Apple iTV

At a recent Apple event, Steve Jobs – in standard Jobs uniform of black shirt and jeans – announced iTV (currently just a code name), a nice little box that connects your computer to your TV in a very Media Center-ish fashion. You can see the demo here about 55 minutes in. Like most Apple designs it is pretty slick.

Everybody’s favorite ex-Softie, Scoble, accuses Apple of copying the UI design from Windows Media Center, and I have to say, there are some heavy similarities. Naturally, Apple’s looks a bit more slick. But consider: if one assumes the two UIs were developed completely separate, with no influence from the other, might two well-designed UIs look similar simply because they are both good designs? Don’t good designs often share similar good traits?

Either way, I doubt I’ll be buying the iTV gadget any time soon, even though I have a Mac at home. There’s already a Media Center PC in the house, too, and it connects to my TV through the Xbox 360. Lord, do I love my toys…

One bitch I have: HDMI. See, the iTV device and an expanding number of devices have HDMI ports to connect to the TV in addition to component ports. All well and good. But my TV, like most HD TVs, has only one HDMI input. And it’s already taken (I recently got a DVD player that up-rezzes regular DVDs to HD res). My TV already has literally a dozen inputs for video. Must more HDMI inputs be added? Should I have two dozen?


~ by mattbear on September 14, 2006.

2 Responses to “Apple iTV”

  1. In the middle of your post you essentially ask that if known good UI design tenets exist then wouldn’t it stand to reason that independent designers would eventually develop UIs that appear to be copies of each other.

    It’s an interesting question and I tend to agree with you (and disagree with the easily-excitable Scoble). As UI design continues to mature as a discipline and tested and perfected methods rise to the surface for each design problem (this is how you design a touchscreen interface, this is how you design a cell phone interface – still needs work), you’re bound to see common results. Interacting with data on a television screen (of any size and resolution) via a remote brings its own design problems to the table and over time, large companies like MS who can afford to do the testing and research around design principles and companies like Apple who are focused (almost to a fault) on design as a major part of their products will eventually be the ones writing those standards.

    Certain things just work. There’s a list of reasons a UI is designed a specific way and if it’s done right, “because it looks cool” should be about #4. “Because it works the best” should be #1.

    Now, that said, Apple totally ripped off the “Album Cover/List of songs” view in iTunes 7 from WMP 11.

  2. HDMI is a popular format for newer devices for a variety of reasons.

    Unlike most other video interfaces it supports audio as well, even multi-channel audio.
    It supports a wide range of video formats uni-formally by encapsulating the information over the wire to be decoded at the end.
    Both 8-channel audio and HDTV video can be submitted completely uncompressed.
    And not the least of the reasons for it’s popularity is that Hollywood is behind it. HDMI allows the capability to degrade signals based on HDCP protection. The theory is that this can be used to combat piracy.

    Expect to see more HDMI in the future. Perhaps it’s time to look into component-switching in your home audio/video system?

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