TheONbutton Durham Computer Services

Remote IT Support and Computer & Technology Help in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh NC

What might the Apple Mac Mini HDMI rumors mean for the HTPC market?

There was an interesting rumor surfing the interwebs last week that Apple might add HDMI to the Mac Mini.  Apple, which has so far spurned HDMI in its computers in favor of the newer Display Port and Mini Display Port connectors, has not had an HTPC contender in its line-up apart from the non-live-TV-capable Apple TV.  So what?  Well if the Mac Mini HDMI rumors are true, I think this could mean more for Apple and the living room HTPC market than may initially be apparent, and the reason comes back to the iPad.

Apple offers several options for viewing video content. Firstly there is Front Row on their computers which is for non-live-TV media.  Then there is iTunes on the iPod Touch and iPhone which has limited pay-per-view non-live TV and movie content alongside its huge music catalog.  Finally Apple TV offers similar iTunes content, again providing a pay-per-view model for limited non-live content.  This is acceptable for the iPod Touch and iPhone which are too small to be a primary screen and more disappointing for Apple TV, which is part of the reason for its lack of popularity.  Meanwhile Front Row is limited compared to Windows Media Center due to its lack of TV integration.  Cue theONbutton’s iPad + Mac Mini two pronged approach.

The Mac Mini is not a strong enough product to shake up the HTPC market on its own, and I suspect the iPad will also be physically too small to be a primary TV screen.  Remember that although the iPad screen measures almost 10 inches diagonally, its 1024 x 768 resolution means thick black bars for most movie and TV content.  But what if Apple is busy doing a TV deal to bring TV over WiFi to the iPad, which would also be available on Apple TV and Apple computers as well as of course the iPod Touch and iPhone?  I’m thinking of something with a Front Row / Windows Media Center style big-button interface which would be operated by a remote control.

This could finally be the right time to see this from Apple, given that the iPad is likely to have enough energy to be the critical driver for adoption.  The model would offer TV anywhere in the home over WiFi on the iPad supported by either Apple TV or more likely an HDMI capable Mac Mini in the living room.  The reason for preferring the Mac Mini over Apple TV is that it would bring full computing functionality to the TV, competing directly with Microsoft’s well-established Windows Media Center, so consumers would have the full Internet experience in the living room unlike with Apple TV.  The reason for preferring HDMI over Mini Display Port in the living room is that HDMI carries audio and can talk to TVs easily at 720p and 1080p without the need for fiddly adaptors and settings.

So there you have it, theONbutton’s wild extrapolation of a wild rumor into a wild model for Apple to revolutionize home TV.  Of course I’m not sure how excited the cable companies would be about a plan which would require such huge data streaming, but I’m pretty confident they would find some way of covering that cost.

Neil Berman


Mar 6, 2010 - Posted by | Apple, Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , , , , ,

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