Paging Robert Morgan

That convergence you ordered ten years ago is here.

For those who don’t remember Robert Morgan, he wrote a rumor site ostensibly aimed at investors and then a column for MacWeek before it became eWeek.  He preached the convergence of computers and consumer electronics in long, sometimes rambling posts.  But these were some of the rumors the Macalope was weaned on when he was but a young Mac buck.

Morgan wrote around the time of the original iMac’s introduction when the rumor mill heavily bet that it would be a set-top box.  Witness this CNet article from 1998 which is both astoundingly wrong and accidentally prescient:

Apple Computer (AAPL) is working on portable and TV set-top entertainment devices that offer Internet access and play everything from music CDs to DVD movies, as the company refashions itself for the convergence of consumer electronics and PC technologies.

The top-secret project could throw the computer maker back into the limelight of the high-tech industry if, as planned, the company combines a WebTV-like Internet access device with a CD or DVD player to create an easy-to-use, low-cost computing device, sources close to Apple said.

Apple declined to comment, but one source said the convergence project is code-named Columbus.

Columbus turned out to be the iMac.  On the prescient side, the article notes:

“Studios need critical mass. It’s hard to justify new channels (for distributing) content if the subscriber base is small,” said one entertainment industry source.

Which pretty clearly describes how it’s Amazon and Microsoft that face the uphill battle here in 2006.

So, it’s been a long time coming – and it’s still not actually here yet – but the Macalope will be hefting a flagon of mead to Robert Morgan along with the modest portion of crow he’ll be eating tonight.

Because the Macalope was certainly wrong about wireless video vs. wireless audio.  Judging by Gizmodo’s specs, it appears the “iTV” doesn’t have a hard drive (although Gruber speculates it has one for caching) so it is, in fact, receiving streamed video from a Mac and, for smaller content, from the iTunes Music Store.  Certainly the “TubePort” was also wrong, though, and simply based off last night’s crop of rumors.  No dongles and no “iDisk-like storage component hosted by Apple.”

And no “true” video iPod.  We’ll just have to soldier on with these “fake” video iPods.

HD video requires transfer rates of 25 mbps and regular ol’ fashioned non-extreme Airport and mixed Airport/Airport Extreme environments only get up to 11 mbps.  So, while the Macalope hates to say it, it’s time to ditch that stylish but antiquated key lime iBook.

UPDATE 9/13 – Correction:  25 mbps is for uncompressed HD.  Commenter Jeff notes you could copy the movie file over 802.11b in less time than it would take to watch it, so you should be able to stream it.  He also points out the use of the term “802.11 networking.”  Is that because it’s 802.11b and 801.11g or because it’s 802.11a?

  • Yuda:

    I finally had to ditch my indigo iBook last winter. It was a sad day.

  • JM:

    I clearly remember Robert Morgan’s posts from that era. Too bad he is not posting. He had health problems back then, if I recall correctly. I was thinking about him earlier today. His vision took a long time coming, but finally it is on the horizon.

  • Abe J:

    Robert Morgan was the single most important, and prescient, Mac, and possibly industry, commentator of the last fifteen years. This is disregarding any pseudonymous cutlery we may remember, though I always had my pet theories about that.


  • Abe J:

    While Julia might not be willing to marry them on the X86 platform, she’ll at least become familiar enough with them to seduce them and tempt them to leave “Roseanne” in the lurch as they launch themselves into an adulterous embrace that is definitely not “Roseanne”. “Even if they can’t have all of Julia on X86, they’ll take what they can get until they feel they’re both ready enough for a long term cross-platform commitment. They can ‘date’ on X86 until they become so entranced by Julia’s charms that they take the plunge and move in together on PPC/PPCP. Especially PPCP because Julia will let them bring what’s left in what will most surely be a ‘messy divorce’.”

    Switch PPCP for x86 and you have what he discussed. It just took long enough that it was possible to do “fast enough” emulation.

  • Jeff:

    I beg to differ about the HD transfer rate quoted. Does this assume an awesomely compressed H.264 HD media file?
    This is stupid to say, but the 640×480 movies appear to be in the 1-2GB range, which one could easily transfer wirelessly over 802.11b in far less time than the length of the movie. HD is I don’t now how much larger of course.
    I do think some caching must be present, but a few GBs of flash might be enough.

    I also find the use of the term “802.11 networking” to be revealing. They don’t even say .11G, which along with recent wireless non-support but functionality of .11A in the new Intels Macs could mean … I dunno.

  • You’re right. That’s uncompressed HD stream.

  • V M Respectable:

    Dan Eran is betting an unspecified 802.11 means n. His reasoning seems convincing enough to me, though he has been (sort of half) wrong in predictions in the past, which when it happens is generally because Apple manages to introduce some item that no one had any reason to expect.

Leave a Comment