Why Apple will get my money

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.

Apple TV, Tivo and Vudu

With the announcement of the revamped Apple TV I have been thinking about the future of entertainment in the Williams family room. Currently we have a Tivo Series 2, a cable company supplied Motorola HD PVR, a DVD player, and a mac mini hooked into my overweight 34" Sony HD Trinitron.

The Mac mini is home to our family videos, iTunes purchase, and 26GB of family photos. I purchased one movie ( Happy Feet ) just to try our the Amazon Unbox feature on the Tivo but was disappointed that I am now able to separate adult content from G content with the TiVo Kids Zone feature.

The cable provided Motorola HD PVR? What a piece of crap that thing is! The user interface is not intuitive and has an annoying delay. Aarrgh!!! Cable, please force Motorola to license technology from TiVo or Apple. PLEASE!!!

I have been torn between what I see are the three major choices to bring me to entertain happiness; namely the Vudu, Apple TV and Tivo with Amazon Unbox.


With TiVo HD I can record standard def or HD broadcast content, buy or rent movies though the partnership with Amazon Unbox, stream content from another PC or Mac in the home, or view sideshows from photobucket or Google's Picasa Web Albums. Amazon Unbox on Tivo is not HD though.


With VuduI have instant access to 1080P HD quality content but lose the recording or music features and will have no access to existing content.

However the other options mentioned also do no allow me to move my purchased or other content around my devices ( PC, Mac and iPods ) at will. With Apple TV I get everything the TiVo has to offer except for broadcast recording.

Will Apple upgrade Front Row and iTunes on OS X so that I can bring similar capabilities to a mac mini? Can I have my cake and eat it too if I price out a Core 2 Duo mac mini with an Elgato device? Those are the questions keeping me from making any purchases at this time.