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Thursday, 14 September 2006 06:08

Apple iTV a stab in the heart for Microsoft

For nearly two years, since the launch of Windows Media Center XP 2005, Microsoft has tried unsuccessfully to convince consumers that they should stick their PCs in the living room. The unveiling of Apple's coming iTV product yesterday was the final stab in the heart to Bill Gates' vision of doing for consumers what he did for businesses.

Microsoft's unprecedented success in the business space occurred largely because of two major factors. The vision of a PC on every desktop made good business sense - it increased productivity. In addition, there was no previously well entrenched technology that needed to be overthrown.

Like TV, the internet is an unprecedented phenomenom and one day the two media may converge. However, at present they remain mutually exclusive forms of entertainment. One is push, the other is pull. Internet browsing is a highly personal experience, while TV is a family and group oriented medium.

Gates' sucess in the business space led him to believe that he could convince consumers that they should throw out their TVs, DVD players, stereo hi-fi systems and replace it all with a PC with a sound card and TV tuner running Windows Media Center. A nice concept but it's like asking people to ditch their home phones and replace them with a PC - they could do it but why should they?

In fact, as Skype has shown, even offering free phone calls to people has not resulted in a mass exodus of people cutting the umbilical cord of the relatively expensive home phone. Old habits die hard and, like newspapers and radio, TV is an old habit.

Unlike Bill Gates, Apple founder Steve Jobs has usually (not always) had a keen sense of what consumers want. For instance, he knows that they want their TV sets - with Plasma, LCD and HDTV, they're getting bigger, thinner, sharper and cheaper every year. They don't want to ditch them for a PC with a tuner and they don't want to plug a PC that's used for other things into their TV.

Realizing this, Jobs and company have come up with something that is a far more consumer friendly solution. The Apple iTV is merely an inexpensive device that wirelessly connects to your home computer and allows you to extract, view and control the parts that belong on your TV, such as movie downloads.

The Apple way of solving the computer and TV convergence problem is to build a bridge between two territories rather than try to invade and sack a foreign land and replace its institutions like Microsoft tried to do. It's a far more elegant solution for consumers who want to hang on to their time honoured entertainment traditions and, thus, far more likely to succeed.


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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.



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