The Apple TV Does Not Suck

Sorry, I had to add a quick post here about Apple TV.

I had lunch this weekend with some close friends, several of which have worked for Apple in the past. And I was surprised at how negative they were about the Apple TV.

First, check out this article on Seeking Alpha.  It looks like the Apple TV may be blowing away expectations already, with 100,000 sold.

Second, the Apple TV does not suck. Here’s why I’m excited about it:

  1. Tivo Home Media Option 2.0. It feels like Tivo stopped innovating with the home media option once it got into trouble with it’s future as a company and a product. Right out of the box, the Apple TV takes the best things that I love about the Tivo interface, and brings them to my iTunes content. Tivo handles my iTunes playlists & iPhoto libraries just fine, but Apple TV takes support to the next level with support for iTunes Store content and TV/Movies/Music Videos. High definition is a plus, although I’m still living in the stone age of 480p.
  2. Media Server Heavy, TV Interface Light. I think this is the right model. You want a big, brawny server with loads of storage, and a lightweight client with smart caching to receive content. I honestly see my house with an Apple TV on every set instead of a DVD player. I know the first TV that’s getting one is the one in the kitchen, where my young son is just destroying DVDs left and right. No need for that – he can just pick from a menu.
  3. Goodbye AVI. Hello, MP4. I’m very excited about MP4 files, ripped with the H.264 codec. High quality, smaller files. A 2 hour movie seems to fit in about 1 GB. My friend John was very caught up with the lack of AVI support, and maybe he knows something I don’t. But to me, this just sounds like complaints that the iPod doesn’t support WMA. My prediction – the lack of support of AVI is going to turn out to be bad for Microsoft, and not hurt Apple TV.

Now, there are plenty of features I’d like to see on the Apple TV. I’d like to see a concept of “libraries” of content, so I could make a library of kid-friendly content for my son. Maybe some sort of enforced filter or protection would be sufficient. I’m also worried about 802.11N scaling across my house, especially with multiple TVs going.

I’m also concerned with the grey areas around ripping DVDs, versus the clear availability and accessibility of ripping CDs. Normal people need to be able to convert their DVD libraries to digital content easily, the same way that iTunes lets people convert their CD libraries.

The wild card here is YouTube and other ventures. Depending on how much unique content avoids the MP4 format, the more inclusive Apple may have to be. With Google & Apple linked at the board level, however, don’t be surprised to see the Apple TV support YouTube at some point, in some form.

I still would love a way to automate the conversion of my recorded Tivo programming into iTunes content. What I really would like to see is a Tivo Series 3 where the hard drive in the box is really considered cache storage – the real file store would be my media server, and the Tivo would archive all recordings to the server when it wasn’t busy.

All sources would lead to the media server, my digital content receiver. And all paths out of the media server lead to devices like the iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV.

But if that vision doesn’t work, maybe I need to rethink my $100/month DirecTV bill.  Maybe with basic programming, I could save $40/month and put that money into acquiring content in other ways.

Apple TV is definitely a 1.0, but it does not suck. 😛

3 thoughts on “The Apple TV Does Not Suck

  1. Pingback: Psychohistory Apple TV: Lead Zeppelin or Disruptive Rocket? «

  2. hey – thanks for the positive writeup on Apple TV – I did not even think about the scratched up discs problem with kids – I mean this is why cartridges were so popular on video games!

    you have me curious about this:

    “worried about 802.11N scaling across my house, especially with multiple TVs going.”

    not to go off topic but could you elaborate on this a bit more?

  3. Hi Chinarut,

    Call me old fashioned, but with different 802.11 devices around the house, I wasn’t sure how my single Airport Extreme would scale. The issue was whether or not I’d have issues with computers, AppleTV, etc all competing for 802.11 bandwidth.

    Thankfully, there have been no issues so far in this regard. I did, in the end, decide to get a Mac Mini instead of a second AppleTV, however, largely for storage and other related benefits.


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