/.../ Here is what I think is happening with the Apple TV hard drive. I think sometime this summer Apple will ship a firmware upgrade for the Apple TV and it will suddenly gain an important new capability. That's when the Apple TV becomes a node on the iTunes peer-to-peer video network.
If the Apple TV is plugged in it is turned on. Did you notice that? That means the hard drive will have at least the capability of running 24/7. Now envision a BitTorrent-like file distribution system that is controlled primarily by iTunes, rather than by you or me. A centrally controlled P2P system is VERY powerful because it allows for the pre-positioning of content.
Say Disney releases Cars 1.5 -- a direct-to-DVD release expected to sell millions of copies in its first few days. There is no way iTunes could even hope to participate in a launch like that simply because there isn't enough bandwidth at a good price -- or any price. Even BitTorrent would have troubles handling a small part of such a launch until enough seeds were populated and running. But what if the movie was effectively pre-seeded -- loaded over a few days on a distribution tree of thousands of Apple TV boxes which could then deliver the movie locally at high speed if purchased. Or if not purchased the seeded copies could still work together to serve other Apple TVs on the same ISP subnet.
Go back over my columns for the last three weeks and you'll see nearly all the information required to either understand or implement such a system.
There are products like this already in operation, such as GridNetworks from Seattle or Mike Homer's Kontiki network, now part of VeriSign. It isn't rocket science, but to succeed, networks of this sort need lots of nodes, especially nodes that remain on 24/7.
If you are wondering what Apple might accomplish with such a peer-to-peer distribution system, it would be nothing less than the undermining of TV. First Apple would eliminate its current dependence on Akamai, reducing its network costs for iTunes by about 100X, making the network costs effectively free. Hello HDTV!
Second, Apple would have one or many content channels roughly equivalent to an HBO, Showtime, or perhaps Discovery. Yes, I think Apple will do direct content deals, buying programming that it will then either distribute to subscribers or support with Google ads, thanks to Google CEO Eric Schmidt's position on the Apple board. Apple's network will give you the same content with or without ads, delivered from the same servers, one of which may be underneath your TV.
There are only two forces I can see necessary for this P2P deployment: gaining a big enough installed base of Apple TV boxes and the removal of some or all Digital Rights Management (DRM) code from the content. Gaining a critical mass of Apple TV boxes simply comes down to keeping the real purpose secret until there are 500,000 to 1 million units in the field.
Oops, did I just let that secret out?
And removing DRM is what Steve Jobs started preaching about last week and will continue to do so until he gets his way.
Steve ALWAYS gets his way, you know.
The business case for Apple is downright amazing. Lowering network costs by 99 percent will enable the company to add to its portfolio the equivalent of half a Time Warner. Apple becomes a cable company without trucks or network costs. It becomes a whole bunch of cable networks with an instant audience the exact size of the iTunes registered user base, which is frigging enormous. Add $40 billion to market cap, no waiting.
But I STILL don't know why those components were made stackable.
Det skulle vara intressant om så var fallet.