As reported earlier today, Apple is apparently considering discontinuing the practice of selling boxed software in its retail stores in favor of online digital distribution through avenues like the Mac App Store. Delivering large software packages can potentially consume a lot of bandwidth and regular purchases can move users close to the arbitrary download limits that are frequently placed on their internet service. Combine this with the release of brilliant second generation Apple TV which can deliver streaming 720p HD content on demand and your ISP has just broken out in a sweat.
To illustrate a couple of software examples on the Mac App Store, Aperture 3 weighs in at around 600MB and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is a hefty 6.9GB. However, while not on the Mac App Store yet, Final Cut Studio, when including optional content can reach over 50GB. Similarly, when looking at movie rentals on the Apple TV, a 720p two hour movie rental can be around 1.5GB and Netflix content can range anywhere from 300MB to 1.5GB depending on quality. This is where the issue lies.
Delivery of online content is a phenomenal resource. The user can obtain software and media much more quickly than if they were to order it online or drive down to their local Apple retail store to pick it up. The downside is that, as the size and complexity of software packages increase, the greater the amount of data that will require to be downloaded. Many people complained that Apple had limited the second generation Apple TV to 720p quality rather than full 1080p quality. This was an incredibly smart move, as the network infrastructure in many countries, including the US, would struggle to cope with that sort of network load.
If Apple does in fact move to predominantly offering digital downloads instead of boxed software and perhaps does offer 1080p movies with the Apple TV 3, internet service providers are going to have to deal with an exponential increase in bandwidth usage. And while it’s unlikely that Apple would place massive programs such as Final Cut online in the near future, they are going to focus on making the Mac App Store every bit as popular as the iOS App Store has been. And when some of the Mac apps are easily 100 times the size of iOS apps, look out for a collective groan from the ISPs.