[opendtv] Re: Nine ways Apple, Inc. just changed the landscape of consumer electronics

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 13 Jan 2007 11:05:09 -0500

At 9:42 AM -0800 1/12/07, Kon Wilms wrote:
We've had this discussion before. You are what people refer to as an OS zealot. That makes you biased. I run windows, osx, linux, and even some other esoterics like plan9 at home. Microsoft had the Media Center concept out and running long before Apple. Let's not kid ourselves here. Apple are late to the game and pennies short. Their media center doesn't even have an OSD for crying out loud. A Moviebeam box has more functionality (and that's saying a lot). I am sure they will gain the same market share that they have right now.

I am not an OS zealot. I am a user interface and usability zealot. Microsoft doesn't have a clue about this stuff - that's why they have been copying companies like Apple for decades.

It is true that the Media Center offers more features today'; but that does not mean that Media Center PCs have been a success. The same could be said for the PC itself, before Apple popularized the graphical user interface developed by Zerox. The same could be said for MP3 players before Apple introduced the iPOD.

You are among a very small segment of PC users who actually have a Media Center attached to a large screen TV. There is a distinct difference between a device intended for connection to your big screen, and a media enabled PC. Both applications are completely valid, and both MS and Apple do a decent job of turning a PC into a media center. But Apple TV IS NOT a PC, despite the fact that it has an Intel chip inside. It is a TV peripheral that brings your media to the big screen.

I would suggest, that Apple is actually still early to this game, and that what Microsoft has been doing was to say the least, premature. There are a number of factors at work here:

1. Cable and DBS STBs still rule the day, with Tivo coming in a distant third, and Media Centers still in the noise level. The multichannel systems have done a "good" job protecting their turf, even in the face of legislation trying to force them to open up their systems. Cable and DBS STBs dominate the installed base of DVRs today

2. The RIAA and MPAA have tied this market segment up in knots. Ever heard of the "Broadcast Flag?" The DRM wars have just started, and consumers are not inclined to invest in products with layers of copy protection and complexity. It remains to be seen whether Apple or Microsoft can overcome this issue.

3. The bandwidth needed to deliver content via broadband is just becoming available. Downloading movies, or any high quality video file that is program length is still cumbersome and time consuming. This picture is changing, however, I do not see that Microsoft has been able to use its early "advantage" in Media PCs to capture a meaningful market share.

I've been at this for nearly two decades, and most of the stuff that we were predicting in the early '90s has yet to materialize. The biggest success has been the PVR, which was a no brainer, once the cost of hard disk storage reached the $1/GB price point.

Display technology is only now beginning to offer the ability to support true convergence applications, and the GUI for the big screen is still in its infancy. Apple has clearly shown that they have the ability to create the software and human interface capabilities needed to turn both tiny and big screens into viable platforms for GUI driven apps. Microsoft has extended the torture of their GUI into new platforms, but the user experience is awful compared to what Apple is offering.

I suspect that the big screen interface may rely on the kind of GUI that Apple just revealed for the iPhone. Time will tell...

As for your slam, I have friends that are completely and utterly computer illiterate. They have no problems with Media Center. I know you always like to drop the 'its windows so it sucks for reliability' bomb, but that just isn't valid anymore. And Vista is a huge improvement over XP in this and other aspects.

I have no problems with Media Center either, for what it is. Clearly it can get the job done, just as early MP3 players could play music. But I have seen nothing from Microsoft that suggests that they are going to drive the user interface of convergence devices in the future.

Apple's biggest mistake is that they preach simplicity and assume that the end user is an idiot. All the changes we have seen with STB design over the last decade have been along the lines that a single EPG or VOD menu is simply not enough. The user wants more choice and more power over the media they watch, record and distribute to other devices.

Apple does not preach simplicity, or assume that the user is an idiot. The demographics of Apple users suggests JUST THE OPPOSITE. What they do is a very good job of using emerging technologies and software to hide unnecessary complexity. Even more important, they have developed a range of core technologies that help everything work together. Many of these technologies are licensed by Microsoft and used on the PC, and many others are cross platform. iTunes and QuickTime run everywhere.

And gaming.. Sony had the stranglehold on that market with the PS/PSOne/PS2. Now they are number two and going down fast. Their show of attitude at press conferences won't save their market share, no matter how much they slam Nintendo and Microsoft. PS3s are already selling below cost on eBay and Craigslist. The 360 is going to own this market and if Microsoft put the same amount of effort into their IPTV service as they have with Xbox Live, Apple has no chance.

There were 26 million game consoles sold last year worldwide. The hit of this season was the Wii.

IMHO, both Sony and Microsoft have evolved their game platforms for the core gaming audience which is NOT growing. Nintendo took a new approach, which is bringing people back into the market. Again, the key is the human interface. Gamers may well use their boxes as media centers, but the path to getting hundreds of millions of TV connected to the Internet is not going to be overpriced game platforms.

Back on topic to the iPhone... how about that Ocean Telecom? :-P

Sorry, I don;t get the connection...


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