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.

Yahoo! Music player fails to impress the Street.

Over on The Street, Jim Cramer has this to say about the Yahoo! Music Player made by SanDisk.

The morning paper gives you the best reason why. Check out this one for irony. On the front page of The Wall Street Journal's B section, the headline is simple: "A New Wireless Player Hopes to Challenge iPod."

That's all well and good. Yahoo!'s got a big installed base. SanDisk (SNDK - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr - Rating), its partner, has some clout.

But then turn to the back page. You will see something that tells you about the success, or lack thereof, of this new venture: A heart made up of iPods and two lines -- "100 million iPods sold. Thanks to music lovers everywhere."

It's called "installed base." It tells you all you need to know about where Yahoo! stands, which is nowhere.

I have to say I agree with Cramer. The iPod's success is driven by great design, ease of use and access to an ever growing catalog of music, movies and television shows. This is what Rule #1 Investor, Phil Town, calls a durable competitive advantage or "moat". Just like a castle moat presents challenges to invaders, the iPods installed base protects the iPod. The iPod has become the dominant platform and as such will be as difficult to unseat as Microsoft.

Exciting Day

I got buzzed with the announcements from Apple today. A new iTunes and new iPods and something for the future called iTV. Along with the new iTunes and iPods was Apple announcement of the iTunes Movie store. With current broadband speeds (cable not DSL) one will be able to download a movie in about 30 minutes. We are currently limited to about 75 movies from Disney but I am sure more will follow.
The new iPod shuffle is smaller than before and has all the charm of the original. A 1GB shuffle will sell for about $79. We also get new color metal finish iPod nanos ( reminds me of the iPod mini ) and a capacity boost to 8GB. I guess enough people complained about the scratching on the original nano and Apple listened.

The new video iPods sport a higher resolution screen and more capacity with the debut of the 80GB iPod. The screen resolution (640 x 480) is double the screen resolution of the previous iPod (320x240) and has a longer battery life (3.5 hours).

These announcements would have been enough to leave me excited but Steve had just "one more thing"; iTV. What is it? My understanding is that device will provide a mac mni type machine with Front Row or some other software and the iTunes allowing the user to purchase/download movies for playback with output to a HDMI enabled HD TV and perhaps wireless streaming that content to another mac. Wow!!! I totally see that Netflix and perhaps TiVo might be threatened by this.

With iPods nearly ubiquitious and the popularity of iTunes Apple is poised to do what Microsoft and others have striven to do for a long time.