To followup on yesterdays conversation. The vision I have for the IT infrastructure of my home ( yes, I used IT infrastructure and home in the same sentence ) revolves around Apple product. No surprise there.

My vision is one where the computers in the house automatically and seamlessly backup on a regular basis without user intervention. I have already put some money into that part with the purchase of the Apple Time Capsule. Time Capsule is a wireless access point that contains a hard drive ( 500G or 1 TB ) that can be networked to other computers in the house. A single place to put my media (music, movies, photos). Time Capsule works wirelessly with the Time Machine software built into Mac OS X Leopard. It automatically backups everything so my important files won't be lost.

The second part of the plan involves thinking about how my family uses media; movies, photos, and music. Right now we have a TiVo and a cable provided HD PVR for time shifting TV and controlling the shows that our kids watch. We also have a DVD player (we have a Netflix subscription) and a Mac mini hooked up to our Sony HDTV. The Mac mini is a sort of media center for synching iPods, editing photos in iPhoto, and watching movies rented from iTunes. That's 4 devices and none of the media is moveable between them. If I want to watch a movie I must sit in front of the TV to do so. If I want to watch a previously recorded show I must switch inputs and use a completely different menuing system. I want something simpler. What I want to do is replaces all of those devices with one or two devices.

I want to be able to view or listen to any of my media from another device around the house. I want my media centralized and managed from one place. I also believe that the future of movie rental is a broadband download. The iPod touch has a screen large enough to view a movie and is small enough to take anywhere. I recently rented the movie, Next, from the iTunes store. I quickly synced the movie to my 3rd generation iPod Nano and started watching it while the kids were in Tae Kwon Doe. When I came home later, I moved the movie back to my Mac min and continued watching it from where I left off. iTunes took care of the whole thing. Why bother with the DVD player ( or Blu-ray ) and Netflix when within 10 minutes I can be watching a movie downloaded from iTunes?

I plan to buy either an Apple TV and an HD TiVo or get an Intel Mac mini and an Elgato EyeTV 250 plus. With an Intel Mac mini, I could use iTunes as a source of rental or bought movies as well as manage my music library with all media stored on the network on the Time Capsule. The Mac mini support HD and DVD quality video via as well as digital sound. However, the Mac mini does not have a tuner. That problem I plan to solve with the Elgato EyeTV 250 Plus. EyeTV 250 Plus delivers free-to-air digital TV to a Mac (ATSC), unencrypted digital cable (Clear QAM), as well as a conventional analogue TV via standard cable or antenna. EyeTV 250 Plus also comes with a break-out cable for composite video and S-Video, enabling you to connect a set-top box directly to your Mac. The Mac mini could then becomes the digital media hub of the home.

But I could take this even further and question whether I need cable at all. A lot of top TV shows are available on iTunes. Why watch Lost interrupted by ads when I can download the season on iTunes ( one episode ) for about $30? My cable connection costs $45/month times 12 months. That's $540/year. I could subscribe to 18 different shows on iTunes.

To be clear, from a technical standpoint, I do not think this solution is superior to other products on the market. There are most likely other products on the market that do one or all of the above. However, none of these solutions are well integrated. It requires the user to buy separate pieces and "hack" together a solution that works. The value proposition of an all Apple solution is that everything just works and works well. Apple is doing what Sony wishes they could do.

Do you see any flaws in my plan? Let me know in the comments.

itunes-logo.jpgThe discussion over on the MacWorld forums have me thinking more about the Apple TV, Apple Time Capsule, Time Machine, and iTunes movie rentals and purchases. I think iTunes music and video rentals and purchases will become the way I get all of my media content.

appletv-large-01102007.jpgI think I can replace the cable company HD PVR, my TiVo, and my DVD player with Apple branded products and totally be without any physical media. Although the Apple TV is a great option for watching prepackage movie and video from the iTunes store it does have limitations. Apple TV is limited to 1080i for HD content. To be a true replacement and compliment to a nice large HD TV ( see 40" BRAVIA® XBR® series LCD Flat Panel HDTV ) Apple would have to offer 1080P on the Apple TV and iTunes. The Apple TV also lacks a tuner. Now I know that the Apple TV is not meant to be a PVR but it would be nice if I could server all my media from one device. If I could import my broadcast HD into iTunes for playback on any iTunes enabled device ( Mac or PCs ) or iPod that would be very cool.

885906776_b538ffea3e.jpgThat's where the alternative, and I think better, solution comes in. The AppleTV is really just a Mac mini with a simple interface. I could presumably get similar and expanded results with an Elgatio HD HomeRun attached to a Mac mini. The HD HomeRun integrates well with iTunes recording and pulling in HD broadcast content. Assuming Apple provides similar features in the Leopard version of iTunes as they have for the Apple TV ... imagine. Toss in the afored mentioned 40" BRAVIA® XBR® series LCD Flat Panel HDTV and a Bose Lifestyle V3 Home Theater System and ... wow!

I know some will say, "I already have one billion movies on DVD. What about that?". Download Handbrake or Visual Hub, rip and import to iTunes.

Some movies are rental only and some are purchase only. I guess it depends on the contract terms Apple agreed to. It would be nice if I could rent the movie and if I decide later to purchase do so at some reduced rate. The hardware NEEDS to be 1080p (720p just doesn't compete with Bluray's 1080p).

One issue with going complete digital for media is the issue of permanence. When I buy a DVD or CD I have a physical asset that is presumably at less risk of loss. With digital media one failed hard drive is all it take to wipe hundreds of dollars worth of precious content. Apple should build in some version of Time Machine into Apple TV for backup to external disk or to a Time Capsule enabled Airport Base Station. With the Mac mini, Time Machine, and Aiport Time Capsule I would have a complete solution and feel comfortable that my media was safe. To top off the whole package,just add an iPod Touch.

So who wants to help me pay for this?