I read today on Gizmodo or somewhere that Apple's iTV will not make it out by MacWorld (next week). They're having trouble getting an embedded version of OS X to work for them and it will be released sometime later next month. In thinking about this, I realized that there's almost no hope for this box.
Let's first talk about bandwidth. It's supposedly an attachment that will show movies and TV in HD over Wi-Fi. Anyone who has experience with a Windows Media Center Extender already knows that just won't fly. My Xbox 360 can play back video from my Media Center (Vista Ultimate, of course). Can it do it well? No. On 802.11g, it can barely do SD video and is not that far away from my router. I guess Apple could ask everyone who wants one of these to upgrade to 802.11n -- which is not an approved spec -- but is that going to happen before the bad reviews start rolling in? In the general case, I imagine there are going to be unhappy people here.
Second problem is processing and caching. I started wondering how much RAM and/or disk such a box might have. It would be nice if it had a significant amount so the video stream could be cached to give a better playback experience. But I also started wondering what kind of processor they're planning to use in this box? Intel? That wouldn't be prudent -- Intel is well disliked for embedded systems (ask Microsoft about Xbox 1). PPC? I suppose that might work. Even if these are all worked out, I just think that at $299, it's going to be an interesting price squeeze for Apple. The Xbox 360 Platinum (i.e. the one with the HDD) is reportedly costing Microsoft around $330 these days. I am just a little surprised if Apple will be able to make their first embedded HD system profitable from the get-go, but I'm sure they have top men working on it.
Third problem is the competition. This is one issue that I feel strongly that Apple can't overcome. Their competition isn't BitTorrent, or Microsoft's Xbox Live initiative, or any other downloadable movie gimmick thing. The juggernaut they face is the streaming HD digital content that Comcast is already delivering on demand (their service is originally called... On Demand™). Nobody can compete against Comcast when it comes to sheer bandwidth. I routinely get upwards of 8-10 Mbs when using my cable modem, and I'm able to stream HD content to my cable box using On Demand™.
Apple thinks people will spend $300 on this iTV box, another $1000 on a computer to serve content to the iTV box, and then wait for movies to download to watch them? I spend $10 a month on a Comcast DVR that does HD both On Demand™ and as a DVR. Not even Tivo can compete against that. Comcast's highly flawed--but very cheap--DVR makes the new $800 Tivo Series 3 POA (Pointless on Arrival).
So, I hope Apple has a trick up their sleeve. I really do. I'd like to see Apple give Comcast a run for their money. I just don't see it happening though. The big guy who controls the fast pipes is ultimately going to win this content battle.