Could YouTube be the killer-app for Apple's iTV?

Could YouTube be the killer-app for Apple's iTV?

Summary: The combination of iTunes and DRM-free MP3s provided the 'killer app' for the iPod. YouTube could do the same for Apple's soon-to-be released set-top box.


With Macworld Expo just over a week away, many expect Apple CEO Steve Jobs to announce further details (and the availability) of the company's yet to be released set-top-box, codenamed iTV. Powered by something similar to Apple's Front Row media center software, the iTV is designed to get the media content that's housed on a Mac (music, movies, and photos), streamed to the living room television. However, with its built-in wireless networking (suspected to be the faster 802.11n), why not bypass the Mac and have the iTV connect directly to the internet? Like the next generation consoles (Microsoft's XBox 360 and Nintendo's Wii) the Apple's iTV is looking like the latest attempt at solving the 'last 100 feet' problem of how to deliver content from the internet into the living room.

In fact when Apple released the Mac Mini, along with Front Row, many customers (including myself) bought the device to connect to a television and use as a basic internet-enabled media center. And whilst Front Row's simple UI, zero-config networking, and integration with iTunes, makes it a joy to use - the software is seriously lacking when it comes to pulling in content directly from the internet. Anybody who has used Front Row to watch movie trailers streamed directly from Apple's website, will have wondered why they can't access other internet-based content in a similar way. For starters, think Flickr for photos, and of course YouTube for video. In fact why not embrace all that the internet can offer, and open up Front Row (or whatever software ends up driving the iTV) to third party developers. If this were to happen, I'd bet it would only take a matter of months before we'd see plug-ins released which pull down content from the most popular web services.

Now you could argue that Apple would never allow this to happen, as it wants to keep tight control over the iTVs functionality - limiting its connectivity to the iTunes store, in order to sell as many television shows and movies as possible. However, Apple makes peanuts out of selling content, compared to the profits made on its hardware. Only a fraction of the songs on an iPod originate from the iTunes store. So why would Steve Jobs adopt a different strategy for the iTV? The combination of iTunes and DRM-free MP3s provided the 'killer app' for the iPod, and YouTube could well do the same for Apple's soon-to-be released set-top box.

Topic: Apple

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  • Resolution?

    How good will tiny low res YouTube movies look when blown up on your television screen?
    tic swayback
    • I agree, it's an issue but not a deal breaker

      I think people choose content over resolution, and the iTV could have the option not
      to blow the videos up full screen. Besides, YouTube could start offering two or more
      versions of a video (similar to Google Video), and with a 3rd party API, the iTV would
      soon connect to an array of video sites - giving YouTube a bit more competition.
      Steve O'Hear
      • youtube

        I watch youtube content through my Wii using its Opera based browser and it works out well. Granted I don't have an HDTV. But It is nice to sit back on the couch and enjoy the videos.

        I think a plug in system could go a long ways.
      • Hard to do

        ---YouTube could start offering two or more
        versions of a video (similar to Google Video)---

        Given that YouTube's content is user generated, I'm not sure how they'd manage to increase the resolution any higher than what people send them.
        tic swayback
        • Still his was a good idea

          I am not sure what is your point?
          • I think he was saying

            that what you see is only as good as the person/camera recording it.

            If someone sends in a digitized clip taken from an old "super 8" roll of film, no matter how large Youtube makes it, it still looks like a crappy clip from an old super 8mm roll of film.

            (only crappier as you can now see more grain)
            John Zern
          • RE

            yes, that's for sure, but the point of the blog entry is to point out that not including internet access does not seem as a very good decision. Including support for sites like youtube would have been nice, no matter how crappy, since the user will have more options overall
          • Sure

            But what I'm saying (as John says well above) is that taking crappy quality tiny videos and moving them from the computer to the tv screen isn't what I'd call a "killer app", and that no matter what you do, if you start with crappy, you're going to end up with crappy--you can't add information to an image.

            But you're right, internet access certainly would be nice on a device like this, although it brings in other issues like keyboards and mice, rather than remote controls.
            tic swayback
          • right

            I am not as concerned with Youtube specifically, but with the choice of having that
            feature. There may be other sites that can make available more high quality videos. I
            think that youtube was just an example, not take it so literally.
        • Easy

          usually when you upload to youtube the reduce the resolution and convert it to flash! if they didn't do that everything would be fine :D
  • I think you forget something :-)

    Hmmm, Interesting. But consider that Google just bought Youtube.
    Goggle and Apple are friendly and Google has a member on Apples board of Directors.

    Apple and Google, Access and content. Hmmmmm. ???
    Elder Norm
  • Available Video

    I think Steve has hit on an important part of the next generation of on-line video.

    Devices that enable direct "on-TV" display of the MASSIVE amount of video that is
    soon to be released is going to be a huge growth opportunity. Combined with
    Apple's misnamed iTunes Music Store (iVideo Video Store?), this could be a killer
    delivery method that completely circumnavigates the existing cable and satellite

    iVideo & iTV could affect the traditional cable and sat content delivery business
    model, in much the same way that iTunes and the iPod have effected the
    traditional music distribution model.

    Perhaps it will be Apple's iTV and YouTube, but Steve's concept is spot on.