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Steve Jobs: struggling to redefine the TV paradigm

The devil is in the detail for Apple TV

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iSuppli calls it a home-bound iPod video with no display and an HDMI output, pointing out that it does not function as a DVR, set top, or DVD player, and therefore does not replace any of these products.

We would say that it is a home bound video iPod which uses the TV as a display and functions as an internet appliance which directly competes with DVRs, DVDs and set tops. The ambition of Apple will be to start here and gradually reveal new appliances, with new amounts of storage, new capabilities to suit every home and budget.

Content that lives on massive hard drives, served through the Airport Extreme wireless router, huge archives of video on PCs, Macs, and the Apple TV, all available from one single interface, which will include YouTube shortly, and one day all the major broadcast TV channels (why wouldn't Apple allow live TV shows through its system from CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC), would create a system which has the potential to effectively get rid of the need for ALL of those devices – the DVR, the cable set top, and the DVD player. Never underestimate the extent of Jobs' ambition, successful or not, and thwarted by the studios or not, that's his plan.

Another minor move that came out this week was that when Apple introduced a new version of its Front Row software, the one on its new Leopard version of the Mac operating system, the interface that lets a Mac behave like a TV, it is now identical to the Apple TV interface.

And it's clear that a lot of thought has gone into making the entire suite of Macs work towards replacing IPTV services, and making Pay TV unnecessary with multiple ways of engaging with Apple.

Last week's deal that announced that Apple will shortly allow YouTube content onto the Apple TV, was signed just in time for YouTube to introduce its copyright filtering technology so that Apple suffers no embarassment there.

By the end of the summer it will be pretty clear what was in the mind of Steve Jobs all those months ago when the collision with the studios made him rethink his vision for an Apple digital video future, but already it is starting to take shape, and the image is both ominous for operators and rival TV technologies and threatens to be more far reaching than outsiders ever imagined.

Copyright © 2007, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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