Is Apple working on a DVR or not?

“Ever since Apple got all video on us, we’ve been waiting around for the other proverbial shoe to drop. You don’t need to be a direct descendant of Nostradamus, or a rumor site for that matter, to make an educated guess that Apple may want in on the DVR market. It’s a bit like stating the almost-obvious. And if you have anonymous sources helping you do that, all the better,” Ken “Caesar” Fisher writes for Ars Technica.

“First, the background. Not only does the (video) iPod allow you to watch teeny videos while on the go, but you can also plug your iPod into your TV to watch modest quality output, or you can play videos through iTunes itself. Then there’s Front Row, Apple’s fledgling “10 foot interface” that’s currently only available (sans hacking) on the iMac. A ’10 foot interface’ is, simply put, an on-screen interface that’s useful from 10 feet away (or 20 feet, etc.). That is, it looks good and feels good from the buttocks-on-couch position,” Fisher writes. “As it stands, Front Row is nifty, but it’s nowhere near ready for DVR usage yet. While the DVD playback, photo, video, and music UI is clean and smooth, the heart of any DVR system is missing in action. And let’s be clear: in that round-up of features, adding DVR like functionality is like reinventing the application. It’s not something that can be done with 20% more code. But alas, we’re told, it’s coming in Front Row 2.0, which may debut alongside an Intel-powered Mac Mini DVR as early as January of next year.”

Fisher quotes Think Secret:

Apple’s Mac mini will be reborn as the digital hub centerpiece it was originally conceived to be, Think Secret sources have disclosed. The new Mac mini project, code-named Kaleidoscope, will feature an Intel processor and include both Front Row 2.0 and TiVo-like DVR functionality.

While the specific model and speed of the Intel processor in the new Mac mini is unknown, sources are confident the system will be ready for roll-out at Macworld Expo San Francisco, in line with other reports Think Secret has received that Intel-based Macs will be ready some six months sooner than originally expected.

Fisher writes, “The rumors go on to say that the device will have a built-in iPod dock, a larger hard drive, and it’s being hailed as a ‘TiVo-killer’ (although these days, what isn’t)? Frankly, I don’t see this happening.”

Full article here.

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As far as a DVR (digital video recorder) or PVR (personal video recorder) from Apple goes, the jury’s still out on that one. Some speculate that Apple will simply make any Mac and its hard drive the digital hub and offer an “802.11n Apple Video Express” to get the content to screens throughout the home. Fisher might be right about the rumored “Apple Mac mini as DVR” not happening. Why would Apple undercut the iTunes Music Store’s $1.99 videos with a recorder that could grab content for free? Or would the content even be free for such a device? No one outside of a certain group within Apple really knows what’s coming. However, most will agree that Apple is building towards something to do with video content and complete the digital hub.

Regarding Front Row, it’s not Front Row itself that will absorb a DVR application. Front Row is simply a front end for various applications. Our own SteveJack described the application back on October 28th this way:

The brilliance of Front Row is its simplicity. Front Row is basically an application launcher and interface control replacement for existing Macintosh media applications. Choose “DVD” in Front Row and your Mac uses DVD Player in the background. “Photos” uses iPhoto. “Music” uses iTunes. “Videos” uses iTunes and QuickTime. Front Row is basically a large display control center for your Mac’s media, so you can use a remote from across the room to control your Mac and still be able to see the controls. You step through screens to access and control media very much like you do with Apple’s iPod.

Right now, Front Row’s Music section lets you control iTunes music and playlists, Photos lets you view slideshows from your iPhoto library, complete with transitions and music, Videos lets you watch and control home movies, music videos, movie trailers, and more, and DVD lets you watch and control whatever DVD you pop into your Mac’s DVD drive.

Because Front Row is so simple and relies on existing applications to do the heavy lifting, it’s not hard to imagine how quickly its capacities can grow. If Apple decided to offer a TV Tuner application and/or a personal video recorder (PVR) TiVo-like application, for example, it could easily be integrated into Front Row’s controls. All of those extra buttons that are on Microsoft Media Center remote controls would be software based and controlled on-screen with Apple’s simple 6-button Apple Remote.

So, Apple could do pretty much anything with Front Row, it’s the applications that Front Row controls that Apple would have to create/add to in order to increase Front Row’s abilities. That’s where the work Fisher describes needs to be done or is already being done. Some thing or things are on the way to flesh out Apple’s move into the living room, that much most agree upon. What exactly is coming is anybody’s guess right now.

One more snippet from SteveJack’s October 28th article:

What I’m thinking of right now is a Mac with a large hard drive (and external drives) in one room that contains all of your media. Airport Video Express units would be near every screen upon which you control and play your Mac’s media. Front Row would display on each screen and an Apple Remote would be in each room with a screen. This seems to be the most efficient way to arrive at a true Mac digital hub. It beats an idea such as a more expensive Mac Front Row Tablet that you’d carry around to each room and use as the combo Apple Remote+Front Row display. It certainly beats buying an iMac G5 for each room with a screen in your house. What if Apple could do something like a Newton form factor that would be cheap enough to buy for each room? What if Apple simply made an iPod accessory that allowed you to use the iPod as the Front Row remote? See, there are some more questions already!

Front Row is an important piece in Apple’s future digital hub plans, but it raises many questions. What do you think Apple will or should do to complete the true digital hub?

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Apple’s brilliant, deceptively simple Front Row software has a bright future and raises questions – October 28, 2005


  1. Regardless of when this will happen(and it will) the more interesting question is based around a wireless iPod. Apple has always been in love with simplifying the situaltion. What if the remote was also the “content holder”. A shuffle with some BT in the mix. The remote is the all-in-wonder, and with a little help from Wheels of Zeus, we just may end up never losing that remote/iPod for the rest of our lives. Now if we could just get those damn bugs fixed with 10.5, we may have something.

  2. Add an Eye TV to your Mac and have it save files to your Movies folder and PVR TV is on Front Row.
    Add Eye Home and full media center capability is on your Mac.

    The price of entry-
    A dual G4 or any G5 Mac.
    The problem is not the G4 processor, it”s the bandwidth limitation of the non-G5 Macs. 167 just doesn’t handle real time quality video well.

  3. Why would Apple undercut the iTunes Music Store’s $1.99 videos with a recorder

    Better Apple than someone else. And if Front Row is basically a launcher that only launches Apple apps then someone else will do a proper one too. And if it’s not Open Source then they can have my money with thanks.

    Oh I haven’t seen the laaht. I haven’t blessed iPhoto with my pict’chaas. I haven’t let the Apple DVD Player touch ma’soul even once. And lord almighty if I’ll ever let iTunes “manage” my soul collection. ‘Cause I don’t like simplicity. I don’t like limited options. And I don’t have only 20 movies from only one region, or 2,000 songs or only 5,000 pictures. And it’s because I’ve been an Apple user forever; and forever means you need to multiply those figures by another two-digit figure [MW: “many.”]

    Tell you what though, grandpa is tickled pink by his new iMac, even if it didn’t come in tangerine.

  4. Great logic, Sam. Idiot.

    Apple entered the MP3 player market years after it started. It saw that no one had an integrated solution.

    With its new cachet, Apple can probably open up almost any market it enters (and improves upon).

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