updated 10:50 am EDT, Wed September 1, 2010
Apple using iPod event as test for NC data center
Apple's decision to stream its event live is actually a cover for a test of eventual iTunes streaming, a rumor asserted today. The first-ever Apple stream in eight years is reported by Apple contacts to be a practice run for the North Carolina data center to see how well it copes with a heavy traffic load streaming to iOS devices. Cult of Mac speculates that the Maiden-based facility might be used for 99-cent iTunes TV rentals that would be unveiled at today's event.
The use of the streaming for practice would explain Apple's decision to limit the stream to some of its own hardware. Although the stream is using an HTML5-based HTTP Live Streaming feature that Apple says is based on open standards, it isn't using a completely universal approach that would allow other web browsers and devices to work. Some of the reasons may be technical, as it partly depends on frameworks found only in QuickTime X and iOS 3/4 that haven't been ported to Windows or elsewhere but which could be useful for massive-scale streaming. Unlike pure HTML5, it can more easily adapt the bitrate to sustain playback on slower connections.
A fully cloud-based iTunes may not happen until next year, by which point the data center will be complete. The test could regardless signal Apple's intent to head off competition from not just video streaming incumbents like Amazon, Hulu and Netflix but also from Google's upcoming music service, which could give Android users an advantage through a built-in, on-demand way to access songs without a separate app.
Video services are most likely to be needed in the short term for an iOS-based Apple TV that some believe may show at today's event. In the long term, it could reduce the need for large amounts of flash memory on iPads, iPhones and iPods.