Apple waffles on HDMI and Blu-ray support

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I don’t normally comment on Apple announcements because there’s far too much armchair quarterbacking about what Steve Jobs does or doesn’t do. After his comments on HDMI and Blu-ray, I feel like some comment is in order. Jobs said in the keynote that HDMI is limited in resolution, according to an Engadget post on the topic. That’s true if you want to connect your computer to a dual-DVI display for editing your millions-of-polygons CGI movie, but the average notebook user simply wants a simple connection from their computer to the HDTV. HP gives it to them, why won’t Apple? The reason: putting an HDMI connection on Mac products would tank sales for the already pointless AppleTV product. AppleTV gets HDMI because it’s the Apple living room appliance. MacBook gets DisplayPort because you’re only supposed to use your MacBook in conjunction with a Cinema Display. Apparently no one told the thousands of people who read my article on connecting an HDTV to your Mac you’re not supposed to do that.
As for Blu-ray licensing being too complex (per the Jobs keynote once again), this is again about hurting sales of an Apple product, at the expense of an Apple customer. This time the iTunes movie store is the defensible turf. While I’m reasonably convinced that all shiny disk movies are headed for the tech graveyard in 5 years, in the short term Blu-ray is the only way to get HD movies with 7.1 surround sound, which is what many consumers want. Of course with no HDMI to send that audio to your television, I suppose you don’t need a Blu-ray player because you’d only get stereo sound out of the headphone jack on your MacBook. Apple doesn’t want Blu-ray support because you’re supposed to be purchasing iTunes HD movies, not disks. Nevermind their HD movies are lacking a great audio experience which is a huge component of home cinema. Score another win for HP, Toshiba, etc. who are smart enough to recognize that consumers want to watch movies playing in a Blu-ray drive on their computer, connected to a HDTV screen via HDMI.

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4 comments

  1. Thank you. You clearly articulated what I’ve kinda been thinking was the REAL reason for no HDMI & Blu-Ray.
    I’m an avid Apple fan with 4 macs and a PS3 in my home. I’m also a AAPL stock holder.
    It’s my observation that the people who have a sweet tooth for Blu-Ray are not motivated buy minimum HD quality movies from iTunes.
    People who are content with the relatively low quality HD from iTunes do not appreciate or desire the higher quality Blu-Ray and they’ll likely stick with Apple’s delivery method.
    In essence, there are two markets. Apple is going for the largest group of people who couldn’t discriminate between HD from a cross stitched sweater – the lowest common denominator.
    Unfortunately that decision leaves me – and many others – high & dry. I can’t blame Apple for doing it but it sure is inconvenient.
    (Yes. I’ve seen and heard the difference between AppleTV vs. Blu-Ray.)

  2. I’m not necessarily disagreeing with your views, but do you have any numbers to back up your claims that “many consumers want” 7.1 surround sound and “the average notebook user simply wants a simple connection from their computer to the HDTV”? Although I don’t consider myself an “average consumer” I do know quite a few people who are. I don’t know any of them who want to connect their laptop to their HDTV. Apple is a member of the Blu-ray Disc Association. They include DVD drives and their own DVD playback software on all of the computers they sell. If they really wanted to stamp out movie consumption to try and force everyone to Apple TV and iTunes Store why haven’t they removed DVD Player.app from their OS and removed the DVD playback frameworks from their SDK?

  3. @Bryan: I don’t have specific sales figures to back up the 7.1 surround sound claim, but there are strong sales numbers around affordable home theater setups with 7.1 surround, which would lend to that theory. My site does thousands of pages views per month on how-tos for people who want to connect their computer to their HDTV. Additional there have been over 50,000 pageviews across a couple of video sharing sites for my video how-tos on the subject. I don’t rank number one in any of the search engines for the topic, which means there are many more people seeking this information out elsewhere.

  4. @Rob: I only have 2 Macs in my house at the moment so I’m slacking. 😉
    The real shame of the iTunes movie download video distribution is the failure to include multiple stream audio in the files. It’s technically possible and wouldn’t add significant overhead to the file delivery size. The files would work great on any system with 5.1 or 7.1 surround.

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