Apple has just announced a way to set up a closed-circuit video system for corporations, associations and other institutions

People hear “YouTube” and they think dorm-room lip-synching video. So while others may be reading the announcement that AppleTV and iPhones provide a means to stream video from YouTube are thinking water-skiing squirrel videos, I’m thinking of closed-channel distribution of video on the cheap (i.e., without having to pay phone carriers or having to invest in a closed-circuit distribution system). Sales meetings, CEO talks, corporate training — video content that companies now distribute via systems that can cost millions in creating and maintaining.

I’m having deja vu all over again.

When Apple started supporting RSS in iTunes (another way to say they started allowing anyone to subscribe to podcasts), I wrote about 10,000 words explaining why it would change everything. Most of those predictions came true.

Podcasting was an amazing gift to Apple. Before podcasting was supported by iTunes, one had to purchase everything that flowed through the iTunes store onto ones computer and iPod. After iTunes supported podcasting, “free content” flooded through the iTunes channel in the form of all the things I predicted: church sermons, university courses, crazy kids doing crazy things. As I said then, all that free stuff would make Apple lots of money because they make money from selling smart hardware devices and elegant software that operate them. (Dave Winer said it wonderfully yesterday: “The business of the valley is not publishing. It is not advertising. It is not retailing. It is not pet food. It is cool packages of technology that thrill people with empowerment and novelty.”) While tech analysts and tech insiders don’t always understand this, Apple does. They make stuff that thrills people with its simplicity and with the novelty that you can do something with it — you didn’t even know you wanted to do. And something Apple maybe didn’t think of when they came out with it, because they’re not a publishing and dog food company. They create cool tools creative people use to create other cool stuff.

I’m not going to do a “how the iPhone will change everything” series of posts. I don’t have to, because many of the ways are on that old “how podcasting on iTunes” will change everything series. It will change things because iPhone and AppleTV — like iPods after podcasting — are devices that will let you watch any video created by anyone, anywhere. Drop-dead simply. Without a computer. This is not a new cell-phone, people.

The iPhone will change lots of stuff in ways the pundits don’t get. My favorite clueless punditry so far has got to be this Advertising Age column by Al Ries. I must say, it takes a lot of courage to base ones prediction on why something will fail by suggesting that “convergence” products fail and “divergence” products succeed. If such an argument were correct, I wouldn’t be writing this post on the device that converges how I view video, make Skype calls, do video-conferencing with people on iChat, review graphic design files, pay bills, edit photography, edit video, etc. In other words, if Ries’ argument was correct, I’d have about a 20-30 divergent hardware products sitting on my desk for every task I do. Apple, more than any company, gets this.

I own one, but I think the AppleTV is little more than a gimmick product today. But once in a while, I’ll discover that I didn’t DVR an episode of the Office and I’ll purchase it via iTunes, then from my computer, I will use the AppleTV to watch it on my TV. The other day, I realized that AppleTV is a great way to look at movie Trailers — like an on-demand channel — that totally by-passses iTunes; that totally by-passes my comptuer; that works whether or not my computer is turned on. It grabs and streams the movie trailers from the Internet via wi-fi and my broadband connection. I know that others must have figured this out a long time ago, but that’s when the light went off for me that an AppleTV can be a cable box-like device for streaming any video from the Internet directly (as in, not through a compuer) to an HDTV — not merely a means to stream video you collect via iTunes on your computer. At that point, I realized this is a corporate communications device. Within days, I’m sure we’ll be learning how the streaming can also support real-time, live video as well as pre-recorded video posted on YouTube.

One consistent reason why the nay-sayers predict the iPhone will fail is that it won’t be supported by corporate IT departments, like Blackberries, etc. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal summed up this school-of-naysaying in this article.

Today, with Apple’s video-distribution announcement, I can only imagine one big-co CEO demo’ing to another big-co CEO how he blasts out a video message to 1,000 executives each morning via their iPhones, computers and AppleTV. I think the whole “IT department won’t support it” argument will go away once CEOs discover they can be video stars.

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