A built-in TV tuner, Blu-ray or HD-DVD drive and a hard drive are all on Macworld Online reader wish lists for Apple's front room iTV device.
Apple announced iTV on 12 September. The product is designed to stream music, movies, podcasts and pictures from iTunes computers on your home network directly to your television set.
The $299 solution - which is set to ship in the first half of 2007 - won't be called iTV when it debuts. That's just a working name.
Effectively, the product should bridge the gap between your front room and your multimedia Mac.
But is the solution well-featured enough? We asked Macworld Online readers what they thought, asking you to vote on what features the product requires. A total of 1,442 readers chose to vote in the survey. (See below for results).
iTV will wirelessly stream content from a computer to a TV. It will be capable of streaming a movie from a DVD played in the Mac to the TV.
If the Mac has a TV tuner installed, such as any ElGato EyeTV 2.0 device, it appears likely the system will let users watch that through iTV too - potentially meaning larger households will only need to invest in one Freeview box, which will connect to the Mac, not the TV.
But some readers seem to want the device to be more like a Mac mini: "I think that iTV should be able to work autonomously without constant reference to a Mac. It should start up near instantly and the internal hard drive should be able to provide a modest amount of material all by itself," one reader remarked.
Others want the iTV to act as a digital video recorder, capable of grabbing TV shows to its own, or an external, hard drive.
"By adding a large external drive, users would be able to use it as a personal server. We could have one central place to keep our music, videos, photos and Time Machine backups and then access them from any computer on the network."
Disney boss Bob Iger last week confirmed the iTV would house a hard drive, but offered scant additional details.
"My hunch is that the internal drive might be used to store activation keys and small files, rather than the bulky data files themselves," a reader remarked, pointing at the inexorable march of digital rights management into the front room.
For many readers, iTV as announced so far is sorely in need of a TV tuner - or maybe two tuners.
"I think it needs a twin tuner so that you can watch one programme and record another. Some Freeview boxes have these. I get the impression that there something still to be added to this product, not quite sure what myself. But I don't want another box under my TV. One neat all-in-one box would do nicely."
But there are local differences in TV tuners that may impact the product's price and create manufacturing and distribution problems, another reader writes.
"Adding a tuner (or three) will make it more difficult to manufacture as it will become very localised - UK PAL, USA NTSC, FR SECAM, etc. I'd like to see SCART connectors - but the back of the iTV is quite crowed already. In terms of tuner - which? DVB-T or analogue or supporting DVB-S? This make the number of variants even greater - and less likely to be included - I see that there will be third parties stepping in to add such features."
At the end of the day, iTV appears a tantalising product, but we need to see it work to know what it really is.
A reader said: "I think that the wrong question has been asked, there is one word too many. It should ask 'what iTV really is'."
- Is it AirPort on steroids?
- Is it the much awaited digital hub?
- Is it a personal server?
- Is it the first incarnation of a platform that will dwarf the iPod?
- Is it the crucial link in Apple's cunning plan to bypass the entire cable TV business?
- Is it just another attempt that will try and fail?"
What iTV really needs is:
- A built-in TV tunes: 600 votes, 42 per cent
- A more realistic price: 157 votes, 11 per cent
- A better name: 87 votes, 6 per cent
- A hard drive: 144 votes, 10 per cent
- Blu-ray/HD-DVD: 166 votes, 12 per cent
- Internet video streaming: 62 votes, 4 per cent
- Web surfing features: 57 votes, 4 per cent
- More ports: 24 votes, 2 per cent
- Something else: 49 votes, 3 per cent
- It sounds perfect already: 96 votes, 7 per cent.