Mac users have long wanted to stream video from Macs to TVs and Apple’s pre-announcement of “iTV” means the dream will come true.
The dream is here with Slingbox. Will Apple’s iTV be this good?
Make no mistake. Apple’s Mac and OS X are better digital hub devices than Windows Media PCs.
With Front Row improving with each version, and a streaming media solution on the way, Apple is on course to own the living room.
Will Apple be able to deliver a streaming media device as good as Slingbox is already?
I’ve been researching and reviewing products that aim to bring all media together in the living room.
The big numbers are with Microsoft’s Windows Media Center, but it’s just too difficult for the average user to, well, use.
TiVo is very cool, has a great Mac-like approach to personal video recording, but remains a costly service, and a niche player.
Apple, rightly so, senses that the living room is still up for grabs. No one has pulled together all the pieces to make it happen.
Make what happen? Streaming media, all of it, and Mac easy.
There’s just not an easy way to move all your media from your home computer to a TV set or home entertainment system.
By “media” I mean the obvious. Music. Movies. DVDs. TV shows. Photos. Photo slide shows. Live camera. Media.
We’ve got access to it but from a number of devices and moving it from one location to another, and controlling it, isn’t easy for the average user.
Apple’s introduction of the diminutive Mac mini opened our eyes to an attractive storage device that could sit comfortably in the living room.
Except the Mac mini didn’t do TV without expensive add ons, couldn’t be controlled easily from other Macs, and was pricey by itself.
, uh, um, Apple’s iTV pre-announcement at the summer WWDC.
Since when did Apple pre-announce anything except an expected new upgrade in Mac OS X? Why the secretive hoopla over iTV?
It was a pre-emptive strike, a well-thought tactical maneuver designed as a shot across the bow of major competition; Microsoft, and Slingbox.
It was also a major league notice to the movie industry that Apple was moving into the living room, so stop your plans with others, do business with Apple.
Wait a minute, Kate. What’s that Slingbox thing again? I thought you’d never ask.
Slingbox is a streaming media device that lets you watch whatever you can watch on your TV, and doesn’t care where you are.
Slingbox grabs your “media” and streams it to you over the internet. TV shows, movies, and… hold on. I’m getting ahead of myself.
Think of Slingbox as a media mixer in your home. Almost anything in your home theatre can be connected to Slingbox. Then, connect Slingbox to the internet.
Using a Windows PC (soon, a Mac) to control slingbox from any broadband internet connection, you can access Slingbox and digital cable TV, DVD players, TiVo, a DVR or PVR or anything else that’ll connect.
Slingbox takes the media and sends it, slings it, to wherever you are—another PC in a different city or state, a laptop PC on the road (just need broadband connections), and so on. Even a cell phone.
Suddenly, Slingbox is
digital media hub. Almost. But not quite.
While Slingbox will sling to you movies and TV shows stored on your TiVo, or DVR/PVR, or sling streaming video of whatever’s on cable TV at the time, and sling it to you wherever you might be, there are some gaps.
Slingbox doesn’t control your Mac, so it won’t sling movies from iTunes, music from iTunes, photos or slideshows from iPhoto—you get the idea.
There’s a major gap between what you’ve already bought for your Mac or PC—music and movies from the iTunes Store—and Slingbox.
That’s where Apple’s iTV is going—when it gets here early next year. Streaming media. Not just some media, not just across an internet connection to Macs and PCs anywhere and anytime.
Streaming media that also includes music, movies, TV shows, music videos, your personal home videos, photos, slideshows, and live camera with full motion video and audio.
That, in a nutshell is where Apple’s iTV needs to go, because Slingbox is moving that way very fast.
There’s two major issues I have with what I’ve seen of Slingbox so far.
The first is the number of devices in the Slingbox collection. There’s Slingbox Pro, Slingbox AV, Slingbox Tuner, SlingLink, HD Connect, and SlingPlayer.
That’s already worse than iPod shuffle, iPod nano, and iPod.
The second issue is that none of those Slingbox goodies gets into Apple’s digital hub of iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, et al. Yet.
Are the products the same? Not yet. While aimed at the same living room market, they function differently, though features of each will converge.
iTV absolutely must become a streaming multi-media mixer for Mac and Windows. While the experience of iTV may be better on a Mac, Windows provides the critical mass of users to make the product viable, as it did the iPod.
Slingbox is very cool, but smacks of complexity, and there are gaps in the ability to manage media, one of Apple’s strong points.
A Slingbox that also controls media from your Mac and your Windows PC via iTunes is a force to be reckoned with.
That’s why Apple’s iTV will do, sooner or later, what Slingbox does, but do it with Apple’s iPod elegance—both Mac and PC.
Click Here for details on Slingbox products, and pricing.
What do you think? Is this the direction Apple is about to take to own a piece of the living room?