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iPod+Frontrow vs. Media Center

Coupled with some recent national press, and with Apple's spectacular announcements, the amount of interest and discussion about the future of Internet Television has really exploded. The popular son, the iPod, has garnered most of the press, but I personally found Apple's entrance with Frontrow to be a lot more exciting.

I am only slightly disappointed by Apple's showcase because I recently purchased a 17" iMac, and I would love to have one of the new models! If anyone at Apple is listening, I hope you have a generous return policy - I would like to upgrade!

Some claim the "Mac Media Center" solution is a big yawn compared to a Microsoft Media Center PC. Sure if you compare the two solutions feature by feature the Apple "loses out." Sure Frontrow doesn't have a DVR interface, but why fight against the Comcast, DirectTV and the like, who are pouring millions of dollars into delivering their own integrated DVRs?

As Jobs pointed out when he introduced the remote, they look for simplicity, not complexity. That is the essence of Apple. I think they have a very interesting solution.

I love to read the Apple rumor sites like ThinkSecret - I guess they are my form of "celebrity gossip" - so I'm going to start my own rumor and say what I think Apple is going to do.

I do not believe the iMac or even the Mac mini is the final destination for Frontrow. I no longer necessarily think Apple will come out with a video variant of the Airport Express. What would be most interesting is if the iPod bundled Frontrow, from which you could use it on a TV.

The pieces are already falling into place.

1. The new Universal Dock works with the Apple Remote.
2. You can connect your TV to the Universal Dock.
3. Sync your videos to the iPod and plug it into your dock.
4. Lean back and watch TV using the remote.

It is a very simple and elegant solution to the problems of home networking and connectivity between the home computer, TV and Internet. If the new iPod has enough horsepower to power decoding H.264, I presume it can render the very simple interface of Frontrow.

Interestingly enough Cringley mentioned that DVDStation is planning on allowing people to sync HD content to their iPod. Obviously the iPod won't be able to play these files, but if you can easily watch them on your TV that would be very cool. This coincides with Marc Cuban's opinion and preference as the drive as delivery vehicle.

I think using the iPod as a portable video storage will become very popular. Sync up some videos and head over to a friend's house for the evening. Visiting the grandparents? Sync your home movies and show them on their TV.

But I, and the others here at Brightcove, do believe that the behavior learned by people while growing up with the web and the immediacy of accessing what you want when you want, will drive adoption of the Internet as a broad and open distribution platform. We are very excited about all the new opportunities present - we look forward to helping viewers and programmers meet through our Internet TV service and leverage the iPod as a new and exciting distribution end-point.

The iPod could provide a robust and simple solution to move Internet TV content the last few feet from the PC to the TV. People talk about the XBox 360 as Microsoft's Trojan horse, but don't count out Apple. They might have a better chance with the iPod and take ownership of the family room.

Update (October 16, 2005): Also of interest is that Apple prohibits DVD burning of videos. This may have been a request from ABC so as to not cut into their DVD sales. However given the current video quality and lack of extras provided on the DVD, I find it hard to believe that these video downloads would significantly erode DVD sales. As a side effect of this decision, it forces the iPod to be the sole mechanism by which one can watch downloaded videos on a TV. That seems like a winning strategy that Apple may have chosen instead of being forced to adopt.

What do you think?