Mac Tablet, Media Macs, and iTunes Movies (predictions, that is)

Om's post about the Sonos Digital prodded me to write up my Mac Tablet prediction (and Media Mac and movies from iTunes).

Well, that, and I said it out loud talking to Marc Canter and Robert Scoble at BBS05, so I need to make sure I stake my blogosphere claim.

(Note to Scoble: I'll get around to turning on full posts again one of these days. Sorry about that.)

Let's work backwards with this Mac rumour mill. I talked about support in iTunes/iPod Photo for movie downloads earlier:

Apple gets legal downloads. Lots of free stuff (music videos, movie trailers, commercials, etc.) that is "small" -- plays OK on the [iPod Photo] little screen. The legal downloads are movies, that take up about 1GB, give or take (you can probably get good quality at less than that, especially if there are some fancy new codecs). That means 60 movies at once, but more likely a half-dozen at most. People could watch them on the little LCD. But, since the iPod Photo does video-out, people watch it where they like watching videos -- on a TV.

So let's just agree that:

  1. Apple could do to movie downloads what they've done to music downloads
  2. iTunes is a likely place for this functionality to live because it's the one app that's already on Windows

But watching things on your TV where you have to walk your iPod Photo across and plug it into your TV (without a remote) isn't really an ideal interface. It would work, but it's not ideal.

Same thing goes for the Airport Express. You can now have all your music on your Mac, and beam it across to your stereo. Except, when you're not actually in front of your computer, you can't control iTunes.

This is where the Mac Tablet comes in. Steve probably poo-poos the Tablet as your main computer (that's what high-end PowerBooks are for). But, a Mac Tablet as media remote, as second computer in the home? Maybe good enough for students, replacing/augmenting the iBook line? Sounds like extra computers being sold.

I'm going to predict the media remote option. It will of course have built in 802.11g wireless and Bluetooth. It will be able to connect via the Airport Express to control iTunes playing on your "main" home Mac. You'll be able to stream music to it directly via iTunes' built-in Library sharing features.

Built-in video camera with iChat/softphone support is possible.

Now on to the Media Mac, or Mac PVR. It will sit next to your TV, and have video and audio outputs. You'll be able to stream music (regular iTunes, as well as to the Airport Express?) and movies (downloaded as well as time-shifted) from it. Apple was one of the first to license the CDDB database. Will they help put a nail in TiVo's coffin by licensing/updating an open TV scheduling service with no monthly fees? Or (ugh) another for-pay service that is part of .Mac?

You'll be able to connect your digital camera to it, as well as your iPod.

But you still need to control an onscreen interface. Bluetooth or RF remote, plus of course the "richer" control via the Mac Tablet. I'd have to come down on the side of Bluetooth remote, since then you can use an Apple Keyboard with it (surf the web on your TV, with a full version of Safari, probably based on the version shipping with Tiger).

I had previously thought that this Mac PVR would be more like external computer PVR boxes today: a FireWire "box" that connects into a parent computer. But, you need a lot of horsepower to play back really nice video. With some dedicated video hardware in a more appliance-style box, you can likely guarantee a much better experience, never mind the "10 ft UI" needs.

That was fun. Remember, you heard it here first. Check back when these products are released. Better yet, send me a prototype to test!