Apple, Tivo, and the iConcert

You’ve all heard the rumor by now: Steve Jobs is finally in the market for a Tivo. Not the device but the entire company. Or at least that’s what some industry analysts want us to believe.

Whether or not a deal happens is another story. I’ve gone on record in the past about how badly Apple needs a set-top box strategy, but never did I actually see any evidence of such progress. All we’ve heard from Cupertino on the television front is how uneven the playing field is in the world of cable and satellite television. How cable companies have too much power. How satellite companies are building their own boxes. How Apple is a computer company, not a TV company. And so on, and so on, and so on. And to make matters worse, our man, The Steve, just flat out hates television, calling it “the most corrosive piece of technology that I’ve ever seen”. He doesn’t watch much of it and he brought his kids up to do the same.

But then you have to ask yourself the question “Does Steve Jobs not like television as a medium, or does he simply not like the way it is presented to him?” I suspect it may be the latter. By that I mean, he doesn’t like crap programming, he doesn’t like commercial breaks every 15 minutes, and he doesn’t like the dayparted nature of the traditional television schedule.

So what is the killer app that could change the way Steve views television and get Apple right into the living room game?

How about music.

I’ve been in the business long enough to think that someone has undoubtedly thought of this already, but what if Apple’s set-top box angle is through the music industry? What if your set-top box remote had a button on it which took you to a listing of live concerts which had either occurred in the past or were about to occur? U2 is playing in Dublin on Friday night. You want to watch it on Saturday. Hit record, pay $10, wait for it to come down over your connection, and then come back on Saturday to watch it. Like the show? Burn it to CD or DVD and it’s yours. Say hello to the iConcert.

Hey wait. $10 is exactly how much people pay for regular CDs online these days.

So by creating another $10 CD to sell where none existed before, you’d be increasing record sales by leaps and bounds. Do you think Columbia Records would rather sell one original U2 CD every couple of years or 30 original U2 CDs? It would also help record companies transform themselves from mere distributors of a physical medium to promoters, developers, and managers of the bands themselves.

Perhaps even more important than the benefits to the record companies are the benefits to the user. Now a $10 downloaded CD is for the first time tangibly better than a pre-pressed CD you’d buy in the store. Why? Because you get the video with it! And you get something not available in stores in the first place.

Delivering the goods

Obviously this is a lot of bits we’re talking about. A two-hour concert at standard definition with high fidelity sound is going to come in between 500 and 700 megs. At 700 megs, you can’t quite get DVD quality but you can certainly get “digital cable” quality which is what people are accustomed to right now. Apple would have three options to get you this asset:

  1. Via an IP-based download coming straight from Apple’s servers, hosted most likely by Akamai (whom Apple owns a significant stake in)
  2. Via an Apple-moderated peer-to-peer network which sent you the DRM’d bits from 10 to 20 different computers at the same time
  3. Via a group of channels hosted by DirecTV, Dish, or a cable company

Apple could choose one delivery method, but they could just as easily choose all three. #1 would be used for what you’d call the “Long Tail” concerts — concerts which are in low demand, perhaps because they are fringe bands or occurred very long ago. #2 would be used for hot concerts which occurred in the recent past or are otherwise popular and buzzworthy — this is the type of asset that thrives in a P2P environment. And finally, #3 would be used for live or nearly live events which are expected to be quite popular — by sending this sort of asset down over a channel instead of IP, lag time and bandwidth costs are all but eliminated.

Obstacles to the model

There are clearly some things Apple would be up against in order to make this, or any set-top box strategy work.

Firstly, you’re going to still have music piracy to deal with. This is true with or without a set-top box strategy though so it’s hardly a new issue the industry is dealing with. Certain groups of people will always pirate music. The best you can do is tell them it’s wrong, offer a reasonably priced and easy legal alternative, and sell as much as you can to the law-abiding world.

Secondly, you face the strong possibility of cable and/or satellite companies becoming hostile and either forbidding your device from their networks or otherwise making life hard on you. The recently introduced government-mandated cable card and existing anti-trust laws lessen this threat tremendously, but it’s still there and Steve Jobs is wary of it.

Thirdly, high definition. You can make the argument that anybody building standard definition components for TV systems these days is wasting their time. More and more households are moving to high-def, and if the cable company’s box or the satellite company’s box is the only way to get your high-def, you’re going to opt for that over the Apple device 9 out of 10 times… especially as high-def begins to enter its own in the next few years. Apple could feasibly build an HD device, but at that point, we aren’t talking about low-end chips anymore and the price probably increases by 50%.

And finally, there is the overhead of getting a concert video relay system ready for prime time. You can’t just take one video camera, throw it in front of the stage and hit record. All concerts which were to be sold over a system like this would need full soundboard audio, at least 2 or 3 camera angles, and some editing and production. In some cases, this is already going on at the show, but in other cases, it would need to be added. But then again, who knows… I’d pay to download a one-camera, bare bones concert of Wilco at The Gorge if it were available. If the setting is intimate enough, fairly raw footage can sometimes suffice.

Is it possible?

So am I crazy here or does this sound like it could actually work? When people think about what Tivo could bring to the Apple arsenal, they tend to think in terms of time-shifted television and on-demand movies — and they’re right to examine those angles — but by leveraging their dominance in the music space, Apple could create a whole new revenue model for the music industry and sneak into your living room at the same time.

I know there are other factors that I’m leaving out here which significantly complicate the situation, but is this something that you yourself would use? Would you buy the unit, considering all it does, for the price of a Mac Mini? Would you buy a few live DVD/CDs per year from your favorite bands for about $10 each? What other concerns do you have with such an offering and could you see them being resolved?

37 comments on “Apple, Tivo, and the iConcert”. Leave your own?
  1. CraigM says:

    I like concerts, but I like going to them, not watching them on TV. Sure it’s nice to have a DVD reminder of a gig, but you’d have a hard time convincing me that pay per view concerts are a huge revenue stream, certainly compared to TV sports events or more general advert/subscription TV. I guess most of us would like to see an Apple/Tivo tie up, but iConcert seems a bit of a blind alley to me – sorry. Good to hear you thinking about the content though, it’s too easy to get carried away with idealising about the technology.

    PS – HiDef TV is also largely a US only (and some of Asia?) phenomenon – the rest of us can only dream of upgrading from PAL/SECAM in the near term!

  2. Chris says:

    HDTV is coming to the UK. (So I hear.)

  3. Ste Grainer says:

    I have to agree with CraigM – I wouldn’t pay extra to watch a concert on television or burn it to a DVD. I’d pay to go see 10 concerts live before I’d pay to download/burn one concert for TV viewing. Now I could see this as being useful for some people in addition to the time-shifted television and on-demand movies, but not as the main selling point in itself. I just don’t think it has enough mainstream pull for it, sorry.

    With the whole digital hub idea, what I envision (if Apple enters this particular market) is a “place” where Joe Somebody can create a home video and share it with the world on Apple’s television network so that anyone around the world could potentially watch it if they own the Apple TiVo. A DIY television network if you will, supplanting the network-supported dribble with genuine content created by the masses for the masses. This would give the independent writers and filmmakers a much greater audience with which to test their ideas.

    Of course, I’m an idealist, and I keep hoping that Hollywood and the major networks wouldn’t feel threatened by such an idea, but would instead encourage it as a marketplace for new ideas to blossom that can then (if an idea proves successful) be inculcated into the more mainstream media. (Like if a series on AppleTV were wildly successful in its subscription rate, then one of the networks makes a bid to the creator for the rights to display the show on their network – DIY syndication. :)

  4. Tony says:

    The only problem I see with this is that I think you are underestimating the extent to which the major record labels desire to maintain a competitive advantage over small and independent labels in the area of distribution. With your model, anyone could stage a concert and widely distribute it without the support of a major label. I can’t see the record labels getting behind a system like this. They don’t want more ways to get you their content, they want more ways to control what content you get, IMO.

  5. J Cornelius says:

    The music angle is good, but as CraigM pointed out concerts are much better live. I own well over 1000 CD’s and have almost half of them imported into iTunes, but only 3 music DVDs. Compare those 3 music DVDs to the 100s of concerts I’ve seen and the issue becomes more apparent. Of course I’m just one guy and by no means the benchmark for consumers worldwide. But there may be another angle. More on that in a bit.

    Since I, like ‘The Steve’, despise TV as a whole I’ll offer my reasons why. (I must say that I have digital cable from Time Warner and the HiDef DVR that they provide. This costs about $80 a month.)

    – too many commercials… especially on the major networks
    – not enough good content
    – scheduling is a nightmare
    – too many useless channels offered
    – not enough capacity in the DVR to truly use it as desired

    So why do I pay when I can’t stand the content? Mainly because there are a few channels that my kids like (Noggin, Discovery Kids, etc.) and I like HBO, and some sporting events you can’t get on the major networks.

    This brings me to my point. I would gladly pay the same $80 a month to have unfettered, on demand access to the TV content I use now; without the need for the other channels, the DVR, and the rest of the bloat that comes with it.

    Since most TV content is syndicated anyway, why couldn’t a company (like Apple) create an on-demand service that allows the consumer to pay (read: subscribe) for content on a per show basis? This whay I can buy access to those kids shows on Noggin, and the Formula 1 racing, HBO shows, and a select few others by the title not the episode.

    This way I can pay a nominal fee (maybe $3/month) for on-demand access to each show. Or perhaps a higher fee for an entire channel (like I pay for HBO now).

    Licensing the syndicated show is not difficult, look at all the channels showing the same stuff. It’s more a matter of demand than supply. Would people other than me but into this method? And this raises another important issue. If people are willing to pay for TV on a per-show (not per-episode) basis, this would cause the best or most popular shows to rise to the top and all the crappy ones to fade away Hooray!!

    Apple could easily license syndicated shows and provide content this way using any of the distribution methods mentioned above, and all via a much sexier set-top box than anyone else could deliver. Then th emajor issue is more about the newest shows not yet in syndication (i.e. major network programming), but Cupertino scored deals with the major music labels to distrubute the hottest new tunes. So why would the networks snub thier noses at another revenue stream from the same content, that could run in parallel with the air and cable broadcasts going out to the people that don’t have the Apple box?

    Just a thought… and thanks Mike for spurring the thought and providing a platform to reply.

  6. Carlos Porto says:

    I think your tapping a great Idea and I have to disagree with the others. I would pay $10 for a concert. A perfect example would be a concert at a large stadium, which I hope we can all agree, is not very intimate. And considering the price of live venues now-a-days, this is a bargain. Also, depending on how much of a fan you are, it would be nice to have a copy of a great concert from a band you love.

    As for the equipment if its similar to the mac mini in price and features, then its a reasonable purchase considering it would be more then a tivo.

  7. dan klyn says:

    It’s on the radio in Cupertino today…. Apple *is* buying TiVo. Confirmed!

  8. Jeff Croft says:


    I think I’m with the others that have said that watching concerts on Tv just isn’t that great. I also buy tons of music, but almost no music DVDs.

    I think the pay-per-view concert idea would be a nice addition to a set top box for Apple, but I don’t think it’s a concept to base an entire product on. It’s just too niche, I think.

    I’d like to see Apple buy TiVo, build a new set-top box using its DVR tech (after all, it’s Linux-based, should be easily portable to OS X), Apple-ify the user interface skin (the UI itself doesn’t need much work — they could just give it a visual overhaul to make it Apple-y), and then re-write the TiVo Home Media software into a Mac OS X (and Windows?) service that would serve up iTunes, iPhoto, etc.

    In order words, I want what the TiVo Home Media setup already gives me — but I want Apple to take it over and do it right. As it stands, the Mac version is lagging behind the Windows version and it won’t play AAC files out-of-the-box.

    I really think the server/client model is the way Apple should go with this. It’s different from the WMC way, but I think every bit as good. Let me store my music, movies, and photos on my Mac (or PC?) in my office, and let me stream them to my TV via the MacTopTiVo.

  9. Mike D. says:

    Ok, let me clarify a couple of things really quickly:

    1. The concert functionality is obviously in addition to the normal Tivo-like functionality you’d expect from a device like this. The time-shifting of TV, commercial-skipping, etc is still what you’d use the device for 90% of the time. I just didn’t dedicate any of this entry to that because there’s not a whole lot to say that hasn’t already been said before. An Apple-polished Tivo guide interface, integration with OS X, etc… that’s all part of the plan too. The music angle would just be the eye-opening kicker. It would be the “exclusive content” for owners of this box… just as some of the live music in the iTMS is exclusive to iTMS users. Once the system is up, you could probably offer the same shows to PC people via a web client, but it would still all run through Apple.
    2. Buying a concert this way is not meant as a substitution for going to the show. You can still go to concerts and you still will. But for that U2 show in Dublin, even if you’re a U2 fan, what are the chances you’re flying across the pond to see that? Some people have mentioned that they don’t watch a lot of concert DVDs. I don’t either, but officially released concert DVDs actually sell pretty well… and besides, to me the main asset my $10 buys me is the CD burned from this concert. I would listen to that quite a bit. When I go to a record store and head to, say, the “Soul Coughing” section, the first thing I look for is if any “live” CDs are for sale. If they are, I always buy them before (or in addition to) any studio albums. This sort of system just puts more live CDs at your disposal. I know there are also people who currently trade live shows for free, but most artists do not grant users these rights. Wilco does, Phish does, The Dead does, and many others do, but for most bands, trading concerts is an unendorsed activity.
  10. Erik Ankrom says:

    I tend to agree with Jeff.

    I think the idea for a set-top box is a great idea for apple. Remember the rumors of the Mac Mini being Apple’s set-top box?

    This is a perfect avenue for iTunes, and iPhoto. There are also rumors of Apple entering the online movie niche offering a store much like iTunes is for music. Apple already has a wonderful platform for graphics, graphic design, movie editing, digital video, etc. Why not take advantages of the synergies of both companies, and enter into the rising popularity of the PVR market? It makes a lot of sense to me!

    TiVo Home Media has already begun to do this, but has not come up with a totally effective way of integrating their service with the average computer user. Granted, the average computer user has a Windows PC sitting on their desktop at home, but Apple managed to find a workaround for this with iTunes.

    I think the companies are a great match, it’s a heck of a deal for apple at the current price.

  11. dave says:

    I wouldn’t pay to see a concert video; I don’t watch them for free either. I also don’t, for the most part, buy “live” albums. JCornelius has a great idea with ordering TV shows by title. I think that would help me cut down on my television watching in general. However, once all the shows I watch are gone, how will I replace them if I can not channel surf? But I think cable will dominate with it’s on-demand services. Beside, the cable industry has a sort of profit sharing plan that allows The Golf Channel, The Fashion Channel, and The Extraneous Channel to exist. If there is anything that big business in good at, it’s self-perpetuation.

    Apple will not come into an industry, especially one so established, regulated and competitive, without an angle. They would not make an iCar unless it could fly. They would not make iAspirin unless it could end headaches and make you really good at math.

    My guess is that Apple will give Tivo an iPod-type overhaul. Simple and powerful. The main box (maybe a specially branded Mac Mini) will be hooked up to the main cable or satellite box in the house. It will have all the browse/record functions. Phase 2 will involve sending out the recorded programs through the AirPort. Each television in the house will need a small receiver that will get the wireless signal and display an interface, and will have a remote control.

    The other thing I see happening is a simple shift of paranoid bedfellows: from the RIAA to the MPAA. Apple could stream movies to a set-top box. Either they could have an iTunes-like store to buy movies or they could have a NetFlix/Napster style subscription service. Much like Netflix, the user could have a queue, which would keep 3 movies at a time on your box. Watch one, and then tell the box to get the next on your list, which will download overnight.

  12. Mike D. says:

    Dave: Yeah, ordering shows a la carte is a long ways off because of the leverage of cable and satellite companies. They like the all-you-can-eat plan because it allows them to carry a ton of channels and makes for easier billing as well. What’s nice about Tivo functionality though is that you almost don’t even need that sort of offering to still enjoy the benefits of it. If the searching and recording mechanism is easy enough, you just “order” which shows you want recorded and eventually they show up on your box.

    So am I the only one who loves live albums here? Perhaps I overestimated how popular live music is. To me, a top-quality live album is worth a lot more than a studio album. Maybe it’s just the bands I listen to… I don’t know. The sort of offering I’m talking about would not serve to replace actually “going to a concert”. It would replace “NOT going to a concert” (which is what people do most of the time).

  13. Tony says:

    So am I the only one who loves live albums here? Perhaps I overestimated how popular live music is. To me, a top-quality live album is worth a lot more than a studio album. Maybe it’s just the bands I listen to… I don’t know. The sort of offering I’m talking about would not serve to replace actually “going to a concert”. It would replace “NOT going to a concert” (which is what people do most of the time).

    I’m with you. I love live music. But, then again, I majored in music (at first and then arts management) in college, so maybe i’m not a good guage of demand for live music. That’s one of the reasons I like Sirius so much, because they can fit extended live cuts into their format. In fact, Sirius 17 Jam_On plays predominantly live cuts, though they mostly play jam bands (as the name implies).

    It would be interesting to know how much success DirecTV has with their pay-per-view concerts (which are usually label-produced featurettes put out on DVD), along with their “Freeview” weekends, when they play them for free.

    If you want to know what I was talking about with the kinds of hurdles a service like this would have to overcome with record labels and other large corporations, consider the following excerpt from Kimbrew McLeod’s new book Freedom of Expression®: Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity:

    Clear Channel Communications, which controls more than one hundred live venues and over thirteen hundred radio stations in the United States, bought what is considered in the music industry to be an important patent. It covers selling recordings of concerts immediately after a performance, something that has recently become popular with fans who want to take home live CDs. Other companies had been providing this service, but Clear Channel intends to enforce its patent to squeeze licensing fees from other small businesses and bands and to eliminate competition in this area of commerce. “It’s one more step toward massive control and consolidation of Clear Channel’s corporate agenda,” says Mike Luba, the manager of the jam band String Cheese Incident, which was prevented by the corporate Goliath from using CD-burning equipment. Pixies manager Ken Goes grumbled, “I’m not fond of doing business with my arm twisted behind my back.”

  14. Ryan Kime says:

    I’m with you Mike, it might be the niche that makes people look at it. I think it is not a main item, but a good compliment that you could fuse into the iTunes store.

    Way back when people said the same thing, “I like actually going to the general store and seeing the product, not ordering it from that Sears Roebuck catalog”. Along those lines, some of us don’t live in big markets where there’s a headline group coming through every week. Most of the time we get passed over and I have to drive at least 2-4 hours to get to a show. Let’s see…$120 for two tickets, $25 in gas, $35 food, and (as an option) $120 for a hotel room. Gee….$10 for a disc or $200-$300 for a three hour concert?

  15. Jeff Croft says:

    I usually prefer studio albums. There are only a handful of bands that actually sound good live. Usually live albums just depress me because the kill the fantasy that the band is really as good as i thought they were.

  16. J Cornelius says:

    Live music is great because it’s live. The atmosphere is lost on TV or DVD. You always enjoy it more in person so it’s worth the extra cost.
    I would gladly pay $100 for a great show in person over paying $10 to watch it on TV. No matter how nice your home theater system is it will never compare to a concert audio rig.

    After my earlier post I sparked a conversation in my office about this. The consensus is that paying for on-demand programming is preferred over the current Tivo model because you don’t have to worry about storage, commercials, or missing shows.

    Let’s say a colleague walks into your office and excitedly says “Did you see Amazing Race last night ?!” No. You don’t Tivo amazing race. Under the on-demand system you could go home an pay for that episode ($3) or subscribe to the series for $10.

    That beats the pants off having to remember to record something. Also, Tivo boxes usually only have 1 or 2 tuners. This means that you can only record one or two things at the same time. With all the ‘best shows’ in primetime you can easily bump into conflicts that make you choose between content you actually want to see.

    There are other issues with the Tivo system too… Try to start watching a scheduled recorded program 15 after it actually starts live. You will get to the end and the box will stop recording and make you grab the remote to start playback from the beginning, fast forward to the part where it stopped and resume viewing. Argh!

    Now these are just a few things I’ve found, and I only watch about 5 hours of TV a week. What can a hardcore TV fan find?

    Apple should buy Tivo and make iShows or iTV (and iConcert for those that would use it). Can they compete with the big TV networks and conglomerates? Maybe… they seem to do okay against Microsoft.

  17. Mike D. says:

    Tony: That’s great information. Not great as in “awesome”… it’s actually quite shitty and disturbing. But great as in, “very pertinent to the subject at hand”. I’ve always wondered why more live shows aren’t broadcast or sold right after the occur, and now I guess I know why. ClearChannel… ugh!

    J Cornelius: While actually downloading shows you want on-demand is an enticing prospect, there’s actually way to almost do this today without requiring any changes to the TV programming ecosystem. It’s generally referred to as “capturing the dial”. It turns out that with about 10 tuners, you can effectively Tivo just about everything that’s ever on TV if you exclude channels that you’d never watch and things that are repeats. So if you are constantly capturing pretty much the entire month’s worth of shows and your buddy says “Hey, did you see ____ show last night?” you’ll already have it waiting on your hard drive. Yes, the on-demand route is cleaner, but this route has less resistance in the meantime. Another option would be peer-to-peer Tivoing, which is part of what I brought up in the entry. If something occurred on TV last night which was really hot, a lot of people would have it already Tivoed… hence, a lot of peers for other Tivos to pull it from! Given a fast enough pipe, it wouldn’t take forever to download such a show using peer-to-peer.

  18. J Cornelius says:


    You are right, with 10 tuners I could capture everything I knew that I wanted. But this doesn’t solve getting previously aired episodes of a show I didn’t know about until someone told me.

    The p2p idea solves that, but I’m not ‘in tune’ (pardon the pun) enough to know of a system like that in existance. Besides, doesn’t that introduce other issues similar to what the current IP based p2p networks like LimeWire and Kazaa have to contend with?

    I’d love to see Apple make a play at bigger media, I think they are one of a few select companies that could pull it off in a way that isn’t evil. We’ll see… maybe.

  19. J Cornelius says:

    Besides, who has 10 tuners? Wouldn’t I have to buy 5 Tivo boxes to do that? Plus I would still have a storage capacity issue.

  20. Mike D. says:

    J: You can’t current buy a Tivo with 10 tuners in it, but the SnapStream community has outlined how to build one for about $1600. $1600 is too much, sure, but that will come down. I think the most tuners available in a Tivo right now is 4 (The HD DirecTivo), but there’s no reason we can’t see that increase along with storage capacities in the next year or two.

    With regards to P2P, what you’d have to do is set up a “moderated” P2P network where everyone could swap files but each file would still require an authentication to begin playing. So your box could spend an hour grabbing a movie from 20 other boxes, but then when you hit “play”, your box pings the central service, makes sure your subscription is up to date, and then decides whether or not to play.

  21. J Cornelius says:


    I think your points further illustrate why it would be great for Apple or a company with similar vision and ability to create truly great products to enter this market with a product that address these issues.

    A $1600 box is unreasonable, and any p2p network seems unweildy to moderate. It’s not so much the licensing aspect that makes it so, a good DRM system like iTunes can manage that; but the ability of people to insert malicious content into the network.

    Thanks for bringing up the topic and providing a forum for its debate. Your site is always a good read.


  22. Marc Broad says:

    An interesting angle, and one with merits – however i see 2 glaring holes.

    1. How many bands do you know that play gigs big enough to warrant covering with camera’s and Sound Desk recording?
    Probably a few. But the saturation will be reached VERY quickly. There are only so many times you can serve up incubus or u2 live before people start to lose interest.

    The key to the iTunes model is that it brings a much wider range of music to your fingertips with very little effort. Songs can be downloaded before the album is even available in your country. You have choice and lots of it.

    Now to those of us who use mp3 players (i dont use an iPod myself for a wide variety of reasons – mainly because i dont believe a simplified interface is worth shortchanging the very reason i buy a music player, sound and battery life) are used to an eclectic and wide variety of music – a lot of which we would not have purchased as a cd whether it be free singles for download online, or obscurity.

    How much chance of seeing these little known bands live?
    Slim to none.
    Chances are the fringe bands i love so much will be neglected and only major bands gain the coverage.
    Yawn. Im not subscribing to the “Anything you want. .. as long as it’s this, this or that.

    2. Actually, there is no second point – i just figured that it was such a glaring hole that it was worth repeating twice.

  23. Chris says:

    I love the idea of live shows on TV but often find myself frustrated by the poor camera angles and constant switching of images. The worst case ever was probably Jimi Hendrix live at the Isle Of Wight festival. At one point, the camera simply zooms in on his face for ages – you can’t see him playing! How annoying, when it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to record this guy at his peak.

    The same could be said for the BBC’s coverage of Glastonbury 2004, where Orbital’s last-ever outdoor gig was spoilt by obscuring as much as possible of the stage. I just remember a mess of yellow flashing lights and out-of-focus musicians. In other words, you couldn’t see what was going on. How I longed for a simple camera pointing straight at the stage, showing everything. That might have matched some of the experience the audience had.

    I hate shows where they use multiple cameras, but insist on constantly flicking between them. Take Gwen Stefani at The Brits. Come to think of it I’ve always hated this technique in videos as well. No wonder Brian Eno chose to make a film of the sky where the camera never moves at all, and there are no edits.

    Ideally I would like all live DVDs to offer multiple camera angles, so you can choose when to change view yourself. (Want to see what the drummer’s doing? (So often ignored by cameramen!) Just flick to that angle.) Likewise I would love a live broadcast to offer this, but I suspect it would be impractical due to the extra bandwidth needed for each duplicate channel. Say you had 5 angles to choose from. That would mean 5 times the size of the file. But at any one point, you’d only be watching one fifth of those!

    So in terms of a Mac/TiVo hybrid, even if it just offered a single feed that was pre-edited to show multiple angles, it would still be great. But I don’t realistically see companies being happy about viewers being able to burn the shows. This would a) kill off all live CDs, and b) mean swapping shows with your mates who didn’t own the same kit. Unless…. Apple added code that meant you could only view the DVD on the kit that burned it. But would customers complain? (Anyway, it would soon be hacked.)

    Great idea though. I think the mockup based on the Mac Mini shown at the top here is probably not far off. Keep up the great posts Mike!

  24. Marco says:

    Hmmm I also don’t believe in this live concert idea to be honest. What I do believe in is a logical extension to what we have now in the form of the iTunes store: iMovies! Download movies for a fair price directly to your set-top box. I’d go for this if it existed, definitely. Right now I rent DVD’s cheap at a rent-by-mail service but directly downloading it on to the Apple set top box would be even better!

    I’m hoping for an iMovies store!

  25. Zelnox says:

    Going the TiVo way is good I think. Wasn’t there an article at Wired abou t people using the Internet as a giant TiVo with BitTorrent?

    And streaming from the Mac to TV would be nice too.

  26. Noel B says:

    I think there is another aspect of an apple set-top device we might be missing. Some interesting rumors are floating around about the next version of the XBox:

    Essentailly, people are speculating that the next version of the XBox will have a hard drive slot you can pop a device in and out of. The only reason I can see to have an easily removeable device in there is if it necessary to carry that device with you. Why would you carry a hard drive with you? Maybe if it played mp3s…

    The XBox was widely rumored to be a mere experiment by Microsoft to erode Sony’s dominance of the living room. If they can set up the Xbox as the hub of your living room, one which you can use as both your game machine, dvd player, and, possibly, as a stereo for your mp3 player (you could use your remote and tv screen for song selection and visuals), you have a pretty good living room killer app.

    It’s possible that Apple sees some sort of convergence happening with set top boxes, and may want a piece of that action before they get squeezed out of the market.

  27. Tommy says:

    What no one has really talked about is a central media hub. I’ve been on a computer of some sort since the early 80s and a Mac since 1987. During that time I have always dreamed of having all my media on one machine. Right now a large percentage (mainly music) is on my iBook. The rest is on my TiVo or underneath it in the form of DVDs. The two need to merge.

    Apple is never going to overtake Windows in a business enviroment. Just won’t happen, there is too much of an install base. But Apple has a chance in the living room. As I say on my blog about a month ago:

    “Maybe Apple should buy TiVo? It seems like a technology marriage made in heaven. Apple and TiVo have brand loyal customers. Both firms are on the cutting edge of hardware and software design. And each embrace the user experience above everything else. But maybe more importantly TiVo’s patents could help Apple’s stated/unstated desire to own the consumer digital media hub.

    The global consumer market is nothing to scoff at. In fact, only 6 million US homes have a DVR today, but it is estimated that 58 million will have them by 2010.

    I can envision the day where a souped up version of the mini-mac is my digital media hub. I buy songs, movies, and TV shows from the iTunes/iMovie/iTV store. I edit and play with them through the iLife software suite. I upload these programs to my iPod, which is also a cell phone and PDA. And through my Airport network all this is managed and synced with my G5. I think a combination of Apple/TiVo can own the digital media hub and get it to my living room a lot faster.”

    Just two other comments. Yes I love live music and live ablums Mike. Just dropped more then a little coin to purchase my 2005 Bonnaroo tickets (they almost doubled in price from last year). I am a firm believer in the business model of the Dead (althought I don’t think they knew it at the time) of giving away live music. Dave does it now. Not a huge fan of his music or his concerts, but his concerts is where he makes his money. And he lets any “Joe” record live performances to grow that audience.

    Finally, if what Noel says about the Xbox is correct, Apple better get moving. Personally I am not a gamer. But I know a lot of people who are. Generally speaking they are educated and make a few bucks from 9-5. More importantly they can’t envision a living room w/o a gaming system (they perfer Playstation BTW). I had not thought of a firm taking over the living room via a game machine, but it makes total sense in hindsight.

  28. Tommy says:

    I guess I have too much free time …

    There is only one event I TiVo no matter what. It is the free preview concert I get through DirecTv. Sometimes it is a band I know sometimes it is not. DirecTv wants me to pay $24.95 to watch two dudes in a steel cage. Sorry, not interested. But I would pay $24.95 to see U2 play a live show. I see a lot of people here not buying into the music angle.

    Live music alone would not make a combo of Apple and TiVo a success. However, Apple needs to leverage what they have. And the iTunes store is a success. How many of us would have thought that it would be such a success after Napster and with file shareing? They have a business model to build upon. A business model that should be able to be taken to movies and other digital content.

    If I am an Apple executive pitching this idea to Timewarner or Fox, I simply say “look, our business model worked for iTunes, do you really want to bet against us again?”

  29. Chris says:

    “Essentailly, people are speculating that the next version of the XBox will have a hard drive slot you can pop a device in and out of. The only reason I can see to have an easily removeable device in there is if it necessary to carry that device with you. Why would you carry a hard drive with you? Maybe if it played mp3s…”

    I doubt that – Steve Ballmer hates iPods. Maybe it would be a device to swap your stored game settings with other players’ machines?

  30. Marc Broad says:

    Maybe it would be a device to swap your stored game settings with other players’ machines?

    What, you mean like memory cards do now? I am pretty sure they would have more up their sleeves than simply swapping game settings.

  31. Tony says:

    I believe, though I could be wrong, that the removable hard drive is a price point issue. By making it external and easily added after-market, they are able to offer a base model at a lower price in addition to the loaded top-of-the-line model.

    By the way, the current xBox already can act as a media center extender, letting you interact with your media center PC from any room with an xBox. Engadget had a review not too long ago, if you want to look it up.

    MS also seems to be staying out of the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD debate for now, opting to ship the xBox2 with a standard DVD player. I wonder if that means we will see a revision in a year or two once the market decides which format it likes better?

  32. Ed Campbell says:

    I haven’t read very far into this discussion; so, please forgive redundancy.

    Sky will be 100% HD some time in 2006 — MPEG4 just like FirecTV, Stateside.

    And what will move HD, as most entertainment technology, will be sports. Something Sky does exceedingly well.

  33. Wayne Bienek says:

    Good points. Also consider Apple’s other good products, like their rocking 30 inch cinema display The thing rocks. Almost everything Apple touches is turning into gold. Even their semi-lame stuff isn’t that bad (ie – macmini)

  34. kotis says:

    It seems the time is right for this now….

    a Intel Duo, MacMini with a built in iPod connector, WiFi, IR control… Tivo ports onto the platform, and then Apple freshen the interface to be more Mac clean… the interface becomes the TV monitor for music… brillant. Who wants to listen to the stereo on $59 speakers… isn’t that why we all bought $700 stereo’s??

    It introduces the Mac to the living room, allows people to use the device as a DVD player, a music, photo, storage device.. plus all the PVR capabilities. One additional value… use it as the second storage location for Time Machine.

    The size of the box can be wider… must be to fit the tuners. Needs to be to sit with the other boxes by the TV.

    The other primary purpose is to act as the home gateway…. to serve video door bell, security and intercom, distribution point for video and audio in the house and provide a slingbox like function. It is always on, always connected, and people don’t download apps to used on the TV to hose it up… other than games?? so the thing will be realitively stable.

  35. Laura Pyne says:

    These comments raise critically important pieces of insight as to directions that the industry can or will take. The one point that I find to be critically important, and has already been addressed is: Is there any way to secure and protect material in today’s world where piracy could be impossible? Why not?

    If we are wandering around the moon, and we technology has progressed this far, I find it hard to believe that this is a challenge that we cannot address.

    I think this is an endeavor worthy in more ways than one. There is a a major monetary gain to figure out this answer.

  36. Apple, Tivo & the digital media revolution

    A recent article on Mike Davidson’s blog got me re-thinking about the rumors that Apple was going to buy Tivo…

  37. Forecasting the Portable Media Center

    I was headed out yesterday for a family Easter dinner and unfortunately had to leave right as the Michigan State/Kentucky game was headed to the second overtime. What to do?…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe by Email

... or use RSS