Tim Cook, Chief Operating Officer at Apple, spoke at a Goldman Sachs Technology Investment Symposium and answered some interesting questions about Apple and their products. One of the more interesting questions was one that I also had:
Q: Why no DVR functionality in the Apple TV?
A: It’s not what it is. Our view is it’s the DVD player of the 21st century, and so, we’re not trying to be a DVR, be a set top box. We’re all about taking the content already on your Mac or PC and watch it on your TV.
First off, of course Tim will defend the current features of the Apple TV – after all, he’s not going to say, “yeah, we should’ve included a DVR…maybe in the next version.” I think they should add DVR functionality to it but I can wait for that.
The “DVD player of the 21st century” is not accurate (yet) because the quality of the iTunes TV shows and movies are worse than the picture quality on a DVD. I’m certain that Apple will eventually offer DVD-quality (i.e., Standard Definition – 720×480) shows/movies because the Apple TV can output a HD signal (720p), supports only component video and HDMI (which implies that the Apple TV is designed to be connected to HDTVs), and Apple knows the future of video is High Definition. My only question is: when will Apple update their iTunes catalog with HD-versions?
If Apple offers HD shows/movies, how will they deliver it? Here’s my guess: iTunes will have two versions of each or most shows/movies – a HD version and the current version (i.e., sub-dvd quality). If I want to buy that episode of ’24’ that I missed last week and want to watch it via my Apple TV, I buy the HD-version (which may be $2.99 or $3.99 vs. $1.99). If I intend to watch it on my video iPod, I buy the $1.99 version. That being said, I’m hoping Apple will give us the $1.99 version for free if we buy the HD version. On the other hand, if Apple wants to minimize the increase in infrastructure (data and network bandwidth) costs to support HD content, they could offer only the HD version and add a feature to iTunes that allows users to convert the HD show to an ‘iPod-friendly’ format. I admit, this is a very unfriendly option since it forces the user to have to re-encode their shows and contradicts the seamless integration between hardware and software that makes Apple so successful.