Larry Angell lays out his theory on why Jobs and Co. don’t want you to have a PVR in your iMac:
“It’s simple really—why would Apple provide you with the capabilities to easily record all the John Locke goodness of “Lost” or the latest Dunder-Mifflin mishaps of “The Office” when the company can get a cut of a $1.99 per show? There’s also the theory of evilly locking customers into the FairPlay DRM so they won’t ever buy anything besides an Apple media device to play their purchased content on… but Apple needs to sell you the shows for this to work. Unfortunately, these are of lesser quality than what you could record yourself.
If Apple had added a TV tuner to the new Intel Mac minis along with a slick interface and a big hard drive for storing all your favorite shows, they would have also been forced to allow users to transfer their recorded shows to their iPods. Free video content for iPods. Sounds good. But Apple wants to continue building its customer base for paid video downloads and make a little money at the same time. There’s also the little thing of completely angering every TV network and movie studio—something Steve doesn’t want to do if he wants to keep selling their content.
Simply put, I wouldn’t expect to see a Mac with built-in DVR features any time soon. Like or not, Apple is way too far into the business of selling video content dipped in their own DRM. It’s just not in their best interest to allow us to record whatever we want for free. Don’t get me wrong, the iTunes store is amazing. There’s a convenience factor there that can’t be matched. And the store also helps sell iPods and Macs. I just wish we could have both options—buying from Apple and recording what we wanted. I know I’d be doing both.”
…Which is all good and fine… but… Apple is fooling themselves if they seriously think that their low res crappy downloads that they offer today are ever going to be a substitute for people’s cable or satellite TV, and when everyone else is moving to high def (CES was all about high def this year) the quality of the programming does actually matter.
And if people keep their cable or satellite programming, than any extra add ons from iTunes only cost more. With both TiVo and Microsoft coming to market this year with high def PVRs Apple is seriously lagging. Sure there will be an Apple fanboy market for the new iMac, but people want convergence. People don’t want a TiVo AND an iMac in their living room. They want one or the other. And some might say that people don’t want a computer in their living room at all, which is where Microsoft’s Extender strategy has a leg up on Apple already.
Other than being simple and relatively cheap, Apple needs something else to distinguish themselves. If they want to sit their business strategy on a download future vs. a broadcast future than they are going to need to seriously increase the quality of what we can hope to download and price the downloads to the point where they can legitimately become an alternative to satellite or cable. For example, all the HDTV you can watch for $30 a month, rather than the charge per low res crappy download that they have today.
Angell does nail the chief problem with video iTunes when he writes, “Unfortunately, these are of lesser quality than what you could record yourself.” And I would add, without incurring any additional per use cost over your current cable/satellite bill.