September 14, 2006

Showtime: Steve Jobs Is Magic Again With "iTV"

On Tuesday, September 12th, while the rest of the Mac world was sitting with jaws agape, anticipating Steve Jobs' every breath, hand gesture, slideshow and demo, I was working. Though I was vaguely aware that Apple was very likely in the process of introducing new iPods and iTunes, with Disney-branded movie downloads, I was forced to resort to the highly unsatisfactory method of getting the news through the Blackberry browser, where in text, I tried to absorb the real-time feed from MacRumors, and visualize in my head every shiny gadget and GUI.

Not until this evening, when I finally had the time to sit down and watch the Showtime event's keynote stream from the Apple Web site, did I get to see Jobs do what he does best - unveil incremental updates as if they were must-haves, and try to find new ways for me to distribute my money to Cupertino. But, as with nearly every one of Jobs' keynotes, I again came away impressed, not entirely so with the products, but with Jobs' capabilities.

While most marketeers, CEOs and PR lackeys tend to want to crowd every product feature and bullet into a never-ending slide deck, Jobs managed to introduce new products every five minutes (no exaggeration) for the first half hour of the event - moving crisply and quickly, but not skimping on substance. 5 minutes into the presentation we had a new iPod. 10 minutes in, a new iPod Nano, and 15 minutes in, a new iPod Shuffle, featuring a built-in belt clip. Next up was iTunes 7, and here we were seeing a new GUI, including CoverFlow, and the addition of "one more thing" - movie downloads.

For Jobs, though he peppers his speeches with words like "beautiful", "amazing", "great" and "outstanding", he isn't the one doing the selling. Instead, he lets the products sell themselves in such away that you find yourself thinking of what you need to do to make room for this new product in your stable or your workflow. And, in a step unusual for Apple, they took a big risk by announcing a new box (code named iTV) to interface between your computer and your television, which aimed to bring the media (movies, TV shows and music mostly) to your home theater. By showing a slim white box with all the necessary ports, and a slick GUI, he has the Web buzzing about adding yet another device to the already crowded living room, most of which feature televisions, stereos, a DVD player, a DVR, and a cable box at the very least.

iTV is supposed to marry your digital computer media to your TV. But with TiVo grabbing the shows I already want to watch (for free) and my gaining access to DVDs cheaply with NetFlix, and the Airport Express already shuttling my music to my stereo, I can think of a lot of reasons where I don't need iTV - yet. Over the next few months, as its release date draws nearer, I may go out of my way to try and find good reasons to pick one up. But I would need to have a significant change in how I manage my entertainment and my budget. With full-length feature films nearing 1 GB in data to download, even at the fastest of connections, it will be an enormous network hog and capacity hog. On my 80 GB laptop, I've got about 16 GB available, and I'm not about to spend $100+ to download the Disney library and fill it up. But, as Steve knows, some people will, and in months, we may very well be looking at another hit on Apple's hands - whether I'm along for the ride or not.

Related Links:

BBC: Apple video move divides industry

Wired: New UI Showdown: Apple vs. TiVo,71774-0.html

AppleInsider: Apple's living room strategy a multi-year venture

Listening to ''Take Me Away (Into the Night)'', by 4 Strings (Play Count: 29)