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'Net Insider


Apple's unnoticed announcement?


By Scott Bradner, Network World, 10/24/05


Apple CEO Steve Jobs made a pile of product announcements on Oct. 12. The video iPod got most of the press, but it was another announcement that best indicates Apple's future directions.


In the order in which Jobs announced them, Apple introduced: a new iMac, complete with remote control; Front Row, a music, picture and video display application that works with the remote control; Photo Booth, an application for taking pictures of yourself with the camera built into the new iMac; the video iPod; iTunes 6, to support the new iPod; and, finally, a deal with Disney that will let you download and view primetime ABC TV shows shortly after they air for $1.99 each.


Not surprisingly, the video iPod got most of the press. Apple had turned the music business on its ear with the original iPod and the iTunes music store.


Maybe the same thing was going to happen with the video iPod and that would be a big story indeed - maybe or maybe not.


Much of the coverage wondered about Jobs' change of heart as he had long maintained that people were not going to walk around watching video on a screen that small. Other reporters wondered about the video pricing. Many observers thought that $1.99 was too high for an episode of Desperate Housewives (even though you are paying to avoid having to watch the execrable commercials). A few days later the coverage switched to focus on the outrage expressed by the local ABC TV stations, which seem to think that no one will watch their shows when they are broadcast, and the demands from the various groups involved in TV production to get a piece of the $1.99.


I'd rather take Jobs at his word. I expect the market for watching roughly $2 shows on a 2.5-inch screen is rather small. So maybe Apple is up to something else. Maybe the important announcements were about everything except for the video iPod.


I expect that the reason Apple was able to get music publishers to agree to the original iTunes store was that it was "only" for the Mac and thus not much of a threat. It was only later that Apple released the Windows version and took over the market. Maybe Apple is trying to lure the movie and TV companies with the low-threat, 2.5-inch iPod screen while downplaying the iMac's ability to play the same, as well as very much higher quality video on its big screen or to a projector - all managed by an easy-to-use remote controller.


Just maybe Apple is about to make real the long predicted video revolution in which content owners make their product available directly to customers, bypassing the filtering function of the TV networks and cable companies.


If it becomes as normal for people to reach out and grab high-quality video content as it has become to use Google, companies will be able to significantly revamp their training processes by pushing much of the them to people at home rather than maintaining special training centers.


Disclaimer: Harvard does offer in-home training, but Harvard's "special training centers" are quite nice. The above is a personal, not the university's view on Apple's motives.


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