Since launching in July SlingMedia’s Slingbox has been a raging success. Sony has already copied the idea for its ‘LocationFreeTV’ and Sky’s online paraphernalia isn’t far behind, so trust Apple - on recent behaviour - to come up with something mind numbingly similar.
Previewed by Jobsy himself at the end of yesterday evening’s Apple ‘It’s Showtime!’ event, the great man kept to his theme of unveiling products which feel six months out of date. Codenamed the ‘iTV’ (I’m sure ITV will have something to say about that) it is a video streaming set top box which has more than a passing resemblance to a Mac mini.
Equipped with the clumsy tagline: ‘Enjoy your media on your big screen TV’, the device simply acts as a conduit for passing media content from iTunes – be it via an iPod, Mac or PC – to a TV screen. A kind of Slingbox in reverse. An updated edition of Front Row will create a pretty user interface and a selection of USB2.0, Ethernet, HDMI, Component video and RCA audio ports along with wireless g will provide the connectivity options.
iTV will be compatible with the existing Apple remote though one is likely to be bundled in the box anyway and we won’t see it until Q1 2007 when it will cost a hefty $299.
At this point I have to say it is extremely unusual for Apple to preview any product. In fact it is this practice which creates such hype around the company’s announcements: no one knows what is suddenly going to be on the street tomorrow. So after the pretty lacklustre iPod family refresh, breaking with tradition to push this out does seem to smack of desperation.
Of course this viewpoint is a long way from the usual industry line where it has become commonplace to praise Apple whatever the news. By contrast I find myself looking at Apple this year and seeing a company treading water. Its ‘Fun New Things’ launch in March was also a major let down and ‘It’s Showtime!’ will have done little to set the pulses racing of anyone other than Apple die-hards.
Could this be the moment Apple’s previously unwavering halo finally begins to slip?