Warning: Geek Rant – On HD Content Delivery

Last year Apple announced a new product, that we were all expecting, called the AppleTV. When it first came out, there was much celebrating, and this site even got in on some of the action. Then reality set in. Here was a $300 castrated Mac Mini that played video in only one codec and required you to sync with your home computer instead of streaming your content.

It’s like they got the vision, and then totally failed on the execution. Or maybe they had a different vision altogether.

See what Apple and Microsoft are trying to do (Microsoft with the XBox Live Marketplace) is to make the current HD format war irrelevant. That’s a good thing. For those who don’t keep their finger on the pulse of the industry, technology giants like Sony and Toshiba have been fighting a public battle over control of the next-generation DVD disc format — to the detriment of the consumer. Its like VHS vs. Betamax all over again, only this time its worse. What they don’t really realise is that the delivery medium is about to change.

Who really wants shelves full of discs anyway? 5-6 years ago it might have been cool to show off your DVD collection, but now its actually a little embarrassing. What we really need is digital content delivery. I want to pick up my remote, chose any movie ever made, and with a touch of a button, start watching it.
This is the goal of the AppleTV and the XBox 360 — living room dominance. What Apple failed to do with their product is to respect the pioneers of this concept.

While the big companies have spent the last 10 years in-fighting over how to do this and how to make money on it, their gadget buying consumers have been making it happen for themselves. The original XBox actually made a stellar Media PC when hacked to run Linux and the XBMC software. The Mac Mini, with its small footprint, FrontRow software and handy remote was decent as well. And we put those devices to work — years before Apple or Microsoft got their crap together.
All of our household DVDs (save some of the Disney ones) are on our network in DVD-quality DivX format. We’ve been able to watch them all with a touch of a button for the past 3 years. Why would I buy into a solution, like Apple’s, that forces me to abandon that content?

Today, as I write this, Apple is announcing AppleTV Take 2. They now have a better movie library, and finally support movie rentals. Congratulations, Apple. This is what we’ve been asking for. But you still missed the boat. Despite the fact that the AppleTV is a perfectly capable little computer, you’re still screwing over your customers by refusing to stream our own content in the common Codecs we’ve been using. It’s not like it would be hard for you to do — the software exists already.

I will not buy a BluRay/HD-DVD player, and I will not buy an AppleTV 2.0. I want to buy it — I’m an admitted Apple fanboy, but all of the above have missed the point. You can’t step forward by abandoning the early adopters who pioneered the technology you want to sell. You have to respect the people who built this market for you. Sadly, Microsoft is the only one who gets this, and as long as the XBox 360 is the only device on the market that both sells/rents HD content AND allows me to continue to consume my own, then Microsoft is going to win the vote of my wallet.

The MacBook Air on the other hand… that’s pretty hot…

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Holding my Breath

Today is beta test day for my project. This is where customers actually get to use it against their data and see what they think. Its too late to make any big changes to the code, but this is kind of an indicator of how well the project will be accepted in the market. They’ll also get the opportunity to pinpoint any functionality holes or bugs — giving me a little under a week to react!

On top of that its MacWorld day, and every good Mac Geek will be refreshing their favourite gadget blog all afternoon to find out what Steve wants us to buy next. This is like the Super Bowl (or Stanley Cup if you’re Canadian) of geekdom, and I can’t wait to see what the coolest computer company ever is going to unleash this year! I’m almost more excited about their projects than my own. Even my boss, a recent Mac convert, seems a little torn over which presentation to pay attention to…