Apple's Woes in the Media PC Forefront

Apple recently has made their addition to the perfonal video recording (PVR)/ media center world in the form of their "FrontRow" application (released last year).  Mac fans and fanatics alike cheered it as the next generation killer application for PVR shortly after its release.  This year, Apple has moved to the intel platform, and now is selling their Mac Mini with frontrow installed on it.  Unfortunately (for Apple) the Mini really isn't all that great as a PVR, and it barely eeks for usefulness beyond DVD and MP3 (AAV) playback.  The following reasons cited in ehomeupgrade's article chime loud and clear to me as to why the Mac still hasn't penetrated the PVR market and is a ways off from even competing with a Media Center PC.

  • Expandability - Macs tend not to be expandable, this means that adding more hard disk space in a Mac is very problematic.  PVRs are in constant need of expanded storage space, so this is a big problem.
  • Performance / Support - Macs tend to have limited support for third party peripherals.  This means that the MPEG-2 encoder cards, HD tuner cards, and CableLabs OCUR cards will either come late to the Mac or will never get there.  The low-end Macs tend to cut corners on their Video hardware and this means that HD content playback and encoding could be effected when the machine is multitasking.
  • Price - Yes, Apple sells their Mini for $600.  But that is a really really stripped down version -- in actuality you are looking at around $800 for a machine that can realisticly perform with OS X and typical applications.  Upgrades to larger hard drives from Apple are expensive ($175 for a 120gb drive???) and since the Mini parts are most likely proprietary, upgrades for typical users are prohibitively difficult.

It's interesting to see where Apple excels and where they fail.  I have found that Media Center Edition PCs are becoming more and more common and I believe that with the adoption of extender technology, the Media Center Edition PC may end up in many more homes in future.