Apple’s brand new 27-inch iMacs come with an interesting feature: the ability to act as a display for connected devices via the built-in DisplayPort connection. This means that, with the proper adaptors, you can connect an array of home theatre devices to the iMac, including Blu-Ray players. The screen has also moved to the HDTV standard 16:9 ratio and it’s wall mountable. All of this makes me think one thing, my next HDTV may be an iMac.
The setup would be relatively straightforward. The new iMacs already come with wireless mouse and keyboard, so controlling it from your couch isn’t a problem. Add a tuner attachment from Elgato to get your cable on the iMac, as well as DVR capabilities. Plug in your Blu-Ray player via DisplayPort and then install any of the plethora of multimedia interfaces available for the Mac. My personal favorite is Boxee.
None of this is particularly groundbreaking, you could have done something very similar with a bit more hackage the day before the new iMacs were announced. But it does lead one to start thinking in an interesting direction. There’s no doubt that the computer and the television are moving towards convergence. Apple’s made its first play for the digital living room with the Apple TV, to less than impressive results, as we’ve discussed before. It’s also a company that learns from its mistakes and has a history of taking small, evolutionary steps that can, in a few years, add up to some really exciting changes. Just look at how they’ve handled multitouch.
Combine these small steps with the slow death of desktop computers and Apple has to be thinking about what the future of the iMac will be. What would be the next steps toward a real iMac as HDTV? Well, you’d need to integrate the tuner, and you’d definitely have to offer a large range of sizes, while simultaneously dropping prices. This wouldn’t be quite as hard as you might imagine. The current 27-inch iMac is much more powerful than you really need, and the cost of LCD displays is quickly dropping. Integrate the Apple TV’s media interface and tweak OS X a bit to make it easier to control from ten feet away and you’re almost there.
Do I think this is definitely the direction Apple is moving with the iMac? Not necessarily, but its actions thus far have certainly got me thinking about it and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple make a strong play at the high-end of the HDTV market. In a few years you may be able to buy 30, 40 and 50 inch iMacs, at a premium over standard HDTVs, but with a lot more functionality built-in. It’s certainly Apple’s style to go into an industry and try to slice off the top 10 percent of market share, which also happens to include the lion’s share of the profits. It’s done it in computers, it’s done it with cell phones, why not with HDTVs?