Mac Mini TiVo

A recent article, originally written for Mercury News, claims that Apple has already rolled out what could be their big step into the living room environment. Apple’s newest release of Front Row features built-in Bonjour networking technology, allowing computers to find each other on a network and share media with zero setup.

I’m amazed at how often it comes up, though, that Apple doesn’t offer video recording capabilities out of the box.

The Mac mini doesn’t yet work as a TiVo-like digital video recorder, despite rumors and speculation before Tuesday’s event.

While it’s technically easy to build TV tuners into computers and write software for recording TV shows, the cable and satellite industries have yet to truly open their systems to hardware they don’t own.

I may be entirely off-base here, but I think Apple is looking past recording broadcast TV and ahead to internet-delivered entertainment. You can already have music and TV shows delivered via iTunes and stream them around wirelessly, so why strap down your Mac with coaxial cable, fickle schedules, and — the bane of modern media — advertisements. It seems like a step backwards, and one that Apple would be unlikely to take. Undoubtedly, they’re already working on new ways to get media to your various devices without having to resort to capturing, editing, and encoding. Leave the computationally heavy tasks to the people on the other end of your internet connection while you enjoy downloaded or streamed content with a lightweight client. A Mac Mini, perhaps.

Update: A step in the right direction: Apple is now offering a “Season Pass” for TV shows, allowing you to pay once for a season and get them as they are released.

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Mac Mini TiVo

6 thoughts on “Mac Mini TiVo

  1. It would be great to get all your content out of the iTMS, but at $2 a pop, if you watch more than a couple shows, it’s more expensive than cable. It’s too expensive as it is, no matter how you slice it.

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  2. I agree that Apple will skip the DVR capabilities and go staright to internet delivery.

    It also makes no sense for Apple to convert their low-end, budget machine into a high priced living room appliance. Adding in DVR and HD inputs would raise the price of the mini even further than it has already traveled, effectively eviscerating Apple’s low cost line of computers.

    And installing software to stream ready-made digital content, like Front Row, is cheap, especially since they’re installing it on all new Macs, and can keep the cost of the mini low(er).

    Today I installed Front Row on my original mini via a hack. It’s great. You can read about installing Front Row on an unsupported Mac, and the direction of the mini at http://www.macademic.net

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  3. csipod says:

    Actually, Mac Mini’s have firewire ports, and most modern digital cable boxes have firewire out. So technically you can connect your cable box to your mini and download a DVR/PVR solution.

    For the price I think they’re wonderful.

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  4. Making a mac into a DVR seems the wrong way to go about this. Tivo keeps getting held up as an example, and I really miss Tivo, but they are having a hard time competing against cable companies who bundle DVR service for just a few more dollars a month than normal service.

    And would Apple want to get into this kind of monthly service? Any monthly service charge, or requiring a .mac membership would be a barrier.

    What seems more likely is Apple letting you control a stand alone DVR through Front Row, not much different than how Front Row brings together media stored locally as well as shared iTunes and iPhoto libraries and trailers off the iTunes store today.

    As csipod pointed out many digital cable and DVR boxes have firewire out and I’ve been told with a couple hacks you can get video off of the Comcast DVR to watch on a mac so it doesn’t seem so much further to add this directly into Front Row in the video section.

    Even better would be to setup and program your DVR through Front Row or even watch live TV through the box.

    This could be very appealing to cable companies and Tivo if they see it as a way to bring in more DVR users (since you’d still have to have their box and pay for their service) and Apple would only have to build and support the application, not the service.

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