Editorial: Five Reasons To Pass On Apple TV 2, For Now | iLounge Article


Editorial: Five Reasons To Pass On Apple TV 2, For Now

Back in 2007, when Apple was hyping up the original Apple TV as a smart way to play iTunes content through televisions, we urged readers to be cautious in a series of editorials: our original take was “it’s nice, but,” followed by a more explicit “we don’t think Apple got it right this time”, and then a stronger suggestion: “hold off on this one.” Our recommendations came months before Apple started to downplay the device as a “hobby,” conceding that it hadn’t quite delivered the product people were looking for, and then lapsed into what became a pattern of modest software updates. As the second-generation Apple TV prepares to launch again this week, and Apple is once again trying to generate hype by giving units to friendly, less critical reviewers, we wanted to offer our honest thoughts on Apple’s latest endeavor into the living room—and why you might be best off saving your money for the time being. As in our prior articles, we provide counterpoints to each of these points for your consideration.

1. Apple’s Shipping An Incomplete Product (Again). Once upon a time, Apple used to chide Microsoft for releasing products that didn’t work fully on the day of release, requiring subsequent updates to perform as advertised. While Apple TV will arrive on day one with the necessary software to play content streamed from a computer or the Internet, its most intriguing feature—its ability to stream videos and photos directly from certain iOS devices—won’t be available until some point in November, when Apple releases iOS 4.2.

Counterpoint: Even though iOS 4.2 may wind up being a late November release—Apple typically releases things at the end of a promised month, not the beginning, or infrequently delays them—it’s not that far away. Until then, developer betas of iOS 4.2 may provide some insight into how well the feature works. Also, according to information Apple leaked to Fox News, the new Apple TV will temporarily offer iOS device music streaming using an updated version of its Remote application (version 2.0, released today), providing some relief for users, as well as a preview of AirPlay’s performance before iOS 4.2 comes out.

2. It’s Very Unclear How Well iOS Devices Will Stream Video to Apple TV 2. The new Apple TV relies upon “AirPlay,” an updated version of AirTunes, to stream videos and photo content from iTunes and certain iOS devices—some with 802.11n support, some without. Devices with older 802.11g hardware might or might not send smooth video to the Apple TV using AirPlay, and even iOS 802.11n devices differ enough in internal hardware that there may be some compatibility issues. iPads, for instance, work on 5 GHz 802.11n networks, while iPhones and iPod touches do not, so networking changes may be needed in some homes just to let the latter devices talk with the Apple TV, let alone send video to it.

Counterpoint: We won’t know for sure until iOS 4.2 is out, but we hope (and expect) that the feature will work well with all iOS hardware and networking environments. Apple would likely argue that buyers of most of its devices never expected to be able to stream video from them at all, so whatever they’re capable of is better than nothing.

3. Apple TV 2 Does Even Less Than The Version That Flopped—And Has Less Expansion Potential. Once in a while, Apple takes a product that’s doing pretty well and chops out a bunch of features, only to restore them in next year’s release. This happened in recent years with the iPod shuffle and iMovie, and like the just-released iPod nano, the second-generation Apple TV dropped some really big features this time. One obvious, huge omission is virtually all of the prior 160GB model’s storage capacity; the new Apple TV can’t store any content, which doesn’t just impact videos, music, and photos this time—it also limits the imagined potential of Apple TV 2 as an app and gaming device (discussed further below), while requiring users to keep computers or iOS devices turned on to provide access to their existing libraries of content. A more expensive version of Apple TV that adds back storage, albeit with iPod touch-like capacities, would be the most likely follow-up product.

There may be other, more subtle changes, as well. Will the new Apple TV be able to stream HD videos that were rented on a computer? This seems like it should be an obvious “yes,” but users of Apple’s iPad VGA Adapter have discovered that they can’t play back all the content they acquired from the iTunes Store, a problem Apple hid in Knowledgebase Articles and legalese disclaimers. Will iTunes Store content suffer similar restrictions in an AirPlay world?

Counterpoint: Unlike the iPod shuffle, iPod nano, and iMovie, which debuted at the same or higher prices than the better versions they replaced, the second-generation Apple TV sells for $99—less than half the cost of the prior model when it was discontinued. With some software tweaks, it may be able to rely on wireless networked storage other than a Mac or PC, such as a Time Capsule, which would be great. The addition of Netflix subscription streaming video also suggests that Apple may be moving in the direction of its many competitors, which offer multiple app-like options for accessing video and audio content from a variety of third-party sources, rather than forcing everything to be bought or rented through the iTunes Store.

4. The App Store’s Not Announced, Ready To Go, Or Likely In The Near Future. When the first Apple TV began to flag, Apple fans began to imagine all of the cool things the device could do with new accessories and software—some people even assumed that an ecosystem would develop around Apple TV because one had emerged for the iPod and iPhone. But Apple instead kept the Apple TV locked down, making only vague statements about its own free future software updates that would “surprise and delight” users. Since then, it has done little to pave the way for bigger developments on the new Apple TV; even if Apple wants to release an “App Store for Apple TV,” the current model will have little to no space for apps as we know them. Although adding an App Store would be a major step forward for the device, this doesn’t seem to be a priority for the company right now, and would require developer involvement that isn’t likely to start until Spring or Summer 2011, at the earliest. It might also require some changes to the device’s user interface.

Counterpoint: The Apple TV runs iOS 4.1, which means that developers will be able to rush applications out quickly in the event that Apple does announce an App Store. And there’s no doubt that developers would love to try.

5. Apple Still Views Apple TV As A “Hobby,” And So Does The Industry. The iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad have been huge hits for Apple over the past few years, and the company has devoted whatever resources were necessary to make sure that each product and its sequels were ready to launch on schedule every year. By contrast, Apple’s repeated description of Apple TV as “a hobby” isn’t just idle chatter—that’s code for “something that isn’t receiving Apple’s full attention and passion.” The software updates Apple has issued each year for Apple TV have been as much about fixing big interface problems as adding new features, and Apple has not enunciated any broad vision for growing the Apple TV as a platform. This year’s strategy is just “make it cheaper,” while competitors are offering comparable or better options at the same or lower prices. TV networks appear to be extremely reluctant to support the new Apple TV’s rental model, and some have been publicly negative about becoming involved.

Counterpoint: Apple’s approach this time is “go cheap,” and cheap alone is enough to sell some products… particularly ones priced at $100 or less. Once iOS 4.2 is out and Apple TV becomes useful as a wireless display option for iOS devices, it may just take off as an iPod/iPhone/iPad accessory, selling enough units that networks and developers will want to jump on board to support it—or future versions with on-board storage. Only time will tell whether the “hobby” becomes a full-time business or fades away.

Readers, what do you think? Are you going to buy an Apple TV this week, or hold off until it evolves into something else? We look forward to seeing your comments below.

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Great article Jeremy. As usual….

Posted by Don in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 12:01 PM (CDT)


So which one is good in the market now?

Posted by Jack Wong in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 12:52 PM (CDT)


I will definitely be buying one. The Airplay streaming feature alone is worth the $99 price tag.

Posted by Ben Olmsted in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 12:53 PM (CDT)


A couple of months ago, I decided to replace my previous aTV with a mid-2010 Mac Mini for home theater usage. Point #3 in the article makes that decision even wiser. If I have to have a computer up and running all of the time in order to use the new aTV, why not cut out this $99 “middle man” and just connect a computer directly to the home theater setup… and thereby enjoy full iTunes functionality (1080p content included) plus so much more?

Posted by Farnsworth in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 1:13 PM (CDT)


Now just because the Apple TV can’t store anything itself, it doesn’t mean that an iPad / iPhone can’t store a App and use Air Play to ‘beam’ the game / app / etc over to the Apple TV.  This could work as you are going to need remote to interact with the ‘App’ on the Apple TV and your iPhone / iPad will make a remote for sure.  Just a thought.

Posted by Joe in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 1:19 PM (CDT)


Mine is on the way.  To get lossless music easily to my main stereo system alone is worth the $99, but then you add the additional features it will be great.

Posted by Eric in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 1:41 PM (CDT)


Buy, buy, buy!!!!  Bought it on day one and can’t wait to receive it.  I’m surprise that this product is not out of stock everywhere. 

Let’s not fool ourselves here…  Although it would be cool to play HD Racing with the iPad as a full game controler and the picture comes out of your TV, it’s not there yet and shouldn’t be reviewed as such.  And although getting a Mini Mac plugged up on your TV is an alternative, it just isn’t that easy to do, now is it? 

I hope I saw it for what it really is and hence the reason I’m excited to get it…  It’s one less function/setup that i’ll have to worry about… it’ll just work without having to download/transfer files to an other device and without having to plug/unplug wires.  Any additional functions (which it will have!!) is gravy on a well-priced plate o’ fries.

The forecast is cloudy and I’m loving it.

Posted by Luc in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 2:38 PM (CDT)


I don’t use a TV or even have cable and I will buy one to stream Netflix. I may also be able to use it to stream iTunes to my stereo? Apple and Cheap is hard to beat.

Posted by Rogre in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 3:00 PM (CDT)


Yup, time to get one… if nothing more than to provide a way to get video to places in my home that don’t have a cable outlet.  I have a cable box and a home media server (Mac Mini) but there is no way to play video in my gym or home office.  Airplay seems to be a nice, easy solution to getting content on a screen anywhere in your home - freedom from wires!!!

Posted by Mark in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 3:12 PM (CDT)


I’m surprised to see that you’re cautious about the aTV. My family had one of the 160GB ones and it’s far from great. It’s a lot more effort that it’s worth - but that’s what makes this new one so appealing. It’s just simple and straight-forward with some huge added benefits. I love the whole concept of airplay. I think that’s huge! Can you imagine facetime and airplay combining for a whole family conversation? That’s the future right now! I also really love the idea of netflix streaming. I think all of this at just $99 is amazing. I’m really surprised that iLounge is so down on it and not exhorting everyone to run out and get one - although, it’s given me pause. I’ve decided to at least wait until 4.2 comes out.

Posted by urbanslaughter in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 3:43 PM (CDT)


At $99 it’s worth a flier.

I need a way to get iTunes streamed to a stereo downstairs and the previous option was an AirPort. For $20 less I can solve my problem, PLUS get a Netflix player and the potential for new functionality in November and down the road.

Not a bad deal even if it doesn’t go much beyond the initial feature set.

Posted by Chris in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 4:12 PM (CDT)


#10: Some of Apple’s products are worth running out and getting on day one. Others are “wait and see,” and still others are “don’t bother at all.” This is one of the “wait and see” ones—no need to rush. The core functionality as it’s initially shipping (“rent stuff, stream from iTunes, and watch Netflix”) may appeal to some people, but the meat (“stream from iOS”) has the potential to be huge… if it’s done correctly. If not, ugh. So it’s worth waiting a little bit to see how well it’s being done.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 5:11 PM (CDT)


Our leader has told us to buy. So buy we must.
Mine’s on it’s way.

Posted by Jon wright in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 5:30 PM (CDT)


this is a really picky editorial.

the first two points are essentially “wait for 4.2”. but why? you can still use and enjoy it in the meantime while you wait. the other three points are essentially “i wish it did more things.” well, that’s obviously a matter of personal choice. each consumer has to make their own decision about that, what they need.

if the as-announced ATV with 4.2 does what you need, then buy it. especially if you have other iOS devices to integrate with it. the one-time $99 cost is not a lot of money. about one month’s cable bill for many.

but if you are a geek/power user who emotionally demands more, wait for the likely jailbreak. or the inevitable iOS upgrades to follow next year.

Posted by AlfieJr in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 6:20 PM (CDT)


I have ordered one here in NZ, long shipping delay included. For NZ$169 its a very cheap way of getting my itunes library down from the PC to my main stereo system. This is attached to one of the tv’s, but the main benefit is using the outdoor speakers attached, so from our ipod touch/iphone remote back to change the music etc. Brilliant. I had been looking at dongles/docks for my AV receiver but for 4 or 5 times the price, and less functionality. The rental side of things, doesn’t interest me much as it’s too expensive in NZ, NZ$6.99 per movie it is as expensive as a dvd from the movie shop, and that wont slam a GB or 2 of my pitful NZ broadband data plan allowances. (mine’s 5GB and thats pretty standard here). So i imagine the youtube/netflix(not useable here)/rental wont get that much usage. But i dont need it for that. Photos/music/video, down where i needed it perfect for an inexpensive, good looking, piece of kit.

Posted by itchyitchy in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 6:30 PM (CDT)


Quote from AlfieJr - “i wish it did more things.” well, that’s obviously a matter of personal choice. each consumer has to make their own decision about that, what they need.”

God i couldnt agree with you more, its so easy to hate isnt it.

Posted by itchyitchy in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 6:36 PM (CDT)


wanted to add a thought about future “expandability” which the editorial might have addressed but did not.

with an A4 processor running iOS 4.x (and the “diagnostic” USB port), there is obviously real potential for ATV to satisfy “i wish it would do more” - officially with updates, or unofficially with jailbreaks. the one other crucial factor is the amount of RAM - will it have 512mb like the iPhone 4, or just 256mb like the iPod touch (which would cripple it pretty much)? we will know in a couple of days once someone does a teardown.

so if i were being picky, the RAM would be the crucial yes/no factor since there is no real way to add more.

Posted by AlfieJr in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 7:17 PM (CDT)


If it had storage, then they couldn’t sell it at $99.

Then would the point be, they should have lowered the price?

Lack of 1080p output, at least for streamed photos, is a disappointment, for streaming your photo libraries to you HDTV.

Posted by wco81 in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 7:52 PM (CDT)


The Apple TV 2 is the same price as an AirPort Express, but it also supports video streaming. Throw in support for Netflix, and possibly Hulu and MLB.TV in the future, and it’s a no-brainer.

Posted by Galley in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2010 at 7:58 PM (CDT)


great article… the Apple TV is easily overrated but it does add a ___load of movies to watch on your tv… which beats directTV, comcast, on-demand, ppv, etc

they should really just charge $50 for it

i think im still going to give it a shot.  Airplay seems like a really cool functionality that Rich people were paying mega bucks out of their pockets to have for the last 5-10 years. 

I just used remote last night on my ipad and that is just sweet. apple tv is also integrated in with the ipad, and that should be pretty cool as well.

yes, apple tv is still a hobby for apple, and it should be… until DIGITAL DOWNLOADS wins the war a/g blu-ray.  When movies move towarad digital download, we’ll see apple tv shift away from the rental model and create an apple tv with CLOUD or Harddrive capability(again).  Im upset that the harddrive went away, but honestly, i can still stream it from my computer’s itunes.

Posted by maroon_tiger in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 29, 2010 at 7:56 AM (CDT)

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