Last October I wrote about the fact that Apple had released Front Row but that they had released it with the wrong PC, the iMac. The iMac is a computer that has a built in monitor that I did not think would be the choice of folks who wanted to consume digital media in their living room. While it might work well for a kid in a dorm, Apple left a lot on the table. Well this is quickly changing.
Today Apple announced their new version of the Mac Mini with their Front Row software which is claimed to be 2.5 to 3 times faster than their pervious version of the Mac Mini, runs on an Intel chip, and is somewhat cheap.
From CNET: “Jobs announced two models of the Mac Mini. One, for $599, has a 1.5-GHz Intel Core solo processor with a 60GB hard drive, combo drive that plays DVDs and burns CDs and 512MB of memory. The other, which goes for $799, has a 1.67-GHz Core Duo processor, an 80GB hard drive, 512MB of memory and a SuperDrive that burns CDs and DVDs. Both will be available starting today.
The new Mac Minis go from Fast Ethernet to Gigabit Ethernet and has double the number of USB ports, said Jobs, who stood before the audience wearing his trademark black mock turtleneck and jeans. The Mac Minis will also come with Apple’s Front Row software for watching movies, listening to music or viewing photos from across the room using a remote control. Consumers will also be able to view shared videos and photos.”
So what has Apple got right so far? They’ve got the name right(Front Row is so much better than Media Center Edition or Vista Home Premium). They’ve got the form down (the small Mac Mini looks great). They’ve got the music and pictures down (mp3s only for me of course, no iTunes DRM, wink, wink). It’s got a DVD player. What the product still needs though is TV (and real TV not low quality iTune video downloads) — which is why I say they are closer to getting it right.
Television still is the critical missing component that Apple needs to make this product a hit. The product needs both a PVR and especially a PVR that does HDTV. With your only options for TV being DVDs or low res quality video iTunes (which might look ok on a small handheld device but will look horrible on those 43″ plasmas that everyone’s buying), this product still lags behind Microsoft’s Media Center PC.
Of course, throw in an Apple buyout of TiVo and put a high definition TiVo in the box along with Front Row and you’d have the hit of the decade. How does that old song go? Oh yeah, “You’ve got the brains, I’ve got the looks, let’s make lots of money.”
The comments on the announcement are flowing at Engadget.
JupiterMedia Analyst Michael Gartenberg adds the following: “Hey Thomas, keep on eye out here. This is going to be evolutionary with Apple not revolutionary at the moment. Think of all your issues with MCE and how it handles HiDef and CableCard. I suspect Apple understands these issues as well and is working on solving the problem one part at a time and delivering value as part of the process. Be interesting to see how both these platforms look a year from now. Be even more interesting in two.”