Apple Teams Up With Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM & United to Deliver iPod Integration

The headline is lifted straight from Apple's site, and tells the story pretty accurately: Apple has made agreements with several airlines to build iPod integration into the seat back entertainment systems on passenger planes.

Due to debut in 2007, this system sounds awesome (for iPod owners, anyway) due to its total integration. You can charge your iPod in your seat's dock, while the seat-back display screen will play your iPod movies! No word on whether the system will support multiple media formats other than what Apple sells on the iTunes store, but presumably for the system to work well enough that people will actually use it they would have to support whatever iPod supports.

And so the iPod "ecosystem" grows and grows. Some have speculated that the days of iPod are waning, but with the integration of iPod into cars, multiple gadget accessories, and now airplanes, perhaps those prognostications are a bit premature.

It's almost as if the iPod is slowly evolving from a product line into a de facto standard for digital media integration at the consumer level. While individual superior mp3 players might come along, their success will be affected by whether or not they can play within this ecosystem.

Maybe I'm too excited about this, but if you're not at least a little interested in this development, then perhaps you haven't been wedged in the middle seat on an 8-hour flight. The entertainment system is sometimes all you've got if you are travelling light. Perhaps you didn't bring or can't get to your laptop; this integration will bring your choice of movies or TV shows to your seat with very little fuss.

Posted on November 14, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Apple Expands the Digital Hub - iPod Games, iTv, Movie Downloads

Today's "Showtime" event from Apple brings many of the speculated products into reality. One less-common rumor, the iPod games rumor, has come true! 5th-gen iPods can play Texas Hold'em, Tetris, Bejeweled,Pac Man and other classics. The games cannot be played in the iTunes client software, but should make iPodding more enjoyable.

The iTunes movie downloads have come into being as well. A quick glance at the iTunes movie store looks promising, with Apple saying they have over 75 movies to start with. Studios include Disney, Pixar, Touchstone and Miramax Films.

iPod Shuffle has been redesigned into a clothespin/clip form factor. Very clever; it will be interesting to see if this takes off, or if the hinge will have breakage problems due to its being a moving part.

Regular iPod now comes in an 80 gig variety, and the Nanos have dramatically expanded battery life (sounds like Apple has addressed at least some of the common complaints with this round of releases).

The iTV (shame the name is so similar to EyeTV... one of my favorite Mac peripherals) has been predicted by many for quite some time. It's a small box, comparable to a Mac Mini, which has a whole slew of video outputs (including HDMI support), Ethernet, WiFi, a USB port, etc. It is controlled by the Apple remote and allows your Mac to become a media server while you view content from your living room. It will retail for $299, according to MacNN.

So finally we have the video equivalent to the Airport Express with Airtunes... but perhaps more media-centric. I wonder if it will have printer capabilities.

With last week bringing us a revamped iMac line entirely based on the Intel Core 2 Duo processors, we now see why they want such aggressive increases in computing power, which IBM could not have (did not want to) provided through the PowerPC platform.

Posted on September 12, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Elgato Releases EyeTV 2.0

Elgato has released version 2.0 of its EyeTV software, which provides PVR functionality to Macintosh computers using compatible USB or Firewire peripheral video tuner devices.

New Features
For a complete feature list, visit their web page. Most compelling among these features are:

  • Integrated backup using Toast 7
  • One-click iPod video export
  • Integrated electronic program guide (no more need to open a web browser... and a worthy replacement for the discontinued Watson sofware which allowd EyeTV scheduling)
  • The EPG stores a week of listings offline for whenever you lose network connectivity
  • Batch export
  • Scheduled iPod sync (extremely cool - launches iTunes and allows iPod sync without user intervention!)
  • New interface using playlists matches iPhoto and iTunes

*Speculation* The tight match between the new EyeTV interface and iLife apps almost makes it seem like the fabled Apple Mac Mini PVR could one day come about by Apple purchasing EyeTV from Elgato, much like they did with iTunes. However, Apple is probably busy negotiating content partnerships for the iTunes video store, which gets them more downloads and more iPod sales. Elgato will no doubt remain independent for a long time if not forever... and with their products leading the pack in the Mac PVR world they are probably quite comfortable doing so.

Besides, the Mac Mini is pretty tightly packed into that case. Having an integrated DVR would necessitate changing the form factor. The iMac, now resembling a TV in its form factor, would be a good candidate for built-in DVR even though its also tight inside. Even so, the EyeTV boxes are attractively designed and are powered from the Firewire or USB cable, keeping clutter down and saving space on your power strip (the third party devices mostly seem to use AC adaptors).

Posted on January 12, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

iTunes Video Downloads: Now include NBC, USA's Monk, and SciFi

Apple's inclusion of ABC/Disner and Pixar content on the Video download section of iTunes was just the beginning, a taste of things to come. Today on the iTunes Music Store you can download to iTunes and your video iPod episodes of Monk, Battlestar Galactica, and many NBC television shows both new and old!  Even Knight Rider and NBC staple Law & Order are now available for purchase.

This development comes on the heels of several video-related rumors, including the possibility that ESPN might want their content on iTunes, the addition of other television networks to the iTunes download area, and speculation that Apple may release a new Mac Mini code-named Kaleidoscope with media center PVR capabilities and integrated iPod dock.

I wonder who initiated the deal with SciFi and USA.  It makes sense that Apple, looking for content producers, would be initiating contact, but you may recall that the producers of Battlestar Galactica were very progressive when they put out director commentary podcasts and even downloads of a few early episodes when media buzz was reaching its peak. The iTunes video store seems the ideal place for online media-savvy production houses to advance new ideas and content that won't make it to TV.

Posted on December 6, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

TiVo to integrate TiVo2Go with iPod and PSP?

According to an AP article that appeared on Forbes Online, TiVo is beta testing a feature that will allow iPod or PSP owners to download TiVo content to their portable device for viewing on the go.

TiVo2Go has not previously supported Mac OSX due to the unavailability of the Windows DRM fair use restrictions mechanism on the Mac platform, so this new service is said to use digital watermarking  that will discourage piracy on all platforms. With every new hard disk iPod sold now supporting video display, this appears to be a smart move by tiVo because it's offering iPod users a new source of video content, no longer constrained by the television companies' willingness to sell through iTunes.

I've previously mentioned the rumor that the EyeTV PVR software will soon have an Export to iPod feature for its video recordings. As new iPods are sold, portable video devices will approach ubiquity and the content providers will need to get on board. Steve Jobs was often quoted in the past as saying that the market doesn't want portable video playback on such small screens, but the introduction of video as a standard feature to the market dominant player device may have changed the market itself. Witness the power of the Reality Distortion Field.

Posted on November 22, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Digital Hub: New iPod, Front Row, EyeTV

It's been a short time since the iPod with video was released, generating considerable buzz in the tech field and even in the mainstream media. It still appears that the matter has not crystalized for everyone- Steve Jobs released an iPod music player, NOT a video player device. The price points remain the same as with the older iPod, yet the storage space has increased and the physical dimensions have shrunk. Oh, and as a nice side feature, it can play video, a small amount of which is available for paid download via the iTunes music store.

This is not a video-centric device like your Tivo, if you have one.  This is Apple remaining strong in the music field, while dipping their toes into the pool of video content. The video market has not really emerged yet, so this seems prudent and the music player iPod is a great leverage point for Apple to begin influencing that market if and when it does take off... which it just might do, as we've seen 1 million videos downloaded in just twenty days.

What is to come?  Well, we have web sites popping up with links to video formatted for playback on the iPod, and most impressively, Elgato will be updating their EyeTV software with an iPod video export function. Imagine recording television to your Mac while you're out enjoying the world, and being able to view it on your iPod on the train ride to work, or on your lunch break.
Simply amazing- the digital hub is slowly but surely being glued together as we look on.

Witness also the  compelling simplicity of the iMac G5 and the FrontRow media center software. Now you can control all media- iPhoto, iTunes, iDVD with a 6-button remote!  While not as mature as Windows Media Center Edition, the simplicity of the interface (Apple's hallmark) and the fact that this is just a "getting the toes wet" release inspire one with optimism for the Mac media hub future.

Posted on October 17, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

ROKR Buzz Unimpressive... Or Is It?

It seems the ROKR phone, which I regarded as a tentative and incomplete but reasonable first step in testing the waters of a music player/phone convergence device, has not impressed the tech media and the bloggers.

Keep in mind that this is not an Apple phone, and was not designed by Apple's industrial design gurus. To see the iPod Nano and try and compare the Nano to the ROKR is comparing apples and bananas- there are similarities but there's more to contrast than there is to compare. Instead, the ROKR is a Motorola phone that runs a mobile version of the iTunes software. The distinction is an important one to make- if you view the ROKR alongside other Motorola phones, you see it fits in with their design style. Whether for good or ill is another discussion; I certainly have mixed feelings about Motorola phones in terms of design but they have a solid functional offering.

The ROKR E1 may be a testing of the waters. Perhaps Apple wanted to start small so as to avoid cannibalizing precious iPod sales. Rather than make the huge investment into building their own iPhone, which would have large R&D costs due to the high level of Mac integration that will be required for such a device to succeed, they partnered with an established phone manufacturer so that the risk is not as great.

If the ROKR concept takes off, great. If the market decides that phones are not good mp3 players, the damage will be kept somewhat at bay. But the biggest risk may be in not producing such a phone at all- there are other players in this space, and if the market takes off, Apple risks being left behind.

Put in that light, the ROKR might be good business strategy as a test balloon.

Posted on September 15, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

iPod Nano

Alongside the Motorola/iTunes ROKR phone announcement came word of another impressive design achievement out of 1 Infinite Loop. The iPod Nano takes advantage of recent drops in flash memory prices and increases in capacity to create an iPod completely based on flash. Yes, we've already seen that with the iPod Shuffle, but the Nano has a full color display and clickwheel, allowing the user to choose exactly what they want to hear.

The Nano is named appropriately for its physical size, but the storage space of 2- and 4- GB is anything but tiny. The pricing starts at $199, making this a nice midlevel (above Shuffle, but below the larger iPods) offering. I wonder what's to become of the hard disk based iPod Minis out there... perhaps they are getting more affordable on eBay this week.


Apple Looking at the detailed specs, the standard iPod weighs in at 5.9 or 6.4 ounces, while the Nano weighs a mere 1.9 ounces. The storage capacity is much less, but the Nano is also capable of photo slideshows on its LCD screen! There is, however, no video-out jack.

Also of interest to those familiar with Apple's ongoing difficulties with battery life is that the iPod Nano cuts charging time down to 3 hours while keeping the playback time to about 14 hours. This seems  a siginificant stride due in no small part to the use of flash memory rather than energy-hungry hard disks.

I'm looking forward to seeing where this product is headed in the future, and I'll be keeping my eye on the ROKR phone as well, posting updates as they become available.

Posted on September 8, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Substantial Non-infringing Use

As I write this, the sounds of Ween reverberate through my apartment, and that's with the emphasis on reverb because the live set to which I'm listening is heavy on the effects! The set was from last year's Bonnaroo, in case you'd like to track it down and grab it (and share it back of course, Ween allows tape trading of their live shows). I suggest, in fact I implore everyone to download and use Furthurnet. This gem of the software world represents a brilliant application of P2P file sharing- Furthurnet is limited to bands that allow tape trading. Trading has a long history popularized by the heavy trading culture of the Grateful Dead and Phish fans, where bands known for especially strong and unique (each and every one) live performances encourage trading of bootleg recordings in order to help spead the music. In fact, this turns out to be a prototype for the modern conception of viral marketing, as the more tapes are spread, the more fans there are to turn out to their live concerts, where musicians tend to make most of their money. Furthurnet represents a great substantial non-infringing use of peer-to-peer technology, and by supporting Furthur you are in essence supporting the technology itself, as it needs such support to withstand the oft-bizarre legal attacks on its foundations. I realize I'm a big proponent of the iTMS for paid downloads of individual copyrighted tracks- Furthurnet is the perfect complement where you can round out your collection, discover excellent new bands, and give back to the trading community.

Posted on May 8, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

VLC Player

Just to follow up on the VideoLAN post- I haven't set up any media networks yet, as I have found no immediate need for such a thing. But to watch large-ish video files in formats that Quicktime Player won't handle, VLC is a great choice.  Very smooth playback and good quality sound, with a pretty slick interface.  The only thing is that even when paused, my iBook will not go into sleep mode, while pausing MPlayer will allow sleep.  I've found that in the case of my iBook, which is a few years old and running at 500 Mhz, the VLC player performs better overall than MPlayer, which sometimes gives jittery playback.  I recommend both players because your mileage may vary!

Posted on December 13, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack