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 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.

Why are some bloggers turning on Apple?

I’m seeing more and more anti-Apple blogs lately like the one Dave Winer posted yesterday. Why is that?

Well, Apple is getting bigger and bigger and our attitude is changing. Seven years ago Apple was a cute company that was in severe trouble. People generally like rooting for the underdog. Microsoft was (and still is, really) on top so it was fun rooting against Microsoft and for the company with 4% market share.

Then they started doing stuff we liked. The stores? Sheer genius. iPods? Finally we had a great player for our MP3 collections (which many of the geeks I knew had started collecting in the mid 1990s). Macs? Moved to Intel chips. Finally we could use Windows and whatever weird OS Apple produced on the same machine. Speaking of that weird OS. Back in the 1990s it was pretty damn buggy. I remember making fun of Steve Broback cause he was an Apple freak and his Mac seemed to crash every few minutes. Compare to NT4 and Microsoft was way ahead back then. But then they brought out OSX, which was based on Unix. Overnight it seemed like my friends who were Linux geeks switched over to OSX.

Now those geeks have to wait in line at Apple stores just to get machines fixed. My son today went to a Genius bar and had to wait until 8 p.m. to get help. That didn’t used to be the case.

Add in that even Dell has bloggers and has a team of people dedicated to building relationships with bloggers while Apple employees aren’t even allowed to talk with you if you’re a blogger at the iPhone Dev Camps (at least they aren’t allowed to identify themselves as being an Apple employee).

But back to Dave Winer’s post. It’s totally ridiculous to charge $160 for a drive that costs $90 elsewhere and then force the buyer to give over his old hard drive. Freaking amazing.

So much for the brand promise of Apple.

On the other hand, when my son’s iPod battery died they gave him a new iPod without asking too many questions. That was pretty cool.

Anyway, is your opinion of Apple changing lately? Or do you think they have nothing to worry about?

Coming in 2008: iPhone battery rot?

Just picked up Patrick and turns out his iPhone is only lasting a few hours now in standby mode without doing anything on it!

So, it’s going into the shop tomorrow. Damn, we sure have a lot of problems with Apple stuff. On the other hand, Dave Winer’s Mac just died and he thinks that only means one thing: a new Mac is coming soon. Well we already KNOW a new iPhone is coming soon, so maybe Dave has a point? Me? Now I know why I keep my Nokia around.

Anyone else having problems with iPhone battery life?

Apple ends $100 iPhone rebate?

Maryam went into the Stanford Apple Store tonight and wanted to get her $100 rebate. She was told that the rebate had ended three days ago and that she wouldn’t be able to get her $100. Drat. This happen to anyone else? I’m sure it has and that Apple is banking on it.

Why I'm buying another Mac…

I have too much invested now in my Macintosh-based video tools. Final Cut Pro, for instance, is more than $1,000 a pop and we’ve popped that three times already. Plus there’s a network of video editors in the San Francisco area that all use Final Cut Pro and don’t like using anything on Windows. So even if I were able to make the switch and dump my software investments I am swimming upstream against the video editing community that I’m tied into here in San Francisco.

My Mac today isn’t booting up. It needs to go into the shop to get fixed. I guess the problems that started showing up last week were worse than I thought. I need a backup and I need a machine that’ll work when I go to Europe.

Now I really understand why so many people were so angry with Microsoft. People felt they didn’t have a choice in what to buy because of the ecosystem surrounding that platform and, yet, when the platform let them down they could do nothing else but rant about it.

Off to the Apple store I go.

Twitter reactions to Apple's OS update

Lest you think I’m the only one having problems:

JesseStay: the 10.4.11 update killed my Mac too. 🙁

windley (he’s the former CTO for the state of Utah): “the 10.4.11 update killed my Mac too. :-(“ Hey, Phil, can’t you pick a different line than Jesse? Heheh.

ordinal: Killed my Powerbook too. I had to erase & install.

The brand promise of Apple

This is an Apple ad:

Done by Apple. More on that later.

So, last night I was out to dinner with a bunch of smart people. Folks who run their own companies. Folks who have helped many companies get started. Tech companies.

Of course people started talking about my Apple problems. Everyone at the table is a Macintosh user. What was fun is that at one point people started telling me about the problems they have had with their Macs. Many with far more serious problems than I have had.

I tried to turn on my video camera. They all instantly shut up and said “no video.”

Why not?

I dug a little more. It was because they all blamed themselves for the problems of their Macs and I think they also bought into the “Apple cult” which says that if you use a Mac you must be cool. Heck, look at that ad again. Who is cool? Not the PC user.

Now THAT is “brand promise.”

We believe Apple’s marketing so deeply that we aren’t willing to question it.

And then there’s something else. Apple has an ARMY of people who are anonymous who will come and call you every name in the book. I know. They hit yesterday here. I deleted them all, but, dozens, if not hundreds, of comments calling me every name in the book.

They hit over on Andy Beal’s site too. He got tired and just closed the comment thread over there.

The common thing about most of these comments is that it’s MY FAULT that my Apple machine is having trouble.

See, on my Windows machine I’m willing to accept this. After all, I know that Microsoft can’t really test every combination of hardware out there. My Windows machines can take dozens, if not hundreds, of different video cards, sound cards, hard drives, memory configurations, etc. The thing is on my Mac I didn’t load any third-party RAM — Apple’s brand promise is that you never will need to open your box to customize it. Heck, the iPhone goes further. You CAN’T customize it and if you try you have to “break” into it. I’ve never opened the box, or tried to do some weird stuff. I’m even pretty protective about what I load on this system. Why? Cause my world has moved to the Internet and browser-based apps. No need to install tons of software like I used to on my Windows boxes.

I watch that video over and over again and I get really pissed.

Pissed enough to say “screw you Apple” all over again.

Some of you (hi Fake Steve Jobs) misunderstood my point about Apple PR’s not wanting to give me free or loaner hardware. See, I know Apple sends free or loaner hardware to certain journalists. But only those it deems “important.” Steven Levy. Walt Mossberg. Those types. They got iPhones two weeks before those of us who were “unimportant” could BUY them in the stores.

The point isn’t that I want free (er loaned) hardware. It’s that Apple uses that free hardware to MANUFACTURE the “myth” of Apple as being great, and good, and “cool.” Also, if these guys want to get more free or loaner Apple hardware before the rest of us they need to make sure not to point out too many flaws in it. Yeah, they can point out a few, but they know they got picked because they generally write pro-Apple stuff. It’s a reason why I don’t want free stuff and why I waited in line to be among the first in the Valley to have my own iPhone.

Again. Brand promise of Apple. Only those who will give Apple a fair shake will get the goods. When Fake Steve Jobs says I’ll never get invited to another Apple press conference again he isn’t too far from the truth! Retribution is a bitch.

UPDATE: That’s not totally fair on my part. I know these journalists will report when they are sent something that doesn’t do what it promises. I need to correct this post. The journalists don’t get free products that they get to keep (most of the times). They do send them back. I’m sorry to the journalists who I made this point about. Walt Mossberg has an ethics statement where he talks about this.

UPDATE 2: Ryan Block, who writes for Engadget, has a good set of replies to my claims above.

It’s the brand promise of Apple. You will have to BUY your Apple after those “famous journalists” get to use one for free for two weeks and you vil like it. Oh, and you’ll beg to be let into a Steve Jobs keynote because you vil want to sit at the feet of Jobs and drool on the floor like the idiot blogger you are.

Just remember the brand promise of Apple, OK?

1. If your machine behaves badly it’s your fault.
2. Any idiot can use an Apple machine (that’s what they tell you before you buy one) but if your machine crashes then you must be a “genius” to fix it (they have bars at stores now where you can “borrow” a genius, but only after waiting in line — my son twice has been turned away from genius bars because they were too busy and was told to “come back tomorrow at 10 a.m.”). Oh, and if you are having problems at 10 p.m., and dare tell people on your blog about your problems you’ll get tons of abuse back “how DARE you be an Apple user and not know you needed to flash your PRAM.” Translation: any idiot can use a Mac, but not really.
3. If you dare complain about the brand promise you’ll get pounced on by hoardes of annonymous astroturfing Apple FanBois.
4. If you don’t get the brand promise of Apple don’t attempt to point out that the ads are ridiculous. Instead, just leave the cult and go back to using that “inferior” machine you used to use.
5. Check out my new Mac, with its cool brushed metal surface and the light-up Apple logo.
6. If you use an Apple machine you will be as cool as Kevin Rose.

Baratunde has it right when he says “I hate the smugness of Apple.”

Oh, and to the guy who says I’m a Microsoft shill. You better check your facts there. Over the past year I’ve spent more than $10,000 on Apple products of MY OWN MONEY and if you include the machines I’ve bought for PodTech, I’ve spent more than $20,000. Not to mention my son and I spent two days in line waiting for our iPhones. Now if THAT is what you call “shilling for Microsoft” I wonder what “shilling for Apple would look like?”

I guess I just am not cool enough to like my Mac. I’m back on my Sony Vaio, which has never crashed the way my Mac did the other night. It also never has needed to have its memory and graphics controller replaced the way my Mac did. And its USB ports work, unlike those on my son’s computer. But it decidedly isn’t cool.

It doesn’t come with the brand promise of Apple.

Oh, and back to that ad at the top of my blog? Have you ever met the PR guy for Microsoft? That’s Frank Shaw. A really nice guy. He even has a blog (idiot! — Apple hires all the “cool” PR people and they never will do a blog) Who does PR for Apple? Katie Cotton. She’s a LOT closer to the PR lady in that video above, which is TOTALLY ironic — watch this video again and compare to the ad above. Brilliant marketing.