Mac PVR strategy - What's the best approach?

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
I can see four strategies-



1. Mac mini TV edition - 2 ghz duo (necessary for 1080p), integrated tuner, PVR added to front row



2. iTV peripheral - adds PVR functions to any mac, PVR features added to front row (sort of like el gato eyeTV), shaped to compliment mac mini



3. Open up front row APIs to third parties like el gato.



4. Continue to ignore the relentless, plaintive cries of millions of consumers and industry analysts hoping that Jobs will finally awake from his TV-less fantasy world and integrate the single most popular form of media into what he claims to be a media hub for the dual reason of keeping apple rumor monger web sites in business and making me look like a fool everytime an Apple event comes along and I have a pre-event waking dream where a shiny, happy mac icon whispers in my ear that a Mac PVR will soon be here, prompting me to advise all my family and friends to forestall their home entertainment center purchases on the mere possibility that Apple might bring their design excellence in ease of use to the perplexing task of managing the myriad forms media we are both blessed and cursed with in the modern era, thus bringing harmony and peace to the universe.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 29
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    First I don't think this is nearly as big of a market as you think, and second, I think Apple is going all-out on downloads rather than recording live TV.
  • Reply 2 of 29
    bitemymacbitemymac Posts: 1,147member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Nordstrodamus

    I can see four strategies-



    1. Mac mini TV edition - 2 ghz duo (necessary for 1080p), integrated tuner, PVR added to front row



    2. iTV peripheral - adds PVR functions to any mac, PVR features added to front row (sort of like el gato eyeTV), shaped to compliment mac mini



    3. Open up front row APIs to third parties like el gato.



    4. Continue to ignore the relentless, plaintive cries of millions of consumers and industry analysts hoping that Jobs will finally awake from his TV-less fantasy world and integrate the single most popular form of media into what he claims to be a media hub for the dual reason of keeping apple rumor monger web sites in business and making me look like a fool everytime an Apple event comes along and I have a pre-event waking dream where a shiny, happy mac icon whispers in my ear that a Mac PVR will soon be here, prompting me to advise all my family and friends to forestall their home entertainment center purchases on the mere possibility that Apple might bring their design excellence in ease of use to the perplexing task of managing the myriad forms media we are both blessed and cursed with in the modern era, thus bringing harmony and peace to the universe.




    This will only happen when macmini gets a real GPU that can scale and deinterlace MPEG2/MPEG4 formats at a acceptable level. Macmini isn't there yet and will never be if apple keeps using cheapo intel IGP.
  • Reply 3 of 29
    xoolxool Posts: 2,460member
    I think Apple needs to open up its Bonjour/iTunes media sharing frameworks. If my TiVo will let me playback shows in iTunes/Front Row and vice-versa, I'd be happy as a clam.
  • Reply 4 of 29
    thttht Posts: 3,209member
    The best approach is to not enter the market. Why? The cable and satellite companies "rent" a machine for $5/month as part of their services. It's a "no brainer" decision for subscribers: getting a DVR from the cable company is simply easier than getting it from a 3rd party. The service is free! Plus, it's part of your cable box! TIVO's hardware business is dying because of this, and there is no reason for anyone outside of a cable and satellite companies to enter the market anymore.



    These companies are a lot like the wireless carriers. Once the capital spending on infrastructure is built, they become the 800 lb gorilla and no one will be touching them because the capital expenditure necessary to compete is too huge to even contemplete.



    Apple is doing an end-run around the satillete and cable companies with the ITMS. Luckily, broadband cable service is just as expensive as cable TV, for the most part, and the cable companies don't feel that Apple is encroaching on their turf yet. They still get money out of it, so who knows, maybe they'll allow it.
  • Reply 5 of 29
    mzaslovemzaslove Posts: 519member
    Isn't Murdoch & DirecTV working with one other satellite company (name escapes me), each putting in a billion dollars for infastructure in order to allow internet accessing without piggybacking someone ground-based? They were looking for a third partner to throw in another billion. Hey, throw in a billion, or just use all the Apple Stores as infrastucture. With Disnar providing content and their own satellite distribution system, would be kinda cool. But boy would that be a long-shot... but it'd be better than Tivo.



    Just my 1 cent.
  • Reply 6 of 29
    kupan787kupan787 Posts: 586member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by THT

    The best approach is to not enter the market. Why? The cable and satellite companies "rent" a machine for $5/month as part of their services. It's a "no brainer" decision for subscribers: getting a DVR from the cable company is simply easier than getting it from a 3rd party. The service is free! Plus, it's part of your cable box! TIVO's hardware business is dying because of this, and there is no reason for anyone outside of a cable and satellite companies to enter the market anymore.



    True, but my Comcast cable DVR sucks. Not only does it have a shitty interface, and horrible control mechanism, but I can't stream my music or photos on my network to it. My Series 2 TiVO does this. I would only use the TiVO, but it doesn't do HD. So I have to use both currently. I wouldn't mind picking up a refurbished mac mini in 6 months or so to replace my tivo. But boy would I love a single box to handle this, and one with a nice interface and controls like my TiVO.



    Like you said, the Cable companies will never add the kind of "home media" options that I (and others) would like (music, video, photo, etc). So it is up to other venders to push forward in this market. If CableCard 2.0 (and the successor, can't recall the name now) actually make it to market, companies like TiVO and Apple could have a fighting chance in the home DVR market.



    But I am not under the illusion that Apple would go this route with the mac mini. It is too expensive to be a set top box. Plus it has things that a set top box doesn't need. But targeting it as a home media machine isn't a bad idea.



    Quote:

    Apple is doing an end-run around the satillete and cable companies with the ITMS.



    And how long before they start to offer 480p or 720p content on the ITMS. Then wouldn't it be nice to stream that to your mac mini home media machine connected to your HDTV? I know Apple is not stupid, and they are watching this emerging market. And if they can supply the content, I am sure they would love to sell you the hardware to play it on as well. Perhaps a slimed down box, that is a little cheaper, and doesn't act as a full computer? I dunno, but I bet Apple is thinking about all of their options.
  • Reply 7 of 29
    Quote:

    Originally posted by bitemymac

    This will only happen when macmini gets a real GPU that can scale and deinterlace MPEG2/MPEG4 formats at a acceptable level. Macmini isn't there yet and will never be if apple keeps using cheapo intel IGP.



    Um... any GPU can scale and deinterlace MPEG2/MPEG4.



    It's not hard.



    edit: I take that back. It only handles MPEG2. That's pretty lame...
  • Reply 8 of 29
    xoolxool Posts: 2,460member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by kupan787

    True, but my Comcast cable DVR sucks. Not only does it have a shitty interface, and horrible control mechanism, but I can't stream my music or photos on my network to it. My Series 2 TiVO does this. I would only use the TiVO, but it doesn't do HD. So I have to use both currently. I wouldn't mind picking up a refurbished mac mini in 6 months or so to replace my tivo. But boy would I love a single box to handle this, and one with a nice interface and controls like my TiVO.



    Yes Yes! Comcast's DVR sucks so much, but its practically the only HD device in town. Too bad too.



    At this point I'm considering replacing my DVD player with a Mac mini once Blu-Ray is out. If the Mac won't merge with TiVo I'll flip the equation and merge it with the simple disc player. People already think they'll get a PS3 just for Blu-Ray and I'd rather use it as an excuse for a living room Mac.



    Apple probably realized that a Mac mini in the living room is far more lucrative than an simple AirPort Express A/V, but who knows what will come. FrontRow's advantage of being able to browse your media is huge. Have it show your PVR content and it is win-win.



    Anyhow, expect HDMI/HDCP in the next system revisions. PCs too. You want HD output, don'tcha?!
  • Reply 9 of 29
    kishankishan Posts: 732member
    DirectTV's DVR is by TIVO and it does dual tuner HD. This is the system I plan on having in a few months. For the NFL, I think DirectTV is the only company that has the Direct Ticket to watch all the games in HD.
  • Reply 10 of 29
    backtomacbacktomac Posts: 4,579member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by THT

    The best approach is to not enter the market. Why? The cable and satellite companies "rent" a machine for $5/month as part of their services. It's a "no brainer" decision for subscribers: getting a DVR from the cable company is simply easier than getting it from a 3rd party. The service is free! Plus, it's part of your cable box! TIVO's hardware business is dying because of this, and there is no reason for anyone outside of a cable and satellite companies to enter the market anymore.



    These companies are a lot like the wireless carriers. Once the capital spending on infrastructure is built, they become the 800 lb gorilla and no one will be touching them because the capital expenditure necessary to compete is too huge to even contemplete.



    Apple is doing an end-run around the satillete and cable companies with the ITMS. Luckily, broadband cable service is just as expensive as cable TV, for the most part, and the cable companies don't feel that Apple is encroaching on their turf yet. They still get money out of it, so who knows, maybe they'll allow it.




    Excellent points. Could Apple partner with somebdy like comcast to enhance the cable experience with apples software and perhaps some hardware? Apple provides a mini and some home theater software and comcast the content and users.
  • Reply 11 of 29
    kupan787kupan787 Posts: 586member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Kishan

    DirectTV's DVR is by TIVO and it does dual tuner HD. This is the system I plan on having in a few months. For the NFL, I think DirectTV is the only company that has the Direct Ticket to watch all the games in HD.



    Unfortunately DirectTV is moving away from TiVO, and going to their own home grown service. The new satellites they launched all broadcast HD in H.264, something the current TiVO boxes don't support. I think if you look on the DirectTV website now even, all the DVRs they sell don't include TiVO (if you read the description, TiVO isn't mentioned anywhere). I don't know what the service will be like, if it will be better or worse, but we shall see.



    The only good news is that Comcast and TiVO made an agreement, and will begin loading TiVO on all of their current DVRs for free. I have heard time frames from March all the way to Fall of 06. I can't wait for my crappy comcast interface to be replaced with the tivo one. I only hope that some how they allow for streaming music on the box, and I can junk my series 2 box!
  • Reply 12 of 29
    onlookeronlooker Posts: 5,252member
    The best approach is the approach that no one is offering. And the one that no one has mentioned. All I seem to read is where you all find faults in the current systems, but no one is offering a real answer to the question. If Apple were to do it they should design a new box, or even use the cube. (*I prefer the cube for reasons you'll see later) but don't limit the unit to merely a PVR. You'll want internet connectivity, and iTunes access. You should be able to plug your iPod into it, and have your shows that you click selected in your personal menu (fast user switching for families) uploaded into your video iPod, and your iTunes playlist updated. It should also have Airtunes connectivity to your stereo.

    Rather than making a computer - make something else. Windows media centers I am not really familiar with, but I imagine they do it all in one machine, but it's a computer with all your crappy Microsoft computer apps in it as well. Apple should remove the iLife the apps, and the majority of the OS. Sure you could include mail, and video iChat or something so you can do those that from your easy chair, but if they want to use iLife, and regular apps. They should use a computer, or get a next gen Mac Mini that is designed to be compatible with it. *You could design these two things as a stackable unit if that's what the user wants in the end. They are roughly the same size. But back to what I was saying was these should be distinctly different. One a computer, and the other a home media appliance. I think that is what scares people from the media center of Microsoft if what it is is essentially a computer with home media features. If you let people check it out out one step at a time they will have a chance to absorb, and appreciate what you have created. Let them know it's not a computer in their living room. It's an appliance that is part of the new digital life.
  • Reply 13 of 29
    kupan787kupan787 Posts: 586member
    A cube design is not the way to go. I want to be able to stack it with my other equipment. This means, I want it like the size of a DVD player, Audio Receiver, or TiVO. Like Onlooker said, it doesn't need a full OS X setup, nor all the same default applications. It needs Front Row (so iPhoto, iTunes, DVD Player), Safari and Mail (for a WebTV like experience if you have a wireless keyboard), maybe a few others. The hardware needs to have DVI, Ethernet, Airport, Bluetooth, CableCard 2, OTA Antenna connector, and a USB port. It should record to H.264 (or MPEG2 if the channel is an HD MPEG2 stream). It will have a hard drive (for the DVR functionality), but you can also off load songs form your iPod, or photos from your digital camera. Strip out what you don't need (no need for firewire, or for 3 additional USB ports, or for 90% of the applications/printer drivers/etc that OS X installs by default), to lower the price.



    All I want is a box that performs as good as my TiVO (DVR wise, and HMO wise), but has the ability to record HD as well (CableCard 2!). Throw in the ability to stream my videos as well, and I would be a happy camper.
  • Reply 14 of 29
    xoolxool Posts: 2,460member
    You could flatten the mini out like pancake and it could be wide and thin. Hell, take a MacBook Pro and take off the screen and you're practically there.



    Thing is, it has to be cheap or people won't buy it. Also, if its a TV centric device, it has to be simpler than the Mac.



    The mini still is a computer. The TV device would have to be iPod. Its already "+ iTunes".
  • Reply 15 of 29
    kupan787kupan787 Posts: 586member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Xool

    You could flatten the mini out like pancake and it could be wide and thin. Hell, take a MacBook Pro and take off the screen and you're practically there.



    It doesn't have to be that thin. Remember, 3.5" HDs are cheaper (and hold more), and would want to be used in a box like this.



    Quote:

    Thing is, it has to be cheap or people won't buy it. Also, if its a TV centric device, it has to be simpler than the Mac.



    And that is where stripping out fluff comes into play. Not including OS X, but instead a simplified UI would save on cost. Using dedicated H.264 processors, rather than a powerful CPU would help lower costs as well. It can be done, just the question is will it be done by Apple.



    Quote:

    The mini still is a computer. The TV device would have to be iPod. Its already "+ iTunes".



    I agree. The mini is too much of a computer to fill this space. It needs to be less computer, and extremely simple to use.
  • Reply 16 of 29
    xoolxool Posts: 2,460member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by kupan787

    It doesn't have to be that thin. Remember, 3.5" HDs are cheaper (and hold more), and would want to be used in a box like this.



    Absolutely.



    Unless its portable.
  • Reply 17 of 29
    kupan787kupan787 Posts: 586member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Xool

    Absolutely.



    Unless its portable.




    I dunno about that. Having to get behind my cabinet to unplug all the cables (going to my TV, stereo receiver, ethernet, power, etc) to transport my DVR around. And why would I want to? I could just burn any thing I wanted to take with onto to a DVD, or zap over the shows on to my MacBook. I don't see a real advantage to making this DVR device portable.
  • Reply 18 of 29
    ak1808ak1808 Posts: 108member
    I haven't watched TV in years!

    I don't miss it a bit, on-demand downloads are the future of television. Many people around me have abandonded their TV set. When I zap through TV at my parents place I feel sorry for them.

    To brainlessly broadcast media data 24hours a day is the crudest, rudest and most primitive thing I have ever seen. This only worked as long as it was necessary.
  • Reply 19 of 29
    kedakeda Posts: 722member
    People are fixating on the Mac Mini as the product that will/might become Apple's entertainment solution. I disagree for two reasons: 1) cost and 2) brand.



    1) Cost

    The Mac Mini is Apple's intro-level machine. This means that it needs to run the Mac OS, popular apps, etc. To accomplish this, the Mini must use a certain level of components. The pricing of the Mini will always be bound by those component costs, and I believe Apple will continue to offer the Mini at approximately the same prices that it has today. At these levels, the Mini would not be a viable alternative to the existing solutions (TiVo, Cable DVR, etc). A device that can successfully compete in this area must sell for less that $300.



    2) Brand

    Let's face it, many people have negative associations with the Mac brand. In order for Apple to increase market share, the company must change this, and positioning a Mac as an entertainment device could have the opposite effect by dilluting the brand. If Apple met the cost requirements for a DVR, then it would need to make major sacrafices in the the components/capabilities of the machine. It is doubtful that these compromises would allow the user to enjoy the full Mac experience (specifiaclly the Mac OS).



    My solution

    If Apple decides to enter this market, I believe that they will do so with a product from the iPod family, not the Mac. Although the iPod is an Apple computer, it does not run the Mac OS...or is it expected too. A device from this family of products could be made with a more limited set of capabilites (no Finder, MS Office, Web Surfing, etc) that are focused on achieving one goal--media delivery.



    Also, iPod devices are platform agnostic. Apple would need to Windows users to adopt a DVR product (I'll call it the iDVR for fun). By positioning the iDVR as a brand extension of the iPod, Apple would be able to build on the brand equity that the iPod already has.



    It is much more likely that the iPod Boom Box is a precursor to the iDVR, than the Mac Mini. In fact, the product might not be introduced as ultra-revolutionary. Apple already sells video that can be downloaded to an iPod, and they already make docks for the iPod (including the Boom Box). So why not make the iDVR a dock that can play/download/store your iPod media?



    In effect, you would be removing the computer from the equation entirely. Apple's iDVR could have broadband capabilities built-in, so that it could connect to the iTMS and find shared media on your computers. If your interest were simply music and video, then you would not need to interact with a Mac or PC at all. Also, this gives Apple a competetive advantage, because other media players will not be able to duplicate this approach.
  • Reply 20 of 29
    wwsjwwsj Posts: 4member
    COST - My Sony stereo receiver dates back to the 1980's and could be replaced with an appropriate quality device. What if this Apple component came in and replaced multiple components? Instead of communicating with a stereo system, how about replacing the core of the system? Cable or satellite TV & internet inputs, plus all of your other peripherals (wouldn't need a Cd or DVD player, might sell a separate device to talk to your older format appliances). No doubt Apple already developed everything they need to drive a good set of external speakers... How much would you pay for a good quality system?



    The Front row type of interface could be used for a majority of the work, but if you could just press a button and get to all of the power of the Mac OSX system running underneath... Just a thought.
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