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iHome…

by Rob Friesel

Update on my last post (jeez, I really should have broken that up more… — b/c as it turns out, I can’t resist participating in the iHome/headless-iMac speculation extravaganza. Once I spent a few minutes with the photos, anyway…

Whether the “headless” iMac (I just can’t call it “iHome” — ugh!) itself is/not farce, the photos are extra suspect.

First we’ve got this shot:


(or here for the original full size)

Two things jump out at me as wrong. First, the box artwork. I’m having trouble coming up with a box for hardware that features the software on it. Or “folks” for that matter. Compare it against the others in that shot and it’s “the one that doesn’t belong”. Where’s the giant and/or lifesize product shot? And why is the text/titling so much bigger? Not to mention that text in that image seems substantially granier than everything else. A little “extra” on the JPG artifacts? Just. Not. Natural.

Then there’s this shot:


(or here for the original full size)

Something is definitely wrong about those ports. For one thing, why does the (I’m assuming) power-in port look a lot like the front side’s power button? Next up, why put the icons for each port in unpredictable over/under locations? (Granted, the icons on the side of the iBook are over/under but it’s easy to see why.) The Ethernet port doesn’t seem to be indicated by an icon at all. And please don’t tell me that the video out is going to rely on some dongle! Last but not least: WHERE IS THE VENTILATION!?

I’ll omit my commentary on the lop-sided-ness of the box in these photos as well.

I suppose this might bring us right back around from last year’s speculation re: some kind ofiDVR. We on that again? Is all this speculation some kind of cry for the set-top Mac? Was the iPod Photo the first indication that something like this was impending?

I stick by my above “tear-down” that these photos are phonies. “iHome” just seems to lame of a name. What really bugs me is the seemingly absent (or at least under-represented) video-out on this thing. Some of the speculation is that the thing has a mini-VGA (not unlike the iBook) for video out to a monitor and S-video out to a TV. But if that were true then we’re left with the question: Where is the audio out?

The way I was reading that image we have (left to right): power in, modem, ethernet, (2) Firewire ports, (2) USB ports, mini-VGA (for that easily mis-placed dongle), and stereo mini-jack out. The S-video speculation blows away that last port (audio) in favor of some kind of S-video option. I find this unlikely for two reasons. First, if the thing is an “iHome” and is more/less a set-top box or otherwise something that goes in your living room than it’s going to have to put out sound. Period. Second, if it has mini-VGA out (like the iBook) it would make more sense to package the thing with the dongle(s) required to hook it up. Or ship it w/ the same dongle the iBook ships with and train your sales reps to push-push-push the other adapters (at $50 a pop on top of the $500 box). The latter part of the dongle strategy makes even more sense (to me anyway) because I can’t think of a single person I know that uses S-video. I know my TV doesn’t even have it.

This isn’t to slam S-video but it does cast a lot of doubt on those images. The box just seems to be missing too many things. If it is intended to be a computer for “the last of the Switchers” as some have speculated, it’s going to need to still ship with a few minimums (i.e., keyboard and mouse). The could easily be at the bottom of that box pictured. But given how even the iMac has its ports covered… Well, this just doesn’t seem to be “it”. On the other hand, if this box is the “iDVR” speculated upon for over a year now and it really is Apple’s next big push to turn itself from a computer company into a media powerhouse… Well, this still doesn’t seem to be “it”. For this thing to make it into anyone’s living room it’s going to need to easily hook up to the TV. As long as the right adapter ships with the thing, they just may have that covered with the mini-VGA port. But what about getting video into the thing? Maybe the real “surprise” isn’t going to be the hardware itself but the little things that ship with it. An adapter that takes coax out of the TV and runs it through the Firewire port in? A special plug-in for iMovie that lets you rip while you watch?

Alas, I’m still stuck on the audio thing. One little lame mini-jack port on the far back right just doesn’t seem to cover it. Apple tends to lean on the right side of quality. Even if this thing is really going to hit a $500 entry level price point, there usually isn’t a whole lot of wiggle on any given model’s audio. Take the iMac G5, for example. Every single one of those ships with the same audio in/out configurations: optical/digital out and analog in. If the headless iMac is meant for your living room, it damn well better have digital out at a minimum.

And yes, I do like to type the word “dongle”.

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

2 Responses to iHome…

mike says:

The thing that bothers me is that the thing has “iHome” slathered right across the top! When was the last time that Apple released a product with the name of the product emblazened across its casing so boldly? I can;t recall EVER seeing one like that. Apple tends to define their products in form and not as billboards.

Just a thought.
-m

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