Apple’s Front Row software ‘radically simpler form of couch-driven computing’

“About three years ago, Microsoft took a stab at that goal with its Media Center Edition of Windows XP. This ambitious, creative release added a simplified, large-type interface that could be driven from the couch using a remote control, but it went nowhere in the market. It’s done a little better recently, as manufacturers have begun leaving out Media Center’s most glitch-prone feature, the ability to tune into and record TV broadcasts,” Rob Pegoraro writes for The Washington Post.

“Now Apple is making its own attempt. Its Front Row software — standard on the updated iMac G5 desktop it introduced last month– offers a different, radically simpler form of couch-driven computing,” Pegoraro writes. “Where Media Center comes with a long list of features and options, Front Row does only four things: You can play music, you can look at your photos, cue up a DVD or watch video files stored on your hard drive or online. It doesn’t lump in irrelevant commands (for example, Media Center’s bizarre inclusion of photo-editing tools), it has no preferences screen for you to mull over, and its remote control consists of just six buttons.”

“That’s what you’d expect of Apple’s products. Where most of the computer industry trudges on under a banner of ‘more’ — more processor speed, more expansion ports, more stickers on the front of the computer — Apple’s mission statement amounts to ‘less.’ It is one of the few companies in the business that understands editing — how the discipline imposed by having to remove yet another button, menu and toolbar can yield simpler, easier and more useful products,” Pegoraro writes. “The iPod may be the best example of that. In Front Row, Apple has given us an interface obviously modeled after its category-defining, competition-crushing portable media player. With that lineage, the results ought to be a breakthrough hit. But they’re not — at least, not yet.”

Pegoraro writes of Front Row’s current shortcomings, such as leaving out functions that have been standard on iPods for years, not scrolling titles that are too long to fit on the screen, and the fact that, officially, Front Row runs on only one computer, Apple’s iMac G5.

Pegoraro writes, “While Apple works to fix the defects and fill the blanks in this software, it also needs to put Front Row on more of its computers — and in particular the Mac mini. That machine is cheap and small enough to be a second computer, and it includes a digital video output that connects to many high-definition TVs. When you can show off your vacation photos on a 42-inch plasma screen, a program like Front Row will be a much easier sell.”

Full article here.

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MacDailyNews Note: While we agree with Pegoraro about Front Row’s current shortcomings and that Apple will address the issues with future releases, we must mention that you can connect an iMac G5 to another screen. Use Apple’s $19.99 VGA Display Adapter to connect the mini-VGA port on the iMac G5 to any VGA-equipped monitor or external projector for video-mirroring. The VGA cable plugs into the VGA video-out port built into your iMac G5. Or use Apple’s Apple Video Adapter to connect the mini-VGA video output port on your iMac G5 to any S-video or Composite enabled device (TV, VCR, or overhead projector’s S-Video or RCA (composite) cable).

Related articles:
PC Magazine review gives Apple’s new iMac G5 with Front Row 4.5 out of 5 stars – November 04, 2005
Mac enthusiast Web site offers Front Row, Photo Booth to all Mac users – November 01, 2005
Apple’s brilliant, deceptively simple Front Row software has a bright future and raises questions – October 28, 2005
Apple’s Front Row hits torrent sites, video showing application running on Mac mini – October 25, 2005
NY Times’ Pogue: Apple’s iMac G5 with sleek, virus-free, spyware-free OS earns place in living room – October 20, 2005
Analyst: ‘media companies will call Apple to strike deals, Front Row is Media Center done right’ – October 12, 2005
Apple’s new iMac G5, iTunes 6, iPod video designed to bait Hollywood – October 13, 2005
Apple’s Front Row with Apple Remote and iMac G5: media center done right – October 12, 2005
Apple’s Front Row with Apple Remote and iMac G5: media center done right – October 12, 2005
Apple introduces new thinner iMac G5 with built-in iSight video camera, ‘Front Row’ media experience – October 12, 2005


  1. It seems pretty smart for Apple to only offer these features on their best selling, full featured iMac just before the holiday shopping season. I think we’ll see Front Row included in the mini and also the portables (along with built-in iSights in the laptops) announced in January, most likely as part of iLife ’06.
    Many waters are being tested at the moment, and while Apple may have their hands in many cookie jars, it amazes me how easy it is to see many of their current trials converging into an even more insanely featured end product. In the next year, the mini could very well replace many computers, stereos, TiVos, DVRs, DVD players, iPod docks, and Routers. It will easily manage all of those tasks in one simple, elegant, stable, secure, insanely small package that you could fit in a drawer on an entertainment center (if you are foolish enough to hide the beautiful little box in a drawer).
    It looks as though Apple will be able to amaze us fans as well as the media yet again this January! I can’t wait….

  2. I hope Apple has a few barristers left (not dealing with Lugz, et al) to sue the shit out of AOpen for that frankenstein monster of a rip off of the Macintosh Mini.

    I sure hate to see some real design and engineering innovation get ripped and pimped the way Bill “Sour Grapes” Gates did with Winblows and now AOpen is trying to do.

    The Mac Mini concept has legs!

    Rock on SJ
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  3. Say what you will about this guy’s criticisms, but the overall jist of his story is right on target.

    Apple has a tremendous hit on their hands with Front Row, and its only been on the market a couple of weeks. Give it a year to mature, and this baby is going to put Media Center out to pasture.

    I wonder what the halo effect of Front Row will be.

  4. I’ve got Front Row running just fine on my my new G5 Dual (oh yes Front Row does indeed run here). Screw “official”.

    Like Rob said, I would appreciate it if Front Row worked more like an iPod when playing music.

    I would also appreciate it if Front Row would heed ANY of my iPhoto slideshow settings (for music, movement, or transitions). Then again it would also be nice if iPhoto would allow me to shuffle songs on a playlist when making a slideshow.

    I would dare say that biggest bug that I’ve found is that Front Row won’t play any of my movies. Not the ones in my ITunes library, not the ones aliased to my Movies folder, and not the ones in my Movie folder. Not MPGs, not MOVs, not MP4s, not MV4s, nor WMVs (not that I expected it to play those, well I do have the QuickTime WMV plug-in loaded). Movie trailers work fine for me, but fuck trailers, I wanna watch my porn. iCrystal, I’m free tonight, wanna cum over?

    MDN Magic Word: “girls” as in the things that Front Row makes it hard for me to watch

  5. Where most of the computer industry trudges on under a banner of more — more processor speed, more expansion ports, more stickers on the front of the computer — Apple’s mission statement amounts to less.

    Gee … why didn’t I think of that before. Anyone who has used any of microbloat’s software understands that ‘more is less’; that the more shit they pile on Office the less shit people actually use, except when the IT guy or resident expert gets involved. I used to make spreadsheets that were more like apps; now it’s not worth the extra mouseclicks.

    for example, Media Center’s bizarre inclusion of photo-editing tools
    Only microbloat would do that. At least their remote control is smaller than a keyboard. Just. Imagine the restraint that went into limiting its size.

    it also needs to put Front Row on more of its computers — and in particular the Mac mini

    Gee … why didn’t Apple think about that, ay? Thank heavens they thought of making other software for all their machines. Now … had you said they should’ve priced Aperture for the masses then my sarcastic brain cells wouldn’t have fired.

    With that lineage, the results ought to be a breakthrough hit. But they’re not — at least, not yet.
    With the pent up demand for a more stable and secure OS, sales of Vista ought to be a breakthrough hit, ay? But it’s not — at least, not yet. I wonder why….

  6. I’m writing from my 20″ iMac and I gotta say this thing is so sweet. The only complaint I have is that the volume control with Front Row is system speakers, where as I use my Airport Express for my iTunes music.

    I don’t watch TV (or own one) but this is my display for movies from my couch. I love this thing and the screen is friggin’ incredible. Front Row’s capabilities are the start of something good. Stay simple and let people get used to it… then add the functionality and features afterwards.

  7. ATI has a very powerful USB dongle/Remote combination that you can program for several applications.

    I used to use it for controling my 30″ from across the room, but my powered USB hub died and it kind of got lost in my collection of geek toys.

    MDN word: “various” Like Microsoft tries various things and fails at them all. Apple picks up on it, improves it and then Microsoft copies it.

    The cycle has been repeated for years.

  8. George sez: “On a completely different tangent, MDN, get a load of this…”

    George that “news” you reference is a joke, satire, and remember…don´t believe everything you read on the internet.

  9. ace, if you go to your itunes preferences and click on advance and make sure that you don’t have disable itunes volume control for remote speakers check. this will allow you to control the volume using itunes volume control. you’ll find the the volume control for in the apple menu is independent from the volume control in itunes so it can’t control the volume off your remote speakers.

  10. I’m not so sure Apple will make the necessary improvements to Front Row in a timely manner. Look how long we’ve been waiting for a good remove control for AirTunes (one that can display track info, not a bare bones solution like the Keyspan remote).

    And I waited years before the Mac OS DVD player properly de-interlaced movies and video. I was forced to buy a PC for my home theater years ago, and for me that was quite a sacrifice!

  11. george-
    could this be true?
    “When an iPod (or other) user wearing the new audio devices plays an iTunes track not sanctioned by Organized Music (EMI Group, Vivendi Uiversal, Warner Music), Fair Play feedback ‘instructs’ the buds to emit a piercing, high-pitched scream in stereo at 250 decibels.”

  12. Who leaves their computer next to their tv? Yeah about .5% of people.

    When some sort of connectivity to tvs from another room (and remote control from another room) becomes available, this technology is going to rule.

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