A few minutes after a hearty discussion with Simon Woodside about his post and how I didn't believe Apple's $500 Mac was going to do a set-top box, aestrada led me to these photos of what seems to be an Apple media centre, which is being debunked as a ruse but looks oddly... Real.
If it's a hoax, it took quite some effort to do. But if it's real, you'd expect better pictures, no?
Update: Cursory analysis of the photos and 3GPP video show that they were all recorded on a Samsung/SGH-D500 (an European phone, as far as I know). The JPEGs are tagged with "SGH-D500 JPG IMAGE", and the video as being produced by "PHILIPS SW - VES 0.7.", which matches sample 3GPP video files from a Samsung/SGH-D500. The photos were not photoshopped - or if they were, someone tacked on real JPEG and EXIF headers afterwards. As to the box itself, at that resolution it might be anything, from cardboard to acrylic plastic and aluminum.
We'll wait and see. Meanwhile, glass has provided me with some crow recipes to get started, and Cringely has an interesting reasoning on the economics of such a device (although he missed the media center angle too) -
We might see that as early as next week with the rumored introduction of an el-cheapo Mac without a display. The price for that box is supposed to be $499, which would give customers a box with processor, disk, memory, and OS into which you plug your current display, keyboard, and mouse. Given that this sounds a lot like AMD's new Personal Internet Communicator, which will sell for $185, there is probably plenty of profit left for Apple in a $499 price. But what if they priced it at $399 or even $349? Now make it $249, where I calculate they'd be losing $100 per unit. At $100 per unit, how many little Macs could they sell if Jobs is willing to spend $1 billion? TEN MILLION and Apple suddenly becomes the world's number one PC company. Think of it as a non-mobile iPod with computing capability. Think of the music sales it could spawn. Think of the iPod sales it would hurt (zero, because of the lack of mobility). Think of the more expensive Mac sales it would hurt (zero, because a Mac loyalist would only be interested in using this box as an EXTRA computer they would otherwise not have bought). Think of the extra application sales it would generate and especially the OS upgrade sales, which alone could pay back that $100. Think of the impact it would have on Windows sales (minus 10 million units). And if it doesn't work, Steve will still have $5 billion in cash with no measurable negative impact on the company. I think he'll do it.
He might just have.