Monday, January 02, 2006

Apple Should Not Make a DVR

I think that the DVR concept is a kludge. It does not make sense for people to record a show in their home when the recording is already available at the source. It is like saving a web page in your browser as a screenshot instead of directly downloading and saving the content. The DVR concept was great and the only available (digital) solution, but I think its time is up.

Video-on-demand is the right solution. And if it is combined with RSS (like podcasts are), then subscribing to a "videocast" would be equivalent to TiVo's very nice "season-pass" feature: you automatically get all episodes of a show every time one is available.

Comcast already provides video-on-demand, and other cable providers probably do as well. I have read that the phone companies want to get into this business as well. But obviously I would prefer an Apple solution. The Mac mini is very quite and very small, making it an ideal candidate for an Apple set-top box. It would be great if the Mac mini gets a built-in iPod dock. There are rumors around both of these. Hopefully the video providers allow their video to be synced to the iPod.

I hope Apple supports a subscription model as well as a buy-and-own model. Some shows/movies I like to watch only once and some I like to keep. And last but not the least, I hope that the subscription model is not more expensive than Comcast (which already is more expensive than Dish or DirecTV in my area).

UPDATE (2:00 PM, Jan 3, 2006):

From the first 4 comments below, it appears that I was not clear.

I am not talking about Apple just providing a device that you can connect to the current sources (cable/satellite TV providers). I am talking about an end-to-end Apple solution wherein Apple provides the device and the content, like their current end-to-end music solution.

Then Apple becomes the "source" and those who dump their current cable/satellite provider and switch to Apple would not require a DVR. That is why I wrote that I am hoping Apple would price this no more than Comcast.

And if this happens, then "switch"ing to Apple will have to be clarified: are you switching computing platforms or are you switching your cable/satellite TV service :-).

UPDATE (12:07 PM, Jan 5, 2006):

I am obviously assuming that Apple has access to the same content that the cable/satellite TV providers currently have. Else no one is going to switch away from their current provider. As for how Apple will deliver the content, I am assuming it will be over the internet (and/or over a WiMax network in the future).


  1. I believe that Apple *should* make a DVR. Why? Well, theere are those of us who still use VCR tapes(!!!) to time-shift our programs. And there's still a fair market out there who don't have access to "the source" such as Comcast's On Demand service. I've not been impressed with Comcast's service from the little I've seen (slooooooow menus, etc.) but DBS isn't the cure-all either. But Comcast is not going to have me move off of DBS anytime soon. And paying for a Tivo that does one thing (hard disk recorder) plus subscription fee has me still using VHS tapes for now for the little recording I do. I'm sure if I recorded more I'd have a Tivo by now.

    Plus, let's say you've got a few TVs. Imagine being able to record a program on the downstairs Mac Mini DVR and stream it wirelessly to the others or even your desktop/laptop Macs for downloading to your video iPod. Apple sells yet more iPods and Mac Minis and us consumers get to have video like AirPort Express does music.

    Another plus would be to introduce a Mac connected to the TV for those who don't have a Mac yet. Unlike Tivo, it will (should!) be a full-featured beast running OS X. Throw in a wireless keyboard/mouse and there's another Internet terminal in a home that's easy to use. Besides, if someone has an iPod as their first Apple device, they should have fallen completely in love with it (add smiley here) and would consider a Mac DVR as an alternative to Tivo, especially if the pricing is right.

    I know that should Apple introduce a DVR using Front Row or whatever with a remote, I'll be at the Apple store to get one ASAP, and I've already got three Macs I use on a regular basis.

  2. Anonymous12:30 AM

    The only problem with an Apple DVR is that it will HAVE TO HAVE A DRM. A small company like El Gato or otrhers can get away with not having to kowtow to the Hollywood/networks but Apple cannot. So as much as we want an Apple DVR, the problem is if they offer a solution, it will come with DRM.

  3. Different consumers want different solutions. I like the DVR because it offers more flexibility. You could conceivably have a one time VOD price (with or without commercials), a multiview price (also with or without commercials), a purchase price with options to transfer (to another computer or iPod) or burn to disk.

    This seems to me to be the opportunity Apple has in this space. Make a computer based unit that offers the consumer ALL the choices.

  4. One more note. Subscriptions could also be offered for any of the above mentioned options

  5. Thanks for the comments. I have added an update to my original post.

  6. Deepak,

    If Apple follows the iTunes audio model for video, they would not require a switch to a new computing model as they currently support iTunes on Windows. They may offer a device, we'll call it a super iPod, that would work with either Mac or Windows as a storage and player for video either by outright purchase of the program or via VOD. This would follow more closely the current iTunes/iPod model and open the system to 99% of the computing world.

  7. sdatexas:

    The computing platform switch I was referring to is the current "switch" campaign of switching your OS from Windows to a Mac.

    The new "switch" would be switching your cable/satellite TV provider to Apple's solution (which I think will be delivered over the internet).

    These two "switches" are independent of each other. Hence the need to have to clarify which switch it is you are making :-).

    I agree with you that Apple could deliver a solution that still worked with Windows (like their current video offerings in the iTunes Music Store). But I am hoping they (also) make the Mac mini a set-top box so that we can get a better living-room experience.