Mac OS X as Media Controller

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Date: Monday, January 27th, 2003, 09:00
Category: Archive

I saved Christmas, sort of. Sitting in a room full of folks stranded by a winter storm in Connecticut, I was the only one able to negotiate the five remote controls in the media center in the absence of the equipment’s master. Fast forward to New Year’s in northern Vermont, and once again I had the dubious distinction of being only person able to work the TV, VCR satellite combination at the cross country ski center. What is wrong with this picture? At home I’ve programmed a couple of universal remotes to handle a hodgepodge of various audio and video components. These setups typically take up a lot of room and boggle the mind of most mortals. Solve this particular problem and there is a huge potential customer base.

A Macintosh computer running OS X with iTunes, iPhoto, DVD player, iMovie, iDVD and EyeTV would make a fantastic media controller. A super drive could handle CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, DVD movies, Video CDs – you name it. Put all your MP3’s on the HD. The interface up on the 42″ Plasma display would simply be OS X. EyeTV could take the place of Tivo and no need for a VCR. If Apple could support digital surround, they could turn a G4 laptop into a controller by eliminating the screen, keyboard, trackpad, battery and charging circuitry. Add in a wireless keyboard, mouse or remote and you have the dreaded “set top box”, but marketed as a true hub for your digital life. Browse the Internet with the whole family using Safari. Price it just under US$1,000. Showcase it all across the US at Apple retail stores.

This could also be accomplished by removing the arm and screen from an iMac and replacing them with an IR window, significantly reducing the cost and risk for Apple. Not as elegant as a sleek anodized aluminum controller with slot loading drive, but still pretty cool!

Plug your camera or camcorder into the box and use iMovie to edit your own movies, while the whole family watches. Bang out DVD’s that grandma can watch on her new home DVD player. Have wonderful slide show presentations with iPhoto. Not to mention all the OS X applications that would be really cool to see on a big screen. Starry Night for your own home planetarium. Watson as your weather and news center, phone book, TV Guide, Movie guide. QuickTime channels for news and streaming video.

Play games too.

This is really a communal computer and not just a personal one. Fighting for the remote could be raised to a new level. Gateway does market a tower PC with Windows XP as part of a media package with their Plasma TV, but Apple has a distinct advantage with its hub software. Add to that the fact that OS X can run for weeks and weeks without crashing and the box could just wake from sleep as needed. The beauty of such a device is that it could increase the installed base of Mac OS users significantly by coming in through the back door. Bundle Keynote and a new killer version of AppleWorks and it might make that Windows PC sitting in the study look awfully shabby.

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