Apple DVR: Will it ever happen?

With Sony announcing a DVR for the PS3, what are the odds Apple will make a similar move?  Sony and Apple are very different companies. What drives Sony may not drive Apple.

These days, Sony seems lost.  They missed out on the digital audio player market after being the dominant player in the portable audio market.  The PS3 has not been warmly received.  The XBOX 360 was given a one year head start and is hitting its stride while the PS3 languishes.  The Nintendo Wii is the darling of the casual gamers with its low price and is the antithesis of the PS3 in styling with its compact white form-factor as opposed to the PS3’s gigantic black curved box.  Sony is trying desperately to make the PS3 the only set top box you need in your entertainment center.  It’s a gaming machine, a next-generation DVD player, and will soon be a DVR.  The PS3 is either a jack of all trades or is having an identity crisis.

Apple hasn’t seemed lost in years.  It is the leader in the DAP market and has quickly become a major player in the cell phone market.  With Apple dropping “Computer” from its name, Apple is clearly focused on the consumer electronics market.  So why would Apple even bother adding a DVR to its lineup of gadgets?  The argument against an Apple DVR is simple.  Apple and studios make money when people purchase their shows or movies from iTunes.  A DVR would diminish purchases from the iTunes store.  Plus, the iTunes DRM locks the content to Apple products like the iPod or the Apple TV.

The Apple TV

However, there is one thing that makes me think that Apple could easily come out with their own DVR.  Apple is a hardware company.  The Apple TV, Apple’s hobby, is the most likely candidate for DVR functionality.  The device was quickly upgraded with a larger hard drive and new software features.  Why would Apple bother negotiating with television and movie studios for content when Apple could just make a device that records content?  Apple could easily add the same DRM to keep Apple recorded shows on Apple products.

There is one thing I can’t shake.  Has Apple ever added such a major function to any of its preexisting products?  The iPod may have changed in physical dimensions, added a color screen and revised its clickwheel, but it has not added major new features (other than video playback).  The iPod still lacks an FM tuner, wi-fi and bluetooth even though many competitors have these functions.  The iMac has been through several aesthetic changes, but once again, the all-in-one computer is still just an all-in-one computer.  Apple’s products do not normally evolve into new products.  Apple is a company that jumps from one product to the next (look at how they killed the iPod mini for the iPod nano).  This suggests that if Apple were to do a DVR, it would not be an upgraded Apple TV, but some other product.

Maybe not…

I do not think that Apple would come out with a DVR of its own.  Apple is on a course to become a content provider like Comcast or DirecTV.  Their iTunes model is similar to buying cable a la carte.  If Apple has a direction, a DVR would be a step in the opposite way.  It appears as if Apple sees content coming through downloads and not from recording television programs through traditional content providers.  Just as Apple has declined to enter the bargain basement PC market, Apple will most likely decline to enter the DVR market.