Apple Takes the Open Approach With Their New Products

Like every other Mac fan today, I was eagerly awaiting the new announcement from Apple. And I was, at first, let down. I, like many of my Mac peers was expecting a wider screen iPod video, possibly a “media cubeâ€? machine, and maybe if I was really luck†¦a Mac Tablet. Steve Jobs wasn’t quite the Santa Claus we were hoping for today.

But, when I really started to look at what was introduced, I’m excited for a different reason. Let’s take a look at what was announced.

First, the initially least exciting item, the iPod Hi-Fi. This product is not unexciting because I think it won’t be great, I know that it will produce wonderful sound. It’s unexciting because, for the most part, it already exsisted. Other companies have been filling the space in the estimated $100 million dollar industry Apple created. There are plenty of other “boom box� type devices already on the market. But, it’s good to see Apple take a bigger step into the market itself. They created the market, and they sure should be able to profit from it.

The other big announcement was the Intel based MacMini. This was about 75% of the product Mac fans were hoping to see. We wanted a media center for Mac. We want something that acts as a Tivo, DVD player, and media storage for movies and music. We got some of that. The new MacMini has some great features. The first is that the unit now has an audio (both digital and analog) out that allows you to jack the unit into your home stereo. The unit has a DVI out that will let you plug into higher end televisions with a DVI input, but more importantly you can now get a dongle that will convert DVI to other video inputs on a television. The inclusion of Front Row and a nice, simple remote finish off the offering.

What we end up with here is a very introductory version of a home entertainment media center. In practical use, you can plug the Mini into your television and stereo. Then you can play DVD’s through the system (you can dump that outdated DVD player), you can also play iTunes not only from the songs stored on the Mini, but also on another other Mac’s on the network. So, if you keep your music on your laptop, you can actually scroll through that catalog with you remote on your television and play that music. This in itself is a bit exciting, but really just expected. You can also browser through photos now on your television, and if you’re into making movies on your computer, you can views those as well.

But really the most interesting thing I found about Apple’s release today is how open it is for the future. The Mini does not have a Tivo, but†¦with the sales of television episodes doing so well through iTunes, you have to start thinking that we are going to see an upgrade that allows us to watch these (probably in Hi-def) on our televisions through the Mini. And then how far behind will movies be? In terms of Apple taking more control over downloadable media sales, this was a very strategic chess move on Job’s part. Who wants to bet that the first movies for download on iTMS is a Disney or Pixar film?

There is also a new sense of adventure with Apple on this. Check out the links to “mod� and enthusiasit sites that show new uses for the MacMini. This makes it clear that the MacMini is meant to be an open device that Apple hopes to see people run with new ideas. I have seen some great examples of MacMini’s in home theatre, and even cars.

I had a theory a while back that with the Intel move, OS X may come out as an OS option on PC’s. I didn’t think that Apple would make this an official release, as the support required for so many different machine specs would be a nightmare. I had more thought that Apple would just benefit from people doing this on their Dell’s. But then I thought that would be too risky for Apple to encourage. They like keeping in control of their technology. But, with this new, adventurous move on encouraging people to alter the Mini, I wonder†¦.

The new MacMini will have some issues right away. First, in order for them to make this a complete device, they need a Tivo type option. A few months back, Apple hired the former CEO of El Gato†¦guess what they do. They made a Tivo type software for Macs. But, I strongly feel that Apple should just acquire Tivo. It’s such a strong brand, and the ease of getting machines in living rooms with that brand would make the acquisition make a lot of sense. Second, Blue-Ray comes out next month. I don’t think anyone is going to rush out and buy a new DVD player until they see how things transpire in the format wars (which Blue-Ray will win). But, a simple upgrade will take care of that.

In the end, I remain a solid Mac fan. I will of course purchase my iPod Hi-Fi, possibly 2. And I will eagerly await the next big thing from Apple. Please, please make it a tablet!

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