The MacMini HDTV revolution

Yesterday I was over talking with the team behind Retrevo, the consumer electronics search engine.

We all agreed that Apple TV sucks. More on that in a minute.

But we all notice a trend: hooking MacMinis up to your HTDV. I think it’s a revolution. Revolutions always start small and among the weirdos.

Dave Winer had been on me for a while to get rid of my AppleTV and get a MacMini. As with other revolutions that Dave has started it took me about 1.5 years to get what he was saying and see the brilliance in it. Seriously, he showed me RSS for 1.5 years before I really started using it.

So, a few weeks ago I bought a MacMini, partly to get Dave off of my back and partly to help him test his new software, releasing today.

Now I’m pissed that it took me so long and I’m pissed at the industry that it just doesn’t get what’s coming and they keep trying to lock me into closed boxes like the Apple TV or the Xbox. I have an Xbox too, and a Media Center, so hear me out where I’m going.

Putting a MacMini on my TV is geeky. It’s not for everyone. Damn, I sound just like someone who discovered the Apple II back in 1977. Only the geeks got personal computing back then. Most people thought personal computers were stupid, back then. Heck, Wozniak offered to HP and Atari a chance to build his personal computer. They turned him down because revolutions in this business never are very obvious at the beginning.

Anyway, how is this a revolution? Ask my son. He now plays World of Warcraft on our 60-inch screen. He never really cared about the HD screen before. Or, look at Maryam. She loves putting pictures of Milan up on it. She also is crazy about Dave Winer’s new thing. More on that in a second too.

But why is this a revolution? Easy. It has a Web browser. It’s amazing how often I use the Web browser on the TV. “But you can’t read the fonts,” I can hear you saying. That’s not true. On the Mac keyboard you hold down the “Ctrl” key and then use your mouse’s wheel to zoom in and out.

The MacMini has totally changed my TV into something that’s NOT just a TV anymore. It’s revolutionary after you use it. Especially when you compare to the Xbox’s Media Center Extender (no Web browser) or the Apple TV (no Web browser) or my DirecTV box (no Web browser).

Why isn’t it a mass-market revolution yet? Three reasons:

1. They haven’t seen Dave Winer’s new software running on it.
2. The MacMini is too expensive to be a consumer electronics purchase (it costs about $700, and the Nintendo Wii demonstrated that consumer electronics needs to cost closer to $300, which is what the AppleTV costs, but the AppleTV doesn’t come with a Web browser so is ultimately crippled and will never participate in the new HDTV revolution).
3. It still seems a bit weird to hook a computer up to a TV (although the MacMini is ultra quiet, and cute so that it overcomes two of the previous objections that people had to bringing a computer into the living room).
4. Too many people assume a TV is just for watching TV and haven’t considered doing anything else on it. Sounds like the cell phone market before the iPhone, huh?

Anyway, what does Dave Winer’s new software do? It puts pictures up on my HDTV. “Huh, that’s the lamest thing I’ve ever heard,” I can hear you saying. But didn’t you also say that about Twitter? About IM? About the PC itself back in 1977? Yeah, yeah, you did, own up to it.

But it doesn’t just do that. It brings YOUR photos into my house if you put them on Flickr and I add you to my TV set. Even better, it puts professional photography up on my HDTV. Amazing images from around the world.

I love having great photography on my TV from my friends and from the best professionals around the world.

Oh, and the AppleTV does suck. I gave it to Patrick, maybe he can sell it to you so he can afford to buy a MacMini for his house.

Putting a MacMini on my HDTV was the best gadget purchase I’ve made this year.

UPDATE: I’ll demo it live over on http://www.qik.com/scobleizer as soon as it’s released. Dave tells me that should be tonight sometime, although it’s software so we’ll Twitter about it as soon as it’s done.

UPDATE2: we’ll be demoing it LIVE at 9 p.m. on my Qik channel. You can participate by leaving comments — I’ll see those on my cell phone.

370 thoughts on “The MacMini HDTV revolution

  1. Is there any advantage to this new software+maxmini over a Media Server + Game Console? I built a PC, installed TVersity + TV Tuner, and stream everything to the PS3 on a 1080p. You have to RJ45 to get the HD bandwidth but there doesn’t seem to be anything you can’t do with this combo. There are a number of other devices around the house which can tap this resource but the PS3 I use seems most comparable to what you describe here. Is this now a price debate? I would like a quality method of taking the HDMI from the DirecTV and running that into the Media Server as the recorder to extend the DVR features of the DirecTV unit to the many devices around the house.

  2. Is there any advantage to this new software+maxmini over a Media Server + Game Console? I built a PC, installed TVersity + TV Tuner, and stream everything to the PS3 on a 1080p. You have to RJ45 to get the HD bandwidth but there doesn’t seem to be anything you can’t do with this combo. There are a number of other devices around the house which can tap this resource but the PS3 I use seems most comparable to what you describe here. Is this now a price debate? I would like a quality method of taking the HDMI from the DirecTV and running that into the Media Server as the recorder to extend the DVR features of the DirecTV unit to the many devices around the house.

  3. Is there any advantage to this new software+maxmini over a Media Server + Game Console? I built a PC, installed TVersity + TV Tuner, and stream everything to the PS3 on a 1080p. You have to RJ45 to get the HD bandwidth but there doesn’t seem to be anything you can’t do with this combo. There are a number of other devices around the house which can tap this resource but the PS3 I use seems most comparable to what you describe here. Is this now a price debate? I would like a quality method of taking the HDMI from the DirecTV and running that into the Media Server as the recorder to extend the DVR features of the DirecTV unit to the many devices around the house.

  4. I had a Shuttle PC small format vista Premium Media Center PC hooked up to my PC with wireless keyboard and Xbox HD dvd player with HD DVd software. It crashed too much and interface was very slow compared to Apple TV I was disappointed that ATI HD capable TV Tuner crashed frequently and did not work well with Comcast HD cable. Wife hated media PC experience and noise. I liked the web browsing as I could surf while giving my baby a bottle and check weather and news and blogs on 47 inch HD LCD TV. BUt playing music and videos especially HD DVD sucked. Vista kept crashing trying to access music or video on a network drive using gigabit switches gigibit ethernet and Cat 6 cable. I Replaced it with Xbox 360 and crashes freezes were worse so XBOX 360 with HDMI went back to the store.

    I recently bought Apple Tv on craigslist for $170 and am very happy with usefulness of Apple TV to play Itunes music , Podcasts, Scobel SHow and TED video podcasts, Youtube videos etc.

    I would like flickr smugmug photo streaming and at least weather gadgets etc if not full fledged web browser.

    I also bought my first MacBook Pro and am selling 3 Vista PC’s because of Vista drain on my productivty. The VISTA SP1 RC helps but it is not enough to make up for all IE7 and Firefox crashes and carshes trying to process video for Canon HD camcordr and photos form Canon 40D. I am selling my HP Tablet PC running Vista Business, a 1 1/2 year old Dual Core running Vista Premium and Quad Core running Vista Ultimate that I just built 2 months ago.I may keep quad corte and install XP pro just for HD video editing.

    One week with MacBook Pro has convinced me to dump the Vista PCs as my main computers and build a Media Server and Network Attached Storage .

    Now I have to recode all my media files to work with MacBook and Apple TV or possible upgrade to Mac Mini. My plan is to upgrade Apple TV with 250 gig hard drive and hack it to run a browser and wireless keyboard as described on AwkwardTv.org and AppleTVhacks.net.

    I am waiting for MacWorld to see what next macbook lite will look like. I wonder if Dave’s app will run on a hacked Apple TV running OSX.

  5. I had a Shuttle PC small format vista Premium Media Center PC hooked up to my PC with wireless keyboard and Xbox HD dvd player with HD DVd software. It crashed too much and interface was very slow compared to Apple TV I was disappointed that ATI HD capable TV Tuner crashed frequently and did not work well with Comcast HD cable. Wife hated media PC experience and noise. I liked the web browsing as I could surf while giving my baby a bottle and check weather and news and blogs on 47 inch HD LCD TV. BUt playing music and videos especially HD DVD sucked. Vista kept crashing trying to access music or video on a network drive using gigabit switches gigibit ethernet and Cat 6 cable. I Replaced it with Xbox 360 and crashes freezes were worse so XBOX 360 with HDMI went back to the store.

    I recently bought Apple Tv on craigslist for $170 and am very happy with usefulness of Apple TV to play Itunes music , Podcasts, Scobel SHow and TED video podcasts, Youtube videos etc.

    I would like flickr smugmug photo streaming and at least weather gadgets etc if not full fledged web browser.

    I also bought my first MacBook Pro and am selling 3 Vista PC’s because of Vista drain on my productivty. The VISTA SP1 RC helps but it is not enough to make up for all IE7 and Firefox crashes and carshes trying to process video for Canon HD camcordr and photos form Canon 40D. I am selling my HP Tablet PC running Vista Business, a 1 1/2 year old Dual Core running Vista Premium and Quad Core running Vista Ultimate that I just built 2 months ago.I may keep quad corte and install XP pro just for HD video editing.

    One week with MacBook Pro has convinced me to dump the Vista PCs as my main computers and build a Media Server and Network Attached Storage .

    Now I have to recode all my media files to work with MacBook and Apple TV or possible upgrade to Mac Mini. My plan is to upgrade Apple TV with 250 gig hard drive and hack it to run a browser and wireless keyboard as described on AwkwardTv.org and AppleTVhacks.net.

    I am waiting for MacWorld to see what next macbook lite will look like. I wonder if Dave’s app will run on a hacked Apple TV running OSX.

  6. I had a Shuttle PC small format vista Premium Media Center PC hooked up to my PC with wireless keyboard and Xbox HD dvd player with HD DVd software. It crashed too much and interface was very slow compared to Apple TV I was disappointed that ATI HD capable TV Tuner crashed frequently and did not work well with Comcast HD cable. Wife hated media PC experience and noise. I liked the web browsing as I could surf while giving my baby a bottle and check weather and news and blogs on 47 inch HD LCD TV. BUt playing music and videos especially HD DVD sucked. Vista kept crashing trying to access music or video on a network drive using gigabit switches gigibit ethernet and Cat 6 cable. I Replaced it with Xbox 360 and crashes freezes were worse so XBOX 360 with HDMI went back to the store.

    I recently bought Apple Tv on craigslist for $170 and am very happy with usefulness of Apple TV to play Itunes music , Podcasts, Scobel SHow and TED video podcasts, Youtube videos etc.

    I would like flickr smugmug photo streaming and at least weather gadgets etc if not full fledged web browser.

    I also bought my first MacBook Pro and am selling 3 Vista PC’s because of Vista drain on my productivty. The VISTA SP1 RC helps but it is not enough to make up for all IE7 and Firefox crashes and carshes trying to process video for Canon HD camcordr and photos form Canon 40D. I am selling my HP Tablet PC running Vista Business, a 1 1/2 year old Dual Core running Vista Premium and Quad Core running Vista Ultimate that I just built 2 months ago.I may keep quad corte and install XP pro just for HD video editing.

    One week with MacBook Pro has convinced me to dump the Vista PCs as my main computers and build a Media Server and Network Attached Storage .

    Now I have to recode all my media files to work with MacBook and Apple TV or possible upgrade to Mac Mini. My plan is to upgrade Apple TV with 250 gig hard drive and hack it to run a browser and wireless keyboard as described on AwkwardTv.org and AppleTVhacks.net.

    I am waiting for MacWorld to see what next macbook lite will look like. I wonder if Dave’s app will run on a hacked Apple TV running OSX.

  7. I have been using my XP machine on my HDTV for a little over a year now. I was not completely satisfied with the web browser until I tried out Safari. Then I was able to customize all of my fonts and this made viewing web pages much easier. Leave it to Apple to make my Windows PC more enjoyable.

  8. I have been using my XP machine on my HDTV for a little over a year now. I was not completely satisfied with the web browser until I tried out Safari. Then I was able to customize all of my fonts and this made viewing web pages much easier. Leave it to Apple to make my Windows PC more enjoyable.

  9. I have been using my XP machine on my HDTV for a little over a year now. I was not completely satisfied with the web browser until I tried out Safari. Then I was able to customize all of my fonts and this made viewing web pages much easier. Leave it to Apple to make my Windows PC more enjoyable.

  10. I have been using my XP machine on my HDTV for a little over a year now. I was not completely satisfied with the web browser until I tried out Safari. Then I was able to customize all of my fonts and this made viewing web pages much easier. Leave it to Apple to make my Windows PC more enjoyable.

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  12. As far as this being a “revolution” certainly that’s a relative term. When I bought my PowerMac 8500, back in 1996 with the intent to hook it up to my TV, what amazed me was thsr it “just worked” when I realized I had no display to boot it from and just plugged it in and crossed my fingers. Yes, that’s 11 years ago.

    Now, I expect more from my MacMini hooked into a 108″ projector system with surround sound while it accesses my home server (G4 loaded with 1.25tb worth of drives) under the basement hooked into the ReplayTV units on the regular TVs.

    Man have we come a long way.

    Me? I don’t really care who makes the cool stuff as long as they can talk to each other. Apple doesn’t seriously seem to be chasing this market yet, but I still find that their stuff does yeoman work at it.

  13. As far as this being a “revolution” certainly that’s a relative term. When I bought my PowerMac 8500, back in 1996 with the intent to hook it up to my TV, what amazed me was thsr it “just worked” when I realized I had no display to boot it from and just plugged it in and crossed my fingers. Yes, that’s 11 years ago.

    Now, I expect more from my MacMini hooked into a 108″ projector system with surround sound while it accesses my home server (G4 loaded with 1.25tb worth of drives) under the basement hooked into the ReplayTV units on the regular TVs.

    Man have we come a long way.

    Me? I don’t really care who makes the cool stuff as long as they can talk to each other. Apple doesn’t seriously seem to be chasing this market yet, but I still find that their stuff does yeoman work at it.

  14. How many remote controls do you have to run your system? How about an elegant remote control to run not only the Mac Mini, but also the HDTV and the AV receiver? Salling Clicker is a good start, the iPod Touch has an elegant look and feel, now if these could be combined together, with IR extenders running off the Mac Mini, with the ease of programming like the Harmony remotes…

  15. How many remote controls do you have to run your system? How about an elegant remote control to run not only the Mac Mini, but also the HDTV and the AV receiver? Salling Clicker is a good start, the iPod Touch has an elegant look and feel, now if these could be combined together, with IR extenders running off the Mac Mini, with the ease of programming like the Harmony remotes…

  16. I think that Apple should consider using its horde of cash to buy Nintendo and integrate Apple products with the Wii. Currently, the Wii offers one of the better browser solutions for an HDTV. At a reasonable cost of $300 and an additional $5 for the Wii Internet channel, you can be surfing the Web (using the Opera browser) on your HDTV without the need for a keyboard or mouse, The Wii controller is an amazingly effective device for casual Web surfing and even for filling out information and data (e.g., passwords, logins, forms, etc). Its very well done. You can also use apps like Wii Transfer to stream photos, videos and iTunes music to the Wii from your Mac. The Wii is da bomb when it comes to lowering the price and clutter threshold for suring the Web (as well as having a fully functional and amazing gaming platform) on HD.

  17. I think that Apple should consider using its horde of cash to buy Nintendo and integrate Apple products with the Wii. Currently, the Wii offers one of the better browser solutions for an HDTV. At a reasonable cost of $300 and an additional $5 for the Wii Internet channel, you can be surfing the Web (using the Opera browser) on your HDTV without the need for a keyboard or mouse, The Wii controller is an amazingly effective device for casual Web surfing and even for filling out information and data (e.g., passwords, logins, forms, etc). Its very well done. You can also use apps like Wii Transfer to stream photos, videos and iTunes music to the Wii from your Mac. The Wii is da bomb when it comes to lowering the price and clutter threshold for suring the Web (as well as having a fully functional and amazing gaming platform) on HD.

  18. Robert has anyone ever told you that you talk utter rubbish, how is it now just a “revolution” when you hook up your mac mini to your HDTV.

    Seriously. This is not a revolution, i know it makes for a good headline but it’s not.

    Laser TV’s 100+ inches at only $400 is a revolution. A computer hooked up to your tv is not.

    But wait it only becomes a revolution once *you* can afford it…

  19. Robert has anyone ever told you that you talk utter rubbish, how is it now just a “revolution” when you hook up your mac mini to your HDTV.

    Seriously. This is not a revolution, i know it makes for a good headline but it’s not.

    Laser TV’s 100+ inches at only $400 is a revolution. A computer hooked up to your tv is not.

    But wait it only becomes a revolution once *you* can afford it…

  20. self correction (blog doesn’t accept brackets… doh.)
    The -insert apple product here- doesn’t do anything that my -insert MS-cellphone product here- doesn’t already do.

  21. self correction (blog doesn’t accept brackets… doh.)
    The -insert apple product here- doesn’t do anything that my -insert MS-cellphone product here- doesn’t already do.

  22. Over and over so much that it gets absolutely hilarious.
    “The doesn’t do anything that my doesn’t already do.”

    1) Apple isn’t worried about self-important geeks. They’re going after the 90% market of regular users who have a life and don’t want to spend there time building systems that require a CS degree to turn on.
    2) Apple is winning by making the features actually work easily and elegantly.

    Oh and…
    “Yes – I work for Microsoft and the day we become a hardware company and start producing the machines along with the software I am sure you will see some prettier machines. Until that day comes along, try to restrain your self.”

    Apple is shaking in their boots about that one. The brilliance of MS hardware design would be found it perhaps the crap-brown Zune with its interface-from-hell and exploding 3-day content?

    MS can’t even do software well, and can’t market anything that isn’t forced on the customer. People don’t choose MS software, they submit to it.

    I welcome MS entries to the hardware market for comedy relief.

  23. Over and over so much that it gets absolutely hilarious.
    “The doesn’t do anything that my doesn’t already do.”

    1) Apple isn’t worried about self-important geeks. They’re going after the 90% market of regular users who have a life and don’t want to spend there time building systems that require a CS degree to turn on.
    2) Apple is winning by making the features actually work easily and elegantly.

    Oh and…
    “Yes – I work for Microsoft and the day we become a hardware company and start producing the machines along with the software I am sure you will see some prettier machines. Until that day comes along, try to restrain your self.”

    Apple is shaking in their boots about that one. The brilliance of MS hardware design would be found it perhaps the crap-brown Zune with its interface-from-hell and exploding 3-day content?

    MS can’t even do software well, and can’t market anything that isn’t forced on the customer. People don’t choose MS software, they submit to it.

    I welcome MS entries to the hardware market for comedy relief.

  24. @josh – this is my last comment seeing as how Scoble has clearly given up on this post.

    I get what you are saying. A MacMini is easy to set up and it is pretty. It is also the exact same pretty as every other MacMini out there.

    My point about IR cables only applies if you have Tuners in the box which the MacMini does not have. So take the tuners out of a Windows Media Center PC (which by the accounts for the bulk of MCE machines sold today) and it matches the MacMini in simplicity of configuration.

    As for the pretty cases….just do a query in your fave search engine for “htpc cases” and you will find some beautiful cases. If you are aghast to moving the hardware yourself I understand that. Don’t fault Microsoft for that though. We don’t make the PC’s. PC users enjoy a freedom to create a machine that looks anyway they want it to look. We get to show our individual style and taste through the plentiful options presented to us by the wide variety of case manufacturers that are out there. With the MacMini you get the exact same looking box that every other MacMini owner has.

    Cheers….

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