RealTime IT News

Will Apple's 'Showtime' Play in Living Rooms?

SAN FRANCISCO -- At a media event here billed as "It's Showtime," Apple revealed more of its strategy to capture the living room with the company's products and services.

In a break from typical practice, Apple  CEO Steve Jobs previewed a product that won't be ready for release till next year.

Code-named "iTV" the simple-looking square device is designed to let consumers play their movie and TV downloads on the living room TV.

It will include 802.11 wireless connectivity, USB, Ethernet, HDMI and component video connections in back, iTV is

The system connects wirelessly to Apple computers or PCs in the house. An Apple standard remote control device can be used to navigate movie downloads and transfers.

Jobs said a typical movie will take about 30 minutes to download fully, but consumers will be able to start watching the movie after the first minute while the download process continues.

"We think iTV is going to be pretty popular," said Jobs. "It's the most stunning graphics we've seen on a television." Apple said it expects iTV to be priced at $299.

Jobs had earlier drawn applause for his announcement that resolution on all its video downloads is being upped from the current 320 x 240, to 640 x 480 pixels .

Noting that Apple is already in people's cars and pockets with the iPod and the den with the Macintosh, Jobs said the iTV "completes the picture" getting Apple in the living room.

"It's a pretty elegant solution and at $299, consumers can buy it and not worry about having to subscribe to another service," Gartner analyst Jon Erensen told internetnews.com.

Erensen is especially impressed with what Apple has done to simplify the process of getting multimedia to different devices throughout the home, or even update an office PC connected to an iPod with the latest content that's been purchased.

"I'm going to be interested to see how easy it is to set up the wireless connection for the living room TV," said Erensen. "Apple always does well in this area, but wireless technology hasn't always proved to be reliable.

But the Apple announcements fell short of some analysts' expectations in a few areas.

First, that iTV won't come out until sometime during the first quarter of 2007 means it will miss the holiday selling season.

Second, only Walt Disney Pictures (and affiliates, Pixar, Miramax and Touchstone) have signed on to Apple's new movie download service.

Disney is huge studio with numerous hits, but with Jobs now on Disney's board, the deal was a given.

Disney bought Job's Pixar Animation Studios earlier this year.

Then again, ABC was the only network to sign on to Apple's iTunes store for TV shows last October and now 40 networks are a part of it.

In a brief appearance onstage, Disney CEO Bob Igur called the partnership a marriage of Apple's great technology and user interface and Disney's great content.

"Apple really gets it in terms of giving consumers a reliable and easy way to access content online," said Igur.

Movies will be available at the iTunes store the same day they are released on DVD, priced at $12.99 if pre-ordered and during the first week of availability, and $14.99 thereafter.

Titles from the Disney library will sell for $9.99.