For quite some time now, I’ve held out hope for an Apple-branded Home Theater PC (HTPC). I’m certainly not alone, with many others also contributing to the dialog. A popular feature of the mythical Mac mini HTPC is Apple’s “TiVo-killer” DVR application. Surely Apple’s excellence in making complicated technology simple would allow them to make an app that could crush the popular DVR service.
While Apple probably could create such a piece of software — which would be quite an accomplishment given how well TiVo has done theirs — I think the biggest barrier that’d keep an Apple DVR program from coming to market is Apple itself. Given the recent addition of TV shows to the iTunes Music Store, it makes better business sense to promote and drive sale of that content. It’s more profitable for Apple to sell four or five episodes per month (plus backlog!) of a user’s favorite shows than it is to brand their own DVR service and try to compete with TiVo (as well as the numerous cable companies that now have DVR offerings).
Perhaps Apple could create a superior solution, but the DVR market isn’t the MP3 player business. It’s hardly the type of nascent environment that allowed the iPod to flourish. The products that are in place are mature and established. It’d take a very compelling offering and a decent amount of time for Apple to break into the business. However, downloading television shows (legally) is the “bleeding edge” of content delivery. So, Apple can either position itself as “the next TiVo” or it can have others line up to be “the next iTunes Store.”
Keeping Jobs’s taste for the limelight and Apple’s ambitions to be pioneers of the industry in mind, I think they’re going to lean toward the latter. At least they don’t have it as bad as Sony. Besides, now I get to relive all of those old Beavis and Butt-Head episodes, courtesy of the iTunes Store. And if you’re still jonesing for DVR capabilities on your Mac, don’t forget about Elgato.