Could a "Mac nano" with "iTunes HD" be a "party-spoiler" for Blu-ray/HD DVD?

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Well, it looks like the Mac mini is reaching EOL.



At the same time, the Blu-ray Disc/HD DVD battle rages on. Both Blu-ray and HD DVD supporters are claiming victory by year-end... never mind that NPD Research is saying that over 2/3rds of HDTV owners are sitting on the sidelines until a standard is reached. Both sides agree on one thing: that the formats are just mere stops on the road until HD digital downloads.



But Steve Jobs loves spoiling everyone's party. He spoiled Rio and Creative's party with the iPod. He spoiled Palm and RIM's apry with the iPhone. What if Apple relaunched and redesigned the Mac mini as the Mac nano, repositioning it as a flexible entertainment center? It would be designed so you could either hook it up to a computer display or an HDTV with HDMI port (or composite jacks with optional adapter). The Apple Remote would remain as simple as can be. You would still bring your own keyboard and mouse, of course.



The new iTunes HD software would be Apple's secret weapon against Blu-ray and HD DVD: iTunes HD would allow people to download or rent (in a Netflix fashion) 720p HD movies via their broadband Internet connection. Initially, movies from Disney, Viacom (Paramount), Lionsgate, and MGM would be available for downloads, and rentals would be avaliable from the aformentioned studios plus others (Sony, DreamWorks Animation, Warner Bros./New Line, and possibly Universal if the NBC Universal situation is fixed). HD movie downloads would be $14.99 (current titles) or $17.99 (new releases), while HD movie rentals would be on a Netflix-type plan: $9.99 for 3 movies at anytime, $14.99 for 5 movies, or $19.99 for 10 movies.



Three Mac nano models would be available. All models would feature Intel Core 2 Duo (Santa Rosa), 802.11n and Bluetooth, USB, FireWire, gigabit Ethernet, ATI Radeon graphics, DVI, and HDMI ports, and up to 1 TB of storage (BTO option).



Core 2 Duo 2 GHz

1 GB RAM

200 GB HD

Combo drive

$699



Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz

1 GB RAM

320 GB HD

SuperDrive

$899



Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz

1 GB RAM

500 GB HD

Blu-ray Disc drive (for those of us who prefer physical HD media)

$1099



Also, Apple would offer Blu-ray Disc in new 24" iMac and 17" MacBook Pro configurations, and iTunes HD would be available as a free download for Mac and PC (however, HD movies would require Mac OS X Leopard with an Intel processor or Windows XP/Vista with certain system configurations).



Could this be the ultimate party-spoiler?
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    Please, please, please do away with combo drives once and for all!



    Apple includes iDVD in all their Macs but for some reason does not include DVD-writing capabilities in some of their Macs. I think DVD writers should be included in all new computers by now.
  • Reply 2 of 24
    hobbithobbit Posts: 532member
    720p is the 'poor man's HD' and no one really wants it. That's a lame duck. Not much of a selling point.



    Yet 1080p is too much data to squeeze through most people's Internet connection.

    Unless Apple comes up with a new H264 codec which squeezes 1080p movies even smaller.



    How about wifi iPods/iPhones and Apple Stores? If you could download a rental movie via fast wifi connection while visiting an Apple Store (or any other wifi hotspot as part of your iPhone plan) then you can hook up your iPod to the new media center and pass the movie on.



    A bit more cumbersome than instant viewing, but faster and easier than physical DVD rentals.
  • Reply 3 of 24
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,341member
    Pales in comparison to my $249 HD DVD player that plays 30GB movies with pristine video and audio.



    I doubt that I'll be a fan of HD downloads anytime soon.
  • Reply 4 of 24
    maniamania Posts: 104member
    god i hope so. Think hd/blu fanboys just for one minute what happened to music and you will see the future of video. so tired of the hd/dvd vs bluray 2005/2006/2007/2008. get over it already. its just a matter of time. bill gates is right. the poster is right. by the time your format wins it will have lost.
  • Reply 5 of 24
    cory bauercory bauer Posts: 1,286member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post


    Pales in comparison to my $249 HD DVD player that plays 30GB movies with pristine video and audio.



    I doubt that I'll be a fan of HD downloads anytime soon.



    That's the dilemma, isn't it? Why pay twice the price of an HD DVD player for the convenience of playing significantly lower-quality films that you have to find a means of archiving on your own?
  • Reply 6 of 24
    Maybe, maybe not. Disc-based media will be around for some time longer. At 50GB per disc and more in the near future, blu-ray is an excellent archival and storage method even if the majority of video content comes to be distributed via internet. HD-DVD can last too, although as a storage format it's not nearly as good as blu-ray, just on data density. I think even a die-hard like hmurch will agree to that.
  • Reply 7 of 24
    carniphagecarniphage Posts: 1,984member
    Physical disk-based media are certainly on their way out. I am guessing that BlooRayHDVD will be the last generation of physically based media. BluRay & HD DVD don't really have a party to speak of. Perhaps a couple of geeks have shown-up and are sitting in the kitchen and trying to drink all the free beer. It's not a great party.



    It might sound lazy, but to me, the act of physically going to a shelf, retrieving a movie from a box, inserting it in a "player" and then having to skip through 5 minutes of anti-piracy warnings and trailers is a big drag.



    A media-server with hard-drives and a fast menu that takes me directly to the content feels a little more 21st-century than the wax-cylinder model of media distribution.



    The AppleTV is a brilliant little device. A tiny, silent, unix-based media PC with a fast wireless network interface, and optical audio-out is an almost perfect hardware solution.



    It's regrettable that Apple decided to restrict its media formats and connection options. The default configuration along with the lack of HD content in iTunes makes the box useless.



    My hacked AppleTV happily streams HD content from a NAS, and it even stores bookmarks to show what I have watched - and picks up where it left off. Not sure that Apple are being aggressive enough to make this work. But I for one will not be investing $1000 in another media library which will be dead inside 10 years.



    C.
  • Reply 8 of 24
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Carniphage View Post


    Physical disk-based media are certainly on their way out. I am guessing that BlooRayHDVD will be the last generation of physically based media.



    I think there will be one more generation after blu-ray/hd dvd, which ever wins. People still prefer to have a physical disk of anything, rather than downloading everything. Not everyone will have an internet connection wide enough to download everything. It might start fading, but it will take more then 10 years to disappere.
  • Reply 9 of 24
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JakeTheRock View Post


    I think there will be one more generation after blu-ray/hd dvd, which ever wins. People still prefer to have a physical disk of anything, rather than downloading everything. Not everyone will have an internet connection wide enough to download everything. It might start fading, but it will take more then 10 years to disappere.



    Yes, it will take a few years - but I think the trend is inevitable, and the HD video disk formats will start dying long before they reach the popularity of DVD.



    What would be on a next-gen physical video disk medium? 4K Cine-rez? Thermonuclear DRM?

    HD is already on the limit of human vision (at least on a regular size screen from across the room)



    A good parallel is next gen audio. SACD is a monumental failure. From a quality POV - CD is good enough for most folks. And in case you haven't noticed, non-physical media files (MP3s) are bulldozering the CD market.



    It's inevitable that video will go the same way. Although the poor internet bandwidth in some countries will slow things down.



    But dude, having to plug a disk in to a "player" to watch a movie is like the freaking Flintstones.



    C.
  • Reply 10 of 24
    I'm with hobBIT.



    720p ≠ 1080p

    AAC ≠ PCM



    I would love to have an AppleTV that did 1080p (and also did MPEG-2 for backward-compatibility with DVDs without transcoding)... but my bandwidth is not scaling as fast as optical disc media density.



    "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway."

    ?Andrew S. Tanenbaum



    (Updating that: "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a crossover-SUV full of Blu-Ray discs hurtling down the highway.")



    Even if iTunes gets 1080p, how many years will it be before the bitrate matches Blu-Ray or HD-DVD?
  • Reply 11 of 24
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Carniphage View Post


    Physical disk-based media are certainly on their way out.



    Two things that are certain: people will continually find ways to chew up larger amounts of memory/storage, and other people will continually find ways to deliver denser physical storage media. The days of video playback via physical media seem to be numbered, but to say that physical media itself is on the way out -- that's just foolish.
  • Reply 12 of 24
    hobbithobbit Posts: 532member
    In principle I fully agree with the notion that physical media is on its way out.

    But it won't be as soon as people think it's going to happen. The technology is here. But it is still way to expensive and cumbersome to use in comparison.



    Storage and Archiving

    Let's say you have 200 DVDs, some of which have 2 disks with extras, which you also might want to keep.

    That could be anywhere between 4GB (1 single layer) to 16GB (2x dual layer DVD) per 'DVD box'. Let's say 8GB average x 200 = 1.6TB. That's a lot.



    Yes, there are 2TB drives you can buy, but remember HDs are not as save for archiving than DVDs, so you need a backup too. That's 3-4TB of storage. That's a lot and currently still more expensive than those 200 DVDs retail.

    Let alone time and money needed for downloading that 1.6TB of data.



    Bringing DVDs to Watch

    Today I can just grab 5-10 DVDs put 'em in my bag and go to friends and we'll pick some for watching. Where's the equivalent to that?

    Either I have to have a 40-80GB portable HD/Flash memory stick to transport the movies. And then it still takes hours (!) to copy the stuff, not mere seconds to grab the DVDs from my shelf.

    Or my friend has some ultra-fast Internet link where I can just enter my password and download the movies again. How long will it take to download 40-80GB? Probably longer than we're willing to wait.



    Presents

    How much fun is it to get a present that's a piece of paper saying: Here is your download code for movie such-and-such. Congratulation! Which then takes a while to download before I can watch.

    Compare that to a physical DVD case with a DVD you can immediately pop into your player and enjoy right there and then.

    It's not the same.





    The end of physical media comes with always-on wireless Internet which is fast enough to stream 1080p video and 5.1 sound in real time. And a provider where I do not have to archive my movies, but where they are always available for me on a streaming server.



    Only then do I not have to worry about storing my own movies, and backing them up.

    Only then can I 'grab-and-go' movies to see at my friends.

    Only then can I immediately enjoy any movie given as a present.



    When is this superfast always-on wireless Internet happening? 5 years, 10 years?

    And even then, what about transfer speeds when moving, like in a car?

    What about access in tunnels and remote areas? What about access on airplanes?



    It's going to be a thorny road. Not as smooth as people make it sound like.

    And it's not going to happen in the next 5 years. Probably not even the next 10 years. 20 years? Likely.
  • Reply 13 of 24
    carniphagecarniphage Posts: 1,984member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Isomorphic View Post


    I'm with hobBIT.



    720p ≠ 1080p

    AAC ≠ PCM



    I would love to have an AppleTV that did 1080p (and also did MPEG-2 for backward-compatibility with DVDs without transcoding)... but my bandwidth is not scaling as fast as optical disc media density.



    Even if iTunes gets 1080p, how many years will it be before the bitrate matches Blu-Ray or HD-DVD?



    You are right - The Apple TV - (a tiny computer currently selling for $167.93 including tax.) - is only just powerful enough for 720p. But upping the power (and price) would turn it into a Mac Mini.



    I find that watching a 40" screen from 12 feet away, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between 1080p and 720p.



    The AppleTV hardware *does* support playback (pass thru) of Dolby Digital and DTS bit-streams. But sadly, the un-modified software does not.



    C.
  • Reply 14 of 24
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Carniphage View Post


    You are right - The Apple TV - (a tiny computer currently selling for $167.93 including tax.) - is only just powerful enough for 720p. But upping the power (and price) would turn it into a Mac Mini.



    If mac mini sales figures are as lackluster as we've been told to expect, then yes, it seems possible that the mini and the AppleTV might merge into a single product. But I would expect the features and pricing to be much less than what has been proposed here.
  • Reply 15 of 24
    macroninmacronin Posts: 1,174member
    And, a big dealbreaker for me; does the digital download give me all the features a DVD does? Do I get commentary tracks? Deleted scenes, alternate endings, behind the scenes, etc.?



    No, I think not…
  • Reply 16 of 24
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MacRonin View Post


    And, a big dealbreaker for me; does the digital download give me all the features a DVD does? Do I get commentary tracks? Deleted scenes, alternate endings, behind the scenes, etc.?



    No, I think not?



    At least QT can do subtitles. Nonetheless, I imagine that DVD functionality is certainly possible, and may well be doable in today's QT. It just goes unutilized.
  • Reply 17 of 24
    eckingecking Posts: 1,588member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MacRonin View Post


    And, a big dealbreaker for me; does the digital download give me all the features a DVD does? Do I get commentary tracks? Deleted scenes, alternate endings, behind the scenes, etc.?



    No, I think not?



    Exactly, digital files have a long way to go before they provide every perk of a DVD.
  • Reply 18 of 24
    elronelron Posts: 126member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by MacRonin View Post


    And, a big dealbreaker for me; does the digital download give me all the features a DVD does? Do I get commentary tracks? Deleted scenes, alternate endings, behind the scenes, etc.?



    No, I think not…



    To give you all the features of a DVD, you need 4 things:
    1. support for multiple audio streams to handle things like director's commentary

    2. support for multiple video streams to handle things like deleted scenes

    3. subtitle support

    4. some kind of interactive menu to allow you to select alternate audio and video streams

    I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that the QuickTime container format supports all of these.



    Nonetheless, I wouldn't be surprised if Apple went for the simplest thing possible and just distributed the movies. I may be the weird one here, but of the 20 or so DVDs I own, I think I've listened to the commentary track on 1 of them. I'm a little more likely to watch alternate endings and deleted scenes, but I'd gladly pay less for a DVD/media file that didn't have them.



    That said, the fact that you don't see people converting DVDs to QuickTime MOVs seems to indicate that the conversion isn't exactly a straight-forward one. This doesn't necessarily mean that QuickTime isn't up to the task, though. Maybe it's just that QuickTime isn't that popular on PCs (for good reason), or perhaps the problem is that people don't want to take the time to re-create DVD menus.



    edit: lists are hard
  • Reply 19 of 24
    alfiejralfiejr Posts: 1,524member
    1080p is certainly superior to 720p/1080i. but its deployment will be very limited for the next few years. only top-of-the-line HDTV's support it, most being sold today are 1080i. and that's because CATV is limited to 1080i. CATV will continue to be the primary source for video content in the home for many years. and HD DVR's will thus be 1080i too, like the new TiVo's. IPTV can deliver 1080p downloads, but not streaming except in ideal circumstances until bandwith from beginning to end is big enough.



    so there is no reason for Apple to focus on 1080p capabilities, yet. it's not the mass market, yet. maybe in 4-5 years.



    i find 720p and 1080i to be equivalent visually, and certainly very good even though not the best tehnically. 720p is an excellent mass market standard for right now, working with all HDTV's, and obviously easier to deal with via internet bandwith in every way.



    isn't it plain that Apple does NOT design its consumer products - iPod, iPhone, etc. as well as AppleTV - for the geeks? it dumbs them down for the mass market. that's smart business. but the tech fans will always be somewhat disappointed.
  • Reply 20 of 24
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Alfiejr View Post


    so there is no reason for Apple to focus on 1080p capabilities, yet. it's not the mass market, yet. maybe in 4-5 years.



    i find 720p and 1080i to be equivalent visually, and certainly very good even though not the best tehnically. 720p is an excellent mass market standard for right now, working with all HDTV's, and obviously easier to deal with via internet bandwith in every way.



    I think Apple should concentrate on using a GPU that has hardware decode of VC-1 / H.264...just by making that change, they could get away with using a Pentium M and a small form factor...
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