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Apple to leverage Mac mini to enter movie business?

updated 10:25 pm EST, Sun January 23, 2005

Apple to make movie play?

Robert X. Cringely says that the new in latest column about the marketing hype behind the new Mac and its product evolution: "The Mac Mini is one of Apple's trademark technology repackaging jobs. There ought to be nothing inherently exciting about the little box," noting that there are more powerful, more compact, or more less expsensive machines available: "If Apple hopes to emulate its iPod/iTunes success, what does that mean? It means selling hardware devices and proprietary content to play on those devices. The first such hardware device is probably the Mini. And the proprietary content will be video encoded in AVC H.264, which will be supported first in OS X 10.4, promised for the second quarter of this year. So Apple can't announce that it is in the movie distribution business until 10.4 (code-named Tiger) is available.

by MacNN Staff




  1. DannyMac

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I thoroughly enjoy Robert Cringely's columns. I respect his opinions and suggestions. His latest column over the Mac mini being used in movie distribution is very logical and gets one thinking of Apple's next move. It's worth the read!

  1. jeepandmacfan

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Robert X. Cringely

    Not to get the whole MS vs Apple thing going, but Robert X. Cringely has got to be my favorite tech editorialist. Every so often he'll publish an article about how ugly Microsoft's latest move is, and explain how oppressive their motives usually are. I think it's great when he shines a nice bright light on how MS loves to stiffle all of us (that includes PC users) by leveraging their monopoly weight, bank roll, and endless legal fights to keep everything none MS from coming to fruition.

    But about the subject at hand, I personally think Cringely is mostly correct about his take on the mini being a step toward the iVideo store, which I don't think will take anyone in "the know" by suprise. What I did find surprising is how Cringely proposes how Apple plans to leverage High Definition. Clearly HD is the future, and Apple is already a leader in HD production, but I didn't put together how 10.4 and the new Quicktime with the H.??? codec will start Apple out in a position others will be struggling to get to. They will be able to get a good foothold by being first to market, and all their proverbial ducks seem to be in a row.

  1. AirRon

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I agree

    Imagine if there are a couple hundred thousand of this little boxes out there and Jobs announces a new deal with a couple of studios to download H.264 (+ some kind of DRM) directly to your little computer/TV component? You could put movies right next to music on iTunes. Could it happen?

  1. ronjamin

    Joined: Dec 1969


    iPod Photo's Next Step

    Ive seen MPEG players at MacWorld that rip-down DVD's to play on iPod-esque players. Why not the iPod. Think of picture phones move to video and you can see where we are going. Add a dongle and you can play on your TV. iTunes next step is archiving dozens if not hundreds of movies all encoded with Apples leading technology. Go Stevo!!!

  1. Eug Wanker

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Barking up the wrong tree

    The mini is not very useful for highly compressed HD content appropriate for broadband delivery. The mini is too underpowered for this use. Broadband at this point is too slow for this purpose anyway, so the point is moot.

  1. poulh

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Broadband is not too slow

    Broadband is not too slow. If Apple does this you wouldn't pick a movie and it would start. It would be similar to nextflix where you could have 3 movies at a time. Then, the software would download those in the background and they would pop up when ready. When you are done w/ a movie it begins to download the next one. This wouldn't be instant, but it would be faster than the mail... and that's all it needs to be.

  1. lurkerdude

    Joined: Dec 1969



    If Apple has this kind of capacity, I'd tell them to start encoding iTunes Store music in Apple Lossless and forget this movie downloading business :)

    If Cringely's talking about movie buying/burning instead of rental/subscription (that's how I read it), then I don't see it. You have to look at the less-technical alternatives. DVDs are pretty cheap, and I can order a DVD through Amazon (days), or I can buy one at Best Buy (30 minutes) and watch it immediately.

    There's only one large market that I can see being interested in buying movies and watching them fairly quickly, without ever leaving the house. iPorn: p*** done right! I don't know if Apple's DVD software does multi-angle though...

  1. LordJohnWhorfin

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Ripping DVDs to portables

    "Ive seen MPEG players at MacWorld that rip-down DVD's to play on iPod-esque players. Why not the iPod?"

    Because it's illegal, thanks to the DMCA. These companies are in business mainly because they're operating below the radar screen and/or they don't have any assets in the US that the MPAA could go after. Just like region free/no macrovision DVD players, this is something you will only get from no-name Chinese makers, not American or Japanese companies.

  1. AllenHuffman

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Apple says Mac mini can'

    Well, Apple's H.264 FAQ says it takes a dual G5 to play full quality HD using the H.264 codec. BUT, if they crank the quality way down, perhaps they could do this. Would that still be HD? Is HD just resolution?

    (If MP3/AAC can be thought of as lower quality CD, then Apple's HD format could be a lower quality HD I guess.)

  1. MCCFR

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Or, alternatively…

    You could use H.264 to deliver high-definition, or you could skin the cat another way which is to use H.264's inherent efficiency gains over MPEG-2 to deliver standard definition in half the bandwidth.

    As an illustration, a standard Hollywood MPEG-2 DVD might utilise around 4 mbits of the "theoretical" 8 mbits "budget" of the original DVD-V standard. Now, if you take out the additional soundtracks and whatever, you may get that down to 3 mbits - but we'll stay with 4 as that makes the maths easier.

    The MPEG-4 Forum alludes that H.264 can deliver equivalent quality to MPEG-2 at around half the bitrate, which means that 4 mbits would now be 2 mbits. Detune the quality a little further (or take out the additional soundtracks) and you may be on course for 1.5 mbits.

    Whilst you may not use it in real-time (i.e. streaming), this type of bitrate would allow the average customer to "rent" one movie (in around 100 minutes) and then - whilst viewing the first movie - download another for a double feature or viewing the next evening.

    This would suit the studios, who would shy away from having the HD data fly around the Internet, and the Telcos, who - quite frankly - would have difficulty justifying and indeed delivering domestic 8 mbit+ connections.

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