?

Mysteries abound!

Astrodust | Feb 17, 2007 | 3:24AM

# 40GB hard drive2 for storing content locally
# Up to 50 hours of movies and TV shows3
# Up to 9,000 songs4
# Up to 25,000 pictures

This could be the reason, im just saying.

Waune Oats | Feb 17, 2007 | 3:35AM

I've been this voice crying out in the wilderness that iTunes is the stealth missile that will deliver living room domination to Apple.

Millions upon millions of us are sitting down two, three times a week managing our content and devices (well just iPod for now) on iTunes. Now compare browsing for programming on your current satellite or cable set-up versus what browsing for the same content would be like on iTunes.

tundraboy | Feb 17, 2007 | 3:56AM

After reading this article, I feel compeled to comment about how similar the Apple TV product is with the thoerized Google Cube that Mr. Cringely wrote about 1.5 years ago. Can Apple TV and the Google Cube be one and the same? We all see that it makes sense for Google to leave product manufacturing up to the pros.

How about the 802.11n draft chip? Longer range, higher transfer speeds and bells/whistles. I would assume that Apple takes advantage of all the idle Apple TV boxes with some Google engineering, mesh network, dark fiber love.

I just realized that I sound like a complete Cringely/Google Fanboy... But aren't we all.

Lim | Feb 17, 2007 | 4:07AM

'Stackable'? Similar form factors make for a neater, unified and crafted look. Its just a design thing - a healthy sort of compulsion.

MZ | Feb 17, 2007 | 4:15AM

The news that it would have a hard drive, came out sometime after the first anouncement by steve jobs. If i remember correctly the rumor came from a disney exec who let the news slip.

Naturally this all had us wondering then what it was for, however I think our questions were answered for the most part at the last macworld keynote by steve jobs, the idea is that it is essentially a glorified iPod in that it can automatically download the latest podcasts and tv episodes you havent watched to the hard drive so you don't have to stream them from your computer which is not as reliable in terms of performance. Those who have tested watching movies over b and g networks have found them to be unreliable on the performance side jerks here and there by the way.

I really don't think theres much more to it then what steves said, except i think its used as a buffer as well for the content thats not on the AppleTV hard drive. The only other thing would be maybe those rumors about apple hireing game programmers alot of people think they want to have sort of game system through it, which may tie in to the rumors that leopard macs will be able to show their screen through it so to speak, seems it would be a bit slow though if VNC is any thing to go by. Just my two cents.

ab | Feb 17, 2007 | 4:51AM

Hello, Mr. Cringley,

This is your Telco company, you're a customer of our UltimateUnlimitedSuperDuper HighSpeed Internet (tm) service. We've noticed you've been abusing our terms of service and downloading way to much stuff. Stop it. For the next 90 days you'll be capped at 256k.

Thanks,
Vicki
Your Telco Monolith Customer Service Rep

Telco Monolith | Feb 17, 2007 | 6:38AM

Come on..... don't you computer geeks know anything about manufacturing? That aluminum on the outer edge on the Mini, Airport, and the Apple TV all come from the same extrusion. It is purely a manufacturing cost cut. Has nothing to do with stacking these devices. Yes even Apple Inc. tries to make the components as cheap as possible for a better bottom line.

chrisoo | Feb 17, 2007 | 10:02AM

Anyone that's tried streaming HDTV accross a home wireless network knows what that hard drive is there for. Not saying it wont be used for other things in the future, but I think you might be looking for a complex answere when ther's a quite innocent, simple one.

timpig | Feb 17, 2007 | 10:09AM

Most people have asymetric broadband service, be it cable modem or DSL, with significantly slower uplink speeds relative to downlink speeds. That would seem to be a showstopper (literally and figuratively), or at least a serious impediment, for this model.

Kemp | Feb 17, 2007 | 10:15AM

For all the posters who can't be bothered to read previous posts, yes, the damn thing is 7 by 7, STOP POSTING THE OBVIOUS!


John | Feb 17, 2007 | 10:23AM

Why stackable? To create a cube. Steve loves the cube: the Classic Mac family (ok, not quite cublc), NeXT, G4 Cube, Mac mini stack, even the 5th Avenue Apple Store.
There's clearly a pattern here.

rh | Feb 17, 2007 | 10:33AM

The asymetrical cable connection is not the problem. The torrent model works well over slow links. The problem is the cable hegemony. The cable providers can block or impede the packets at will.

tes | Feb 17, 2007 | 10:42AM

Even an Apple fan would have a hard time accepting iTunes to torrent content without their permission. Once Apple asks people their permission to use their AppleTV and network as a node, the ones that accept such a deal (for nothing in return), will lower the scale drastically. When you run BitTorrent, you know that you're seeding.

Tomas Sancio | Feb 17, 2007 | 10:46AM

Steve ALWAYS gets his way, you know.

Let's hope so, at least in the case of DRM. It was highly gratifying to see Steve's open letter on a section front page of USA Today. Mainstream media coverage is one of many things that needs to happen for DRM technology to get the banishment that it deserves.

Kiaser Zohsay | Feb 17, 2007 | 11:16AM

Bob,
This reminds me of the "g-spot" / google-box you described on 12/1/05. Still believe in it? Is this it?

Ben Conway | Feb 17, 2007 | 11:17AM

RC,

I don't know if your theory(ies) are correct or even close. But I loved this article. You are clearly thinking a great deal about Apple TV and the many possible near-term Apple strategies. I suspect you might be correct in some of your theorizing, but only time will tell. Fortunately it won't be a long wait as Apple TV ships soon and your questions will begin to be answered. I hope you are correct in your educated guess about the peer to peer distribution. I can so see Jobs and company looking at the music sharing peer to peer success (functional success) and saying "now that's a distribution model that really works, how can we use it to benefit Apple?" and then implementing it. Isn't this what was done with OSX? Apple (Jobs) sees Linux and says "wow! Linus is on to something here, how can we use this idea to benefit Apple?" then they implement it and the Apple OS becomes in a sense the ultimate version of Linux.

About the stacking:

Are you sure they stack, as in an interlockable chasis? It is simply possible that the same shape is being used as a design theme (motif) and not so much as a functional interlockable feature. Also it is possible that the similar shape alows them to simply share some componentry and thus reduce production costs. Perhaps all three devices will share the same base which would reduce manufacturing costs, maybe some of the circuitry costs will be reduced because of similar design, not to mention the possibility of shared power supplies, etc.

Thanks for a fun, well written article! I really enjoyed this one.

bill | Feb 17, 2007 | 11:43AM

RC,

I don't know if your theory(ies) are correct or even close. But I loved this article. You are clearly thinking a great deal about Apple TV and the many possible near-term Apple strategies. I suspect you might be correct in some of your theorizing, but only time will tell. Fortunately it won't be a long wait as Apple TV ships soon and your questions will begin to be answered. I hope you are correct in your educated guess about the peer to peer distribution. I can so see Jobs and company looking at the music sharing peer to peer success (functional success) and saying "now that's a distribution model that really works, how can we use it to benefit Apple?" and then implementing it. Isn't this what was done with OSX? Apple (Jobs) sees Linux and says "wow! Linus is on to something here, how can we use this idea to benefit Apple?" then they implement it and the Apple OS becomes in a sense the ultimate version of Linux.

About the stacking:

Are you sure they stack, as in an interlockable chasis? It is simply possible that the same shape is being used as a design theme (motif) and not so much as a functional interlockable feature. Also it is possible that the similar shape alows them to simply share some componentry and thus reduce production costs. Perhaps all three devices will share the same base which would reduce manufacturing costs, maybe some of the circuitry costs will be reduced because of similar design, not to mention the possibility of shared power supplies, etc.

Thanks for a fun, well written article! I really enjoyed this one.

bill | Feb 17, 2007 | 11:45AM

the reason those componants are stackble is, probably, just adhearing to design language guide within apple's industrial design department.

eshefer | Feb 17, 2007 | 12:05PM

Apple TV has HDMI, which (until until DRM is rolled back at least) is needed for upscaling to work. Powerful upscaling is the only way an iTunes level video resolution will look decent on a large screen.

And take for granted the following: to take over the living room, Apple will need to provide a quality large screen picture.

If you went to WWDC and say the presentation on Core Video, a light bulb should go off. Core Video is the magic bullet that makes Apple TV possible, and at the same time far more powerful than any other competing platform.

The other missing piece which should be announced within weeks is a large screen monitor which is based on the new 52" Samsung LED illuminated LCD screen. Apple has been aggressively partnering with Samsung on everything from the iPhone to Flash memory and the Apple TV system.

Having this in place locks in consumers just like the iPod locked in consumers. There is no easy, better way to get content, and that content can only be played on the Apple TV.

donsxt | Feb 17, 2007 | 12:44PM

tv 2.0 ~ should have a dvd/cd player in it, cut out the computer entirely. Have iTunes built right in and plug your ipod doc directly into the usb port on the back of tv (or just give us an ipod dock right on the tv). Manage all your itunes content directly on the tv and forget the computer. I still run into people that would like an ipod and don't have a computer to manage the content... and actually don't really want one.



someone mentioned netflix earlier ~ I've been thinking for the last 2 years that it is only a matter of time till you have a set top box like tv for a netflix type rental modle. Have a que of 50 movies, it downloads your next 10, once you watch 1 it delets it and downloads tne next in the que. You always have your netflix movies right there and if you want one right now move it to #1 on the que and it downloads.

Miles | Feb 17, 2007 | 1:37PM

As with most prognostications, predictions, and random thoughts, there are holes large enough to drive a truck through, but that's OK. Even within the most outlandish ideas, there are usually nuggets of truth and reality. If nothing else, it makes good fodder for the community to comment on...

One glaring problem with the ideas presented (beyond the now-dead horse of stacking and item dimensions) is the fact that the Apple TV device will have a very limited audience. This is due to the fact that it has no standard-definition outputs, only HDMI and component. A large percentage of the population does not have either of these connections on their TV's.

As HDTV adoption grows, yes, the Apple TV will be there ready to serve those people. The price and the limited connectivity of the unit limit this device's appeal. The idea that this will sell millions of units in short order is far-fetched.

I think the Apple TV has the potential to do great things for bringing iTunes compatible content to the TV. It's not a stretch to think that iTunes will get an HD upgrade, because why would anyone want to watch 640x480 on an HDTV?

Its usefulness as a music player should not be underestimated. Think of the Audiotron or Squeezebox with a TV display and iTunes integration. Add video capability to that functionality and you have a much more realistic view of the Apple TV's true value and its future.

Scott | Feb 17, 2007 | 4:53PM

Brilliant!

I'd like more info on the need for DRM to be eliminated for this to work. Wouldn't this be able to work with DRM in place? I'm sure the answer is very evident, but for some reason I'm not seeing it yet.

Vik Rubenfeld | Feb 17, 2007 | 4:58PM

Mr. Cringely,

We're on to you. No one could claim to be a tech pundit and provide such a factually incorrect, flawed analysis. This is just notice that we're on to you. You're obviously attempting to manipulate the price of APPL stock.

Sincerely,

The Securities and Exchange Commission

mac84 | Feb 17, 2007 | 5:05PM

Oh puleaasse! appleTV is going to flop worse than the infamous cube. Why? For all the technical reasons others have posted and the fact that none of the back-end stuff is in place to support it. Jobs has failed to negotiate a meaningful deal with the major studios, so the only thing aTV will be streaming is pitiful VGA clips from iTunes.

So quit blowin' smoke Cringely, you're not fooling anyone.

Ed T | Feb 17, 2007 | 5:14PM

People don't seem to like your ideas, Bob. I think this is interesting, and we will see what happens. As far as the stackable thing goes, I'm interested in it just for fun. I bought a mini for fun, and it's a great little computer. I wouldn't mind buying the other two, and stacking them. Just to have a nice looking living room/office hardware set. (My computer is right next to the TV)

Jeremiah | Feb 17, 2007 | 6:04PM

Someone, somewhere will stack these three products, if for no other reason than that they're stackable.




Something like the chicken and egg debate.

phobic | Feb 17, 2007 | 7:29PM

Regarding your comment "But I STILL don't know why those components were made stackable.":

Nevermind STACKED...why aren't these products MERGED?

Microsoft is launching Windows Home Server soon (http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/press/2007/jan07/01-08WindowsHomeServerPR.mspx). Should Apple consider coming up with a competing product? Let's explore how this could work by merging the Airport Base Station, the AppleTV and the Mac Mini. We'll call it iServer.

Consider the iServer's physical size, maybe around the same size as one of those Motorola Digital Cable TV converter boxes. Everyone has one of those under their TV and on top of their VCR/DVD player in their living room. So you put this iServer on top of that and plug in the power cord (no power brick to deal with - its internal).

Next, throw out your cable modem, your (wireless) internet router, your VCR/DVD/CD unit(s), any other similar A/V equipment and the associated tangle of wires, cords, cables, power bricks and plugs. Maybe you end up throwing out your XBox, Playstation or other game consoles, maybe not (read on). You keep your TV, your audio equipment (speakers, receiver, subwoofer) and your digital cable converter box.

Since you have Internet Access through your cable company, you split the coax running to your cable box and stick one offshoot into the iServer - this is not to record TV mind you...Apple would rather have you buy iTunes content than provide you with TiVo-like functionality. It's for direct internet access.

After you've jettisoned half of the stuff in the A/V center of your living room, you'd want to take a look at your iServer and see how it's supposed to replace the pile of stuff you've just dismantled:

The iServer has:

-A coax input for its integrated cable internet modem.
-Airport Wireless base station/router capabilities.
-A 3-port ethernet switch on the back.
-A superdrive for playing commercial DVDs/CDs and burning/playing DVDs of home movies and iTunes playlists.
-A battery system for continued use and graceful shutdown in the event of a power outage.
-An integrated 3-4 receptacle surge protected power strip on the back for running the TV, receiver, etc. off the battery in the event of a power outage.
-The usual A/V ports on the back to hookup to TVs, receivers, etc.
-(Maybe) A 3-device A/V switcher to "patch through" the audio/video of game systems such as Xbox, Playstation, etc. to your TV and/or receiver.
-A 250GB full-sized Serial ATA Drive for user storage.
-A flash-based drive with an embedded version of OSX for instant on and speedy operation.
-USB and/or FireWire ports on the back and/or front.

Given those specs and capabilities, iServer would be poised to 1) Serve as an integrated home network/internet access management point, 2) Provide a stellar home A/V experience, 3) Compete with Microsoft's Windows Home Server in terms of at-large Internet serving capabilities 4) Do it with the usual Apple style and attention to detail and 5) Possibly offer even more advanced capabilities to help users navigate their digital lives.

1) iServer as your networking solution. With integrated networking/routing/wireless technology, iServer can both serve as the epicenter of your internal home network and serve out to the internet in a compact package. You setup the unit, connect it to the internet directly through the coax cable, configure the wireless, spread the network around the house using Airport Xpress modules and/or by running Cat5 out the ports on the back, etc. Print serving, file serving can all be managed through the iServer. As Steve would say - Boom: Networking Complete.

2) Stellar A/V experience. Apple has pretty much nailed this with AppleTV, Front Row, the Remote, etc. Let's just gloss over this and assume that, piggybacking off the wireless and networking capabilities, the iServer can store and play or stream or otherwise get your music and movies and photos anywhere in your home. Use it for that Big Screen/Big Sound living room experience or share between computers or to smaller bedroom televisions, etc. Buy/Download directly from the iTunes Store - all that stuff. Boom: There is your A/V experience.

3) Third there is this Internet-wide serving experience. Here's where Apple steps in and in a stunning irony actually collects first prize in the .Mac Substitute Competition (http://www.notmacchallenge.com/).

First, let's not forget that in this scenario your gateway to the internet is handled by the same device that acts like an AppleTV and has many of the same capabilities of a Mac Mini (meaning that it runs OSX and has most/all of the capabilities of OSX and possibly more). Here you benefit not by serving media WITHIN your home network but OUT to the Internet.

Q: How to do this right? Serving OUT to the internet opens a lot of possibilities for remote access for users, but there is one problem to overcome first...how do you FIND your server when you are away from home? The average person does not have a static IP or own a domain name and is not interested in either. Most ISPs set customers' cable modems on DHCP - their IP address will change periodically.

Apple negotiates your connection to your home server by having your iServer report its address to Apple. You connect either by going to iServer.net and typing in your username and password to get to your server or by installing client software on your laptop or work computer to manage the process a little more seamlessly.

Now, I mentioned a username and password. This is not a .mac account we are talking here, it's an iServer account with Apple. I'd expect you would pay for this account, but pay less than the $99 .mac fee because you are not stressing Apple's servers in this scenario - Apple more or less just plays a traffic cop role here; you have created YOUR OWN .mac with hardware YOU OWN. Everyone wins here...you pay less for greater storage capacity (and localized service when you are on your home network) and Apple doesn't take such a hit when legions abandon .mac for their own "not mac" solution. What is this worth? What if they throw in Apple hosted email, too? It's doubtful we'd want to rely on a home server product to provide email, which even standard consumers would look at as "mission critical." So Apple provides the email service and charges what...$29/yr?

So now you have an iServer account and can get to your server reliably. What are the capabilities? Well, first you can get to your portal site. If your iServer account username is "dvader" then you would go to "https://home.dvader.iserver.net" and login to your password protected portal page. This would be your start page from which you could leap to all the other services listed below (each service could also have a direct url for quick access):

-Server Status/Control. Your dashboard of information about your iServer's status and control panels to make changes to the iServer's config. https://config.dvader.iserver.net.

-Music/Movies/Photos. Stream (enjoy) personal media (home movies, Garage Band creations, Photo Slide Shows) to an unlimited number of computers. Useful for when you are stuck at the airport with wireless access or visiting family over the holidays. For DRM files (iTunes movies, TV shows) maybe you could stream to five "registered" computers similar to how iTunes works now. https://frontrow.dvader.iserver.net. I'm sure Apple could come up with some sort of AJAX code to offer you a "Front Row" type experience right in the web page.

-Web Serving. Manage your webserver settings and personal homepage. Create new sites, upload files, edit files directly with an online web editor or iWeb. https://web.dvader.iserver.net.

-Web Home Page. Your actual personal homepage that visitors would view. http://dvader.iserver.net.

-File Serving. Remember how you put all those files on your iServer at home? Get to them at work or on the road. https://files.dvader.iserver.net.

Remember, Apple plays traffic cop here. A person wishing to visit your home page hits an Apple server fist when they type in http://dvader.iserver.net, then Apple redirects that request to your home server, your hardware.

What about .mac sync services? Why couldn't you sync that same information to your iServer? For backup, and for syncing across multiple Macs, like your mac at work? This syncing would be really fast when inside your house using your home network but also work over the internet when you are traveling with a laptop.

Bookmarks: https://bookmarks.dvader.iserver.net
Calendar: https://calendar.dvader.iserver.net
Address Book: https://address.dvader.iserver.net

-Mail. As stated above, I think we could draw the line at having an iServer run email on its own and store/send/recieve messages locally. However, some email management capabilities for your email account would be rolled into your iServer portal for the sake of completeness. https://mail.dvader.iserver.net.

4) Do it with the usual Apple style and attention to detail. Consider things from the user experience and marketing perspective. Apple has the technologies and usability sense to pull something like this off. They can offer a nice, neat, integrated package of services to users in an unprecedented approach.

Given its track record of offering powerful, simplified technologies, Apple would consider additional "nice touches" such as...

-Ease of use and overall experience. Much of the system as possible needs to be controlled using the Apple Remote from the comfort of your living room chair. For advanced server functions, uploading/downloading files and webpages, setting up wireless, printer serving, etc., there might have to be webpages, software clients, or other "point, click and type" interfaces to do that work but this should be minimal. After initial setup, getting system status and navigating the devices should be 90% remote-based.

-Service/Data Integrity. Apple should be able to help you monitor your server and provide feedback on its health. If you are away from home and your power goes out, iServer can email you before it shuts down. If you are away from home and there is a sudden catastrophe and the whole system goes down, Apple should note the loss of connection and email you because the server itself is helpless to do so.

Also, Apple should consider that you are possibly going out on a limb and trusting all your precious data to one special server. Apple could play a role in helping you backup and restore your server in the event of a catastrophe. This could mean something like an optional second hard drive that mirrors the first to provide "failover" protection. Or, perhaps for an additional $10/year Apple could backup your server and its configuration. In a catastrophe situation, Apple could possibly do a remote restore of your server configuration once you get the machine back up and running and connected to their servers. This could also be used as a strategy to upgrade to an entirely new server...just install the new unit and download all files and previous configurations from Apple's servers, just like when your hard drive dies and you restore much of your capabilities by running a "first time" .mac sync on your new, fresh install OSX.

-Bandwidth Usage Monitoring: iServer is your gateway to the internet so it can track your usage. If your isp limits how much data you send and receive iServer will send you reports about how much you have used and how much you have left for the month. You'll be using a lot more bandwidth now that you have the iServer so it would be important to track it.

5) Develop some even more advanced capabilities to help users navigate their digital lives. I'm sure lots of people could come up with many more ideas about how this platform could push the boundaries of personal server services, but here are a few more ideas:

-iSight. Add an adjustable iSight camera to the front of the unit - iChat A/V right in your living room using the TV as the screen.

-TV Recording/Playback. Allow third party add-on TV recording through the USB port (El Gato's Eye TV, etc.)

-Games. USB ports in front for Apple designed game controllers - download games through the iTunes store. Play other iServer owners over the internet in sports, strategy, action and role-playing games. Non-game controller games: Play trivia, word, video or audio based "party games" using the Apple Remote. Play card games with other iServer owners over the internet. With this strategy, Apple does not need to do much - just build in the gaming support and the game companies will rise up with games for it. But, is it possibly time for an Apple Games Division to surface?

-Portal Page Plus. The main portal login page concept outlined above was conceived as a simple gateway page to the various server services. But what if it was an outrageously customizable dashboard for all sorts of useful information to help you get through your day? You'd have your standard sports, weather, stock information, but what if you could also get a one-glance picture of personal information? Your upcoming appointments, last 5 email messages, Bank account balances, ebay account information, your car loan and student loan balances, your Amazon order status? Perhaps there could be some simple "widgets" that novice users could arrange, but a second more advanced way to code the page to your hearts content and arrange all the data and display of such data with whatever precision you can dream up. How to get the iServer to retrieve and aggregate such information from various password protected sites scattered all over the Internet would be a challenge but it's doable. Maybe developing a new standard for such functions is in order?

-Group (or family) support. Build lots of collaboration and related permissions structures into the server. Perhaps a small business version? Could you create multiple users and groups on the server and apply various restrictions/permissions on various features, functions and resources?

-And on and on...

CONCLUSION

With everyone having a high speed internet connection and a home wireless network these days, I think the age of easy, effective personal serving might be coming into view. Instead of relying on web portals such as yahoo or msn or decentralized services such as those Google offers to store and manage personal information with the limited (but admittedly growing) storage pool they offer, with the right software and hardware users can take matters into their own hands, establishing unified, self-owned, self-managed digital lifestyle services right in their living rooms.

Ryan | Feb 17, 2007 | 7:33PM

What's an "Appeerance"?

SpellCheck | Feb 17, 2007 | 8:51PM

Apple pays very, very, very small amounts for their bandwidth. This is why P2P distribution for iTunes simply makes no sense.... they can buy the bandwidth from LVLT or ATT for a penny per song transferred and under $1 per movie transferred.

Check the quarterly financial reports if you do not believe me- the bandwidth bills simply are not substantial at all.

ray | Feb 17, 2007 | 8:52PM

Maybe it's for the day when AppleTV needs more hard drive space. They make the 'service port' work once again as a USB port and you buy one of the many external hard drives being sold to fit the Mini form factor. You pop it under your AppleTV, just as you might do now with your Mini, and et voila; more disk space.

Just a thought.

Maggie | Feb 17, 2007 | 9:02PM

The hard drive's usage was clearly stated during the last keynote; its for caching files --"syncing with your primary download machine" in the same way an iPos does. This includes rotating out videos that you have watched. I am assuming you get paid to write your aticles? Please read up on the product and watch associated product introduction keynotes before writing. I love your previous work (really... I even digitized them from VHS) but... please!

Ken | Feb 17, 2007 | 9:10PM

The HD is there to increase usability. You need to cut reliance on the PC to make this happen. Apple TV becomes a much more usable system since you don´t need your computer on when you are watching TV. Also, if somebody else watches TV while you work on the computer it will be annoying as the PC is using CPU/disk power. Just look at Sonos, zero reliance on the PC. Apple TV would be able to give Sonos a really good run for the money with the HD inside as Sonos is expensive and handles only music.

P2P is another benefit but it will not be that revolutionary unless they are able to deliver live TV. Ordering up content and then having to wait for hours is not going to be very competitive with Time Warners offering...

Jon | Feb 18, 2007 | 12:33AM

P2P could have a very interesting benefit, though I don't think you need remove the DRM. (We all WANT it gone though.) You could even store 98% of the file and get the last 2% when ordered if The Empire complained about storing the files un-purchased. With the DRM, they could just download a new key upon purchase and re-encode — as it plays if needed.


The bigger challenge I see is getting inbound connections to the AppleTV box. Either your customer has bought the new AirPort Extreme n Router and NOT turned on blocking inbound IPv6 as well as installed it as the gateway, or you have to figure a way around their existing router. Past experience with audio/video iChat says it fails often.


You'd also have to throttle it. Nobody wants their upstream bandwidth to disappear as iTV née AppleTV sucks it all up. Mine's too small as it is for what I really want to do with it. I'd also want something in return for giving up said bandwidth.

Pecos Bill | Feb 18, 2007 | 1:54AM

The hard disk is simply to keep from having your local net bandwidth throttled just to watch TV--- its a necessary cache. Who wants to keep a mac dedicated to streaming media when you might want to do something else with it?

bub | Feb 18, 2007 | 3:21AM

I saw the presentation at macworld. And this article is preposterous. You have to think of the apple TV as an ipod you hook up to your TV. The apple TV doesn't stream content, you sync the Apple TV with content in itunes. It is conceptually the same task as syncing an Ipod, and probably the exact same interface. Has cringely ever used itunes to sync an ipod because there's no vast conspiracy there.

So if I follow the logic of this article should I be asking why's there a hard drive in my ipod? Dumbass.

Ben | Feb 18, 2007 | 4:35AM

The reason for the internal hard drive was revealed by Apple at this year's Macworld. It's not a mystery or a conspiracy or anything strange at all. The Apple TV works as a big iPod with video out.

A P2P deployment system would be nice, but I don't see any evidence for this.

Ulf Dahlén | Feb 18, 2007 | 5:14AM

I get what your saying Cringe.
After reading the stuff about Google, you could see this as the mini-data center idea.

First, you get 500,000 of these units sold.
i.e. People buy Apple P2P nodes for themselves.

Second, you control so much bandwidth, you announce the next stage.
i.e. Better deals for HDTV downloads for people who share there "paid for" broadband, and everyone subsidizes the Apple TV network.

This, of course would not be announced now.
You don't want your laggard competitors getting any ideas.

I have to say that "Ben" is the dumbass!
He just can't see the big picture. Or the "logic" of the article.
No way will they show their hand now.
The MacExpo was just to get people on board, but in a few years, you announce the "ipTV" of iTunes.
Just like iPods sucked before iTunes, here comes the software part of the hardware ecosystem.

One firmware upgrade later, and the "iTorrents" fire up and Disney/Pixar has a video distribution grid that would make any media company drool.

I think I see some sort of the same old blind Mac Fanboy thing going on here with these comments.
"How dare you say Anything about nice old APPLE?!"

Mule | Feb 18, 2007 | 6:30AM

Could we have more people point out please that the Apple TV has a slightly larger footprint?

Here is a story that explains the timing, as of July 2007 Apple, TV, anyone, can start descrambling cable!

FCC ruling changed phone industry in 1968; it could happen again today.

Access Curmudgeon | Feb 18, 2007 | 7:19AM

Maybe you can also store games on the HD?

Marc | Feb 18, 2007 | 8:32AM

I already found a community for the Apple TV. Check it out if your going to get one wwww.appletvusers.com

TheIPTVGuy | Feb 18, 2007 | 9:08AM

Re: Why is Apple TV stackable with the Mac Mini and Airport Extreme basestation?

Answer: Leopard and Time Machine

40GB is not enough to back up all of your media content (video, pictuures and music) so users may want to buy 3rd party hard drives to add to the stack. Apple may even come out with such an external hard drive in order to have wireless backup ability of all the home computers including laptops. Time Machine sounds great but who wants to wreck the asthetic look of the iMac or macbook pro by permanently attaching an external hard drive.

Just a thought.

James

James | Feb 18, 2007 | 10:28AM

I see a glaring problem to this theory.

If I'm an AppleTV owner, why would I allow the upstream bandwidth that I pay for to be used by Apple free of charge? The core of its business strategy would be relying heavily on the donations of its customers. That's not a sound proposition.

-Dan

Daniel | Feb 18, 2007 | 11:48AM

There's a problem with stacking the Mac Mini and the Apple TV -- they both use the same remote control. If you've ever played around with the Apple Remote at one of their stores you know what I mean... press the 'menu' button and all of the machines within line-of-sight start shifting into Front Row. This is inelegant, and leads me to believe that stacking is not part of the master plan (the remotes are not configurable to only work with a particular device at this time).

peetee | Feb 18, 2007 | 12:16PM

I was just telling my wife about this, and she knows why all these components were made stackable.

"Because people like to stack."

CJ Holmes | Feb 18, 2007 | 12:56PM

Why would someone donate upstream bandwidth to Apple?

Because we can do it easily, when we aren't using it anyway, just as we donate upstream bandwidth to other P2P networks.

We all want to be part of something grand, something larger than ourselves, some better vision. That's why we buy Apple.

(Disclaimer: I just bought a hundred shares last week.)

Pepi | Feb 18, 2007 | 1:40PM

@Daniel - Remotes can be paired with a single machine. This allows the remote and only that remote to work on your MBP or what have you. There are plenty of instructions on the web.

Roman | Feb 18, 2007 | 1:45PM

While there may be little reason to stack the Mini, Airport and/or AppleTV, the new Airport base station is designed to be hooked up to an external hard drive to create network storage; and if this column is right, there may be a reason to add more storage to the AppleTV as well. In that case, those drives with a form factor tailored to the Mini will stack very nicely with these other boxes as well. Perhaps the intent is simply to create a uniform looking form factor for a variety of things that may or may not be combined.

ken | Feb 18, 2007 | 3:11PM

I have a theory on why they designed these things to be stackable. I think we may soon see a Mac Mini that will be able to play HD/Blu-Ray discs. This would be an easy way for Apple to allow people to watch these films for a price on par with the current price for these players! Pull your backed up dvds off your computer and watch your HD movies on your Mac!

the_Grinch | Feb 18, 2007 | 8:41PM

F.Y.I..

Rick Kieffer | Feb 18, 2007 | 9:17PM

The three components DON'T have the same form factor. While Mac Mini and Airport Extreme have similar form factors (both are 6.5" square), Apple TV has a larger footprint (7.7" square). It doesn't make sense to stack an Apple TV and either of the other two, so the fact that they DON'T stack beautifully doesn't surprise me.

skeptical | Feb 18, 2007 | 10:09PM

The three components DON'T have the same form factor. While Mac Mini and Airport Extreme have similar form factors (both are 6.5" square), Apple TV has a larger footprint (7.7" square). It doesn't make sense to stack an Apple TV and either of the other two, so the fact that they DON'T stack beautifully doesn't surprise me.

skeptical | Feb 18, 2007 | 10:10PM

Much ado about nothing?


Bob, I see AppleTV as a networked iPod for your TV. Everything syncs through iTunes, just like iPods. So what's the big deal?

And, for all the DRM whiners, just rip your movies into iTunes (find some free software by using Google). Once in iTunes, it will go down to the AppleTV

Bob, you're starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist.

Tom | Feb 18, 2007 | 10:42PM

the processor is an underclocked Pentium M running at 1Ghz

AL-IS-A-LEDGE | Feb 19, 2007 | 7:47AM

The units in question stack because everything Apple builds now looks the same. Rectangles or squares. The other reason seems rather obvious. Some users keep their wireless router near the entertainment center because that's where the cable comes in.

The AppleTV will sit under their AEBSn, and Apple will have two nice white boxes in a few homes rather than the alternative (which might be two very different form factors nested wherever they happen to fit).

Additionally, in place of a complex "stack" which includes the AEBSn and a Mac mini, Apple will ship the AppleTV because the percentage of Apple customers with the proficiency required to integrate a Mac mini into their home theatre is miniscule. Besides, complicated isn't part of Apple's mission.

As others have mentioned, the reason for the built in hard drive has been spelled out by Apple, and Jobs also explained what it was intended for in his keynote. And, for what it's worth, I buy it: Apple is ALL ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE.

Caching/synching content on the AppleTV ensures that playback is 100-percent flawless. No worries about the home network getting overloaded, or f'd up by the microwave or the neighbor's portable phone (not everyone is going to replace all their Macs so they can have a pure 802.11n network overnight).

And to the guys who are bouncing their heads against the wall trying to figure out what Robert meant by spelling Appeerances the way he did, it's a play on the term peer-to-peer.

Matthew | Feb 19, 2007 | 10:13AM

Let's say the peer network becomes established, and your power-switchless Apple TV begins using your upload bandwidth to participate in that network.

Probably without you being able to put a governor on it, short of disconnecting it.

ISPs are stingy enough with upload bandwidth as it is, and I for one would not welcome our new Apple TV bandwidth-snatching overlords.

Lacrocivious Acrophosist | Feb 19, 2007 | 12:29PM

So, this is all fine and good, but let me ask you this: If I have 2 computers, why I need to centralize my media on one machine and share it out read-only to my other one? That means that when I, say, buy a song from the iTunes store, I need to do so from my media machine or else push the files over from my other machine. I have a mac mini hooked up to a plasma that serves my media and a powerbook that I use for email, surfing, etc. Why can't I manipulate my music within iTunes on my powerbook and have it change the library on my mac mini?

And yes, I could buy Apple Remote Desktop for $499 but why should I have to?

mark | Feb 19, 2007 | 1:52PM

Stackable? All of Aple's stuff looks similar, part of a marketing direction of brand recognization. BMW does this rather well, too. All their cars look pretty similar, but I'm not stacking mine. Go ahead if you want to, though.


So, how long do you think it will be before there's a MythTV distro that, along with a USB HD tuner, will turn AppleTV into what we REALLY wanted?

TGM | Feb 19, 2007 | 1:53PM

Like most broadband users, my upload speed is very limited. I've got 10Mbps/down, 256k/up. I wouldn't want AppleTV to make use of this limited resource without permission and providing some ability to restrict the upload speed.

Lou in Brooklyn | Feb 19, 2007 | 2:26PM

Perhaps there is no obvious reason to stack these three Apple units with each other, but I can see a reason for adding disk space to either the Apple TV or Mac mini. A unit providing 500 Gb would allow for a fairly decent collection of HD video, and there is no reason it shouldn't be stackable with the mini as well.

On a different topic: I hope Apple provides some of the extra DVD content. Ripping an entire DVD provides a set of files playable in DVD player, but it cannot be included in iTunes. It's a real shame that my DVD library will be left out of this new era unless I convert them to H.264 without the commentaries, languages, etc.

Kenny Lucius | Feb 19, 2007 | 3:06PM

This all points back to your earlier column on Google ruling COntent/Applications as well as providing major Last Mile providers fiber access (low latency and very high speed services)to their content without touching the Best Effort Internet.
What I would love to see is Google working deals with Local Last Mile Providers who will install, pay for and use their own fiber to Googles Data centers.
This would obviate the need for a Internet Link and allow these ILEC/CLEC/MSO and Broadband Wireless Service providers (other than the big RBOC)to turn over management of the Internet to Google who will selectively route any traffic seeking Content not provide in the Data Center
to the Internet.
Where is Google MultiPlayer Gaming Services Platform ?
As a Service Provider I would gladly route all my gaming traffic to them over a Fiber link and charge my users for the bandwidth and a latency free pipe link to the world over a dedicated Gaming Network. No problem with sharing Access revenues and ad revenues on these Game Nets.
Closest thing to a Grid Type Network.

Jacomo

Jacomo | Feb 19, 2007 | 3:16PM

What would happen if Apple were to acquire a stake in a satellite system that could multicast their content to a few million Apple TV boxes simultaneously and for free? This way they wouldn't need P2P or BitTorrent or Google's servers or anything similar. In addition, they eliminate the risk of system admins like me who employ bandwidth limiters to stop their customers from becoming unwitting servers for whatever trendy IP-of-the-day. Because I'm certainly not going to pay for the bandwidth you keep saying should be free and Apple should certainly know that we have the tools to stop it now (trust me). Maybe that's why they stack... perhaps there is a satellite set-top box all ready to go into that stack.

SwedishChef | Feb 19, 2007 | 3:49PM

I've wondered about the stackability, too. I've come to the conclusion that it's either a branding issue (people begin to associate the form factor with Apple) or a cost savings issue (cheaper to produce in identical width and depth).

Or, as you say, Steve may be screwing with us.

Sponge | Feb 19, 2007 | 4:21PM

You know what I really want? A single unit that would act as...
DVD-r
TIVO
Netflix (have 5-10 movies stored at a time) - I dont want to steal movies just rent, watch, delete. I suppose you could have the option to buy them and then record them using DVD-r.

Make it easy to use and you could sell a ton. Is this really asking to much?

crkranz | Feb 19, 2007 | 4:50PM

Dr. Cringely,

Steve is creating a digita analogue of a quantum hologram!

You just described it perfectly!

Doug
In Quantonics
www.quantonics.com

salguod ellesner | Feb 19, 2007 | 5:16PM

Very interesting speculation but 640-by-480 streams may be an "also ran." They have a whole lot of work to do. Check one that is under the radar, www.neokastblog.com by a company called Neokast.

beijim | Feb 19, 2007 | 5:23PM

"And yet the components are clearly designed to be stacked"

I really think it's just an aesthetic choice.

Jeff Foster | Feb 19, 2007 | 5:59PM

Bob says, "But I STILL don't know why those components were made stackable."

They weren't! The Apple TV is much bigger than the other two (7.7" square vs. 6.5" square). They'd look horrible together!

Another Bob | Feb 19, 2007 | 6:22PM

Ok, so the footprints are different... But isn't AppleTV just a fancy iPod with WiFi and a good video card?

If the HD is truly only for buffering, then why use a spinning HD that runs 24/7? One should be able to buffer the content with a flash drive (8GB is currently on the market).

The AppleTV is NOT an external HD, because the only ligament connections are via iTunes and FrontRow.

I tend to like the idealistic model presented, but 40GB is not enough. You have previously stated that only 5% of internet users use Bit-Torrents. Now, you are claiming that Apple will get 0.5 MILLION people to use a torrent? This is the same demographic that still has 12:00 blinking on their VCR and microwave?

As for footprint; they are cute. Apple will change the overall design before anything that is devised in this article is implemented.

Just my humble opinion.
Nathan

Nathan | Feb 19, 2007 | 6:30PM

If what you're saying is right it could be the start of the end for Microsoft! With the new world order ruled by Apple and Google.

John | Feb 20, 2007 | 5:22AM

I can't see this happening. How many people will allow appleTV to have access to the internet ? Well at least I will not, not in the beginning anyway

Trausti Thor | Feb 20, 2007 | 9:09AM

I'm excited that the Apple TV will finally be available. I'm looking forward to the ability to watch all of my iTunes content on my HDTV.
http://www.applehdtv.net

Shane | Feb 20, 2007 | 9:18AM

I'd hate to see my cable bill after they start seeding movies from my Apple TV. With a 30GB limit per month and $1 per extra gig, that could add up to a staggering bill. They better have some way to opt out if they do this.

greyfeld | Feb 20, 2007 | 12:10PM

It sounds like a good idea. I think Apple won't do it though, because the user experience would be horrifying.

Let's say I want to buy "Cars 1.5". I click buy, but my Apple TV is pre-seeded with only 1mb of a 500mb movie. So, now I have to rely on the network speed and availability of other people for the distribution of the last 499mb. Most people will complain that they can't watch the movie -right now-.

Knowing how slow P2P is from using Bit Torrent, and World of Warcraft updates, I, as a software developer won't mind because I know how it works. But I don't think that Apple will have a large initiative educating people how P2P works. Especially since Copyright law prohibits even partial copying. And by pre-seeding my box with 1mb of the movie, it's a copyright violation which will require some new contract with the movie studios that they won't understand.

The copyright argument may not make sense because all internet routers technically store copyrighted things for a brief period of time. But, considering Apple's recent $2.00 charge to activate pre-existing hardware because of legal reasons, I think their legal department is paranoid enough to not release pre-seeded P2P or P2P anything.

Robert | Feb 20, 2007 | 12:56PM

Bob, you've gone over the edge on this one. The hard drive in AppleTV is just to store content, like the HD (or mem chip) in an iPod. Stackability is hardly a clue to anything, other than the ability to pile stuff up. AppleTV looks like nothing more than another DVR to me, in competition with TiVo and whoever else decides to enter that market.

Mike | Feb 20, 2007 | 3:49PM

I wish the 40GB drive was to act as a DVR. Steve's inclusion of the Yahoo! CEO could suggest a future partnership with Yahoo! TV (now in beta) which allows users to set up their Tivos from the Yahoo! page.



However that is about as feasibile as Apple getting the public to sign up to let AppleTV's use their internet connections 24/7. What if Apple is taking an approach to sidle (to quote Seinfeld) out the cable companies altogether? For someone like myself, I have maybe one or two shows I watch and for those don't even mind if I wait until the DVDs. If Apple sold me a season subscription and enabled me to watch the shows reasonably soon after they aired, I'd almost be happy to cancel my cable TV.

Andy | Feb 20, 2007 | 7:42PM

If I'm a broadband user with a monthly download limit, I for one would not be too happy to have Apple sending movie sized files to my mac TV unit. While it actually seems like a good idea to me it requires users to cede far too much control of their hardware/bandwidth to appear likely to me.

More likely seems a prerelease download, whereby you can prepurchase Cars and it gets send to your hard drive in the days prior to the release, and then at midnight on day of release it's there on your harddrive.

Murray | Feb 20, 2007 | 9:13PM

Bob,

You are so on point. The fact that Apple could use this good-will / free bandwith to allow viewers to earn credits toward music or video is all but logical. Why would Apple continue to spend cash (millions of $) on bandwith when iTunes users (or the average broadband user for that matter) uses almost 0% of their downpipe for anything other than sending emails. Apple is about to turn the media extender business on it head, while the others (Cisco, DLink, and Netgear) stand around looking flat footed.

Maybe a better question to ask is how other besides Apple might benefit from this sea of millions of Apple TVs sitting on wide open broadband connections while most of us are sitting at work? Is there a side or back door to all of this? Who might be the Lotus of the online TV revolution? Is there side business for Apple TV similar to all the iPod accessory business?

I feel that the real winners in this space will be the ones that figure out how to deliver HiDef podcast to Apple TV. I just purchased to 40 inch Sony XBR and I'm starved for HiDef programming. Will anyone be brave enough to post 1 gig podcast file to the iTunes Podcast directory? Will Apple allow Podcaster to tap into this torrent play or will theu similpy have to "suck it up" and tap into the trust fund?

James Harris
ListenShare / Elemental Interactive

James Harris | Feb 20, 2007 | 11:11PM

so what i understand is - ...u hook the appletv to your tv. Settle down with the appleremote. If you want to watch something, just press the apple logo key...and itunes opens up on your tv. Click on the movie you want to watch or music video you need to see..and it comes over the internet into your tv and starts to play. The apple tv is a computer with the remote as the input device, the tv as the output device. There might be an option which says...would u like to be a node and save 50% of your subscription fees...and there you have it ..... apple owns everything except the internet pipes...which as bob says, will be owned by google.

pretty neat...where do i sign up.

akash | Feb 21, 2007 | 2:37AM

oh...and to round it off....all this is controlled by the iphone which acts as a universal remote :)

akash | Feb 21, 2007 | 2:54AM

Form factor:
It isn't about the stackability. It's just that every room will have ome of those boxes. Making Apple available not in every household but perhaps even in every room.
Also Eric Schmidt might have more to do with this than you think. What if Apple uses Googles Dark Fiber to transport their content first and then distribute to the peers. That would make it work for the first couple of people to purchase one.

Henk | Feb 21, 2007 | 3:51AM

The biggest reason for Apple's form factor is to give Apple boxes an Apple look. Marketting is Apple's real genius.

Also, why not make them stackable, if you can? Stackability is user-friendly, allowing them to decide how to place them and combine them.

A real Apple fan will build their furnature to accomodate the boxes; make them interchangable, and you've given them more freedom to decide the layout of their house.

Timothy Wesson | Feb 21, 2007 | 6:32AM

akash:

Yes, indeedy! I've been wondering when someone would catch that idea about the iPhone as a universal remote! The same should work with a new non-phone widescreen iPod with wi-fi, which I expect to be along any time now...

Guy McLimore
http://www.couchapple.tv
The Apple TV News/Opinion Blog

couchguy | Feb 21, 2007 | 7:42AM

Timothy:
If Marketing were Apple's real genius, I would be typing this on a Mac right now. Design is Apple's genius, not marketing. Successful marketing is when you outsell everyone, even if you cheat. No, the marketing crown goes to Redmond.

Why are they stackable? Maybe Jobs just got a really good deal on a shape, or they all use the same base plate. But I think you are right on this count Timothy. They are stackable so they all have the same "look". Form following function here. Although the function doesn't appear to be practical.

Johnny Fargo | Feb 21, 2007 | 8:50AM

A gamming platform much like X-Box and PSP. Wireless controllers, All games download.....

Duh

shawn | Feb 21, 2007 | 2:54PM

A gamming platform much like X-Box and PSP. Wireless controllers, All games download.....

Duh

shawn | Feb 21, 2007 | 2:54PM

Stackable. However. the stacking order is important due to the different size(AppleTV must be lowest block ^^), and they are in different colors. The front side of Mini is silver, of AppleTV is silver and of Airport is white.
I don't think the color combination is beautiful at all.

Hard disk could(or should) be used for *pushing* service (eg. movie trails or customized Ads)

Ike | Feb 22, 2007 | 3:25AM

Appeerances? Try Appearances.

Bob | Feb 22, 2007 | 7:12AM

Um, I guess I heard Steve Jobs incorrectly during his keynote. I believe he pointed out that the internal hard drive was going to be used for local caching of content streamed from iTunes. The DRM allows you to sync with one computer and stream from others. Why only 40mb in this day and age of massive and cheap hard drives is the real question.

GregB | Feb 22, 2007 | 11:00AM

I, guess you don't catch the idea and it's 40 gigs by the way ,I work on a cable company and the network and deployement cost more than the content.

Norman | Feb 22, 2007 | 12:52PM

Stackable should mean space savable which means aprtment friendly systems. college dorms, one bedroom ect.

R. Callaway | Feb 23, 2007 | 1:09PM

The Apple store says it quite clearly : the box syncs with iTunes material. It doesn't normally stream it so you are not dependent on the PC being left running and on your wireless router load.

dukeinlondon | Feb 24, 2007 | 4:39AM

While I normally find your input useful Bob, today, you are full of crap (sorry, but it's true).

The first fallacy in your argumentation is the identical footprint of the Apple TV, Mac Mini and Airport Extreme. While the Mac Mini and the Airport Extreme does indeed measure 6.5" on each side, the Apple TV is 7.7" square.

Fallacy the second is bandwith. While it would be nice to have a distribution network of Apple TVs, people won't like to have their bandwith stolen. DSL lines in my area (Europe) generally have between 128 and 512Kbit upload rates with download speeds being around 8-16 times that. When you got a ratio like that, there's no bandwith left for the Apple TV to upload with and any bandwith it would use to upload would quickly be felt by the user.
Therefore, a p2p system of Apple TVs is an impossibility.

If you'd seen the Apple TV presentation, you'd know that it essentially works like an iPod.
But I guess you couldn't be bothered...

Yonzie | Feb 25, 2007 | 5:20AM

This took me a while also, but the important leap is to realise that the Apple TV box is just an iPod (without a built-in display, but with wireless networking).


Simple ... Nothing to see ... Move along.

Mic Edwards | Feb 25, 2007 | 8:52AM