Cringely on Apple TV's Hard Drive: Hello, P2P!

It was Disney exec Bob Iger who dropped the bomb back in September that the Apple TV (then iTV) had a hard drive, something we didn’t expect from a set-top box. The ability to watch downloadable media on a TV does not need an hard drive, so why does it have one?

PBS’s Cringley, always a source of interesting conjecture, thinks he knows. Apple wants to turn your living room into a micro server farm. Cringley believes that the hard drive within the Apple TV will act as a node on a P2P network made up of Apple TV owners, allowing BitTorrent-like distributed sharing of key content.

This serves to eliminate the server-to-client download model that iTunes currently uses, which costs a fortune, as bandwidth is not free. By allowing the Apple TVs to talk to one another and share the content, the burden falls to the local ISPs, though when diffused in this manner, it’s hardly a burden at all.

Is Cringely right about this? Only time will tell, but the though of on-demand HDTV via distributed broadband mesh networks isn’t totally out of the question, and would fundamentally change how digital media is delivered to the livingroom.

What’s that 40-gig hard drive doing inside my Apple TV? [I, Cringely]