Media Boxes: No Good News at Macworld

Today was the hugely-anticipated keynote at the Macworld Conference & Expo. As expected, we saw the final version of the iTV (now called Apple TV) which streams video from five PCs and syncs with one. For $300, as much as I paid for my Xbox 360 (which will act as an IPTV set-top box as soon as "holiday 2007"), it doesn't seem like a compelling buy. It won't play any streaming video in Windows Media or RealPlayer formats, which despite all their faults are used far more frequently than QuickTime is. The iPhone looks incredibly cool, but Cingular charges $40 a month for unlimted data service. With a two-year contract, even the cheapest iPhone would set me back some $1,460 plus taxes and fees.

I was more disappointed by what wasn't discussed at the keynote. The Mac mini is still saddled with a Core Duo while every other Apple desktop and laptop line has moved on to the Core 2 Duo. No Apple device besides the Apple TV supports HDMI out. Apple withheld some details on Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" at the initial unveiling because, they said with tongue in cheek, they didn't want Microsoft poaching features for Windows Vista. Vista comes out for consumers this month, and nothing at all was said about Leopard today at the keynote. The official Leopard page still cites a release date of "spring 2007" which technically could mean a Leopard release in June.

Even Sony looks better than Apple in the media box market right now. Their Sony VAIO TP1 comes out in March, runs Vista, supports HDMI (but not Blu-Ray, surprisingly) and looks pretty slick as Sony computers tend to do. The only downside: the price, $1,600.