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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5 thoughts on “Warning: Geek Rant – On HD Content Delivery

  1. Congrats man… tonight after two months underwater without any internet access, your site was the second one that I navigated to. (Third if you count Google loading as my browsers start page.) My navigations started with my own site to see what Virginia had shared with the world, then to yours to get an update on the world of technology, and finally came to a halt at digg.com to see some pics of the Macbook Air that she had to tell me about. Love the new look… and have something funny that I need to share with you over the phone.

  2. Just found this review of Air, yes it is virtually as thin as a piece of paper but …..
    “Non-expandable RAM.
    Small Slow hard disk @4200RPM
    No optical drive.
    Non-removable battery.
    Peripheral interfaces limited to one USB port and one monitor output.
    High price for the included features ($1,799 and up).

    If I was a Hollywood studio executive, a New York art-gallery owner, or an editor of one of those fashion magazines, there’s just no other computer I’d want to use. I’m not any of these things, of course; very few people are. But do understand: there are people who are exceptionally style-conscious for personal and professional reasons, and the MacBook Air was designed for these people.”

  3. Although I agree that its way too expensive for what it offers, I don’t see lack of optical drive or no-replaceable battery as a problem.

    I haven’t used an actual physical optical disc in a long time. About the only time I do is installing the OS. All my movies are in .MV4 or DivX .AVI and all my applications are in .ISO or the Mac .DMG format which allow me to mount a virtual disc image — and then when I’m done, toss the image file back on a hard drive.

    As for the battery, Apple is offering in-store battery replacement for $120, labour included. Laptop batteries cost that much anyway, so this is really a non-issue.

    The price is a massive constraint, and those hard drives (assuming you can’t afford the extra $900 for the SSD) are not really built for running a computer off of. Generally its a beautiful, thin little machine. But its certainly not built for a power user, or anyone who doesn’t have money growing out their ears. Fortunately the MacBook and MacBook pro are still gorgeous laptops…

  4. And it all is so very true. They don’t realize the value of having wireless freedom and common codecs to make digital distribution effective and more available to the masses. But in all honesty it won’t happen until probably my generation is in its prime. Our parents just want thing to be easier for them. And to them physical is the way to buy. Not virtual. On a side note
    hacked iPod touch FTW on this longish comment.

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