Will Apple TV Succeed? Our Views, Your Views | iLounge Article

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Will Apple TV Succeed? Our Views, Your Views

When Apple announced Apple TV (formerly iTV) last September - a metal and plastic, Mac mini-styled device capable of displaying a computer’s iTunes video, photo, and audio content on a television set - people were initially confused. “Why would anyone pay $299 for the video equivalent of a $129 AirPort Express mini-router?”, asked some. Others wondered whether such a device was even globally viable given the state of iTunes video downloads: Apple doesn’t provide movie or TV content to customers outside of the United States, or offer a TV-to-iTunes recording feature, leaving the rest of the world’s iPod owners to find worthwhile Apple TV-compatible videos on their own. But as it has neared its March 2007 release date, Apple has taken steps to justify Apple TV’s price and existence, noting that it contains advanced 802.11n wireless hardware, a 40GB hard disk, and playback support for videos in one high-definition (720P) resolution, along with an impressive new menuing interface. It’s not a router - it’s almost a screenless iPod with wireless capabilities, advanced video-out, and the ability to store or spool content as you prefer.

Thanks to a recent shipping delay, three weeks remain before Apple TV’s launch, so we wanted to canvas our editors’ and readers’ opinions on Apple’s upcoming offering - positive or negative. Below, you’ll find our editors’ views - please add yours to the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Larry AngellL.C. Angell, Senior Editor, United States: “Maybe it’s just the way I consume digital content, but I really can’t remember being this unexcited about a new Apple product. I listen to music on my iPod, not in my living room; I watch high quality movies on DVD, not inferior iTunes versions; and I make prints and iMovies of my photos, not TV slideshows. I need a set-top box to do one thing above all else—record TV shows—and with Apple apparently more concerned with selling $1.99 episodes than making this feature happen, my old TiVo will be happy to continue keeping me up to date with ‘The Office’ and ‘24.’ “

Bob Levens, Contributing Editor, United Kingdom: “Do I watch enough TV to warrant getting the Apple TV? The simple answer is no. My use of the iPod solely for music is well known now and if I wish to listen to music in my living room it will be on my hi-fi—NOT the iPod Hi-Fi, a proper hi-fi. I also am reluctant to leave a 40” LCD TV running just so that I can look at the album art of the music I am listening to. Apple TV is nice eye candy, but I don’t think I’ll be buying one.”

Dennis Lloyd, Publisher, United States: “I’m anxious to get my hands on one to see first hand what the user experience will be like. I’m still not sure about buying and downloading movies to view on a TV. I have a 61” DLP TV and I want the highest quality possible. I’ll stick with DVDs for now. Eventually I’ll buy into high definition DVDs. We need more speed and bandwidth to really enjoy downloading and watching movies anywhere in our homes. Obviously this is just Apple TV version 1.0. Wireless transfer speeds will get faster, bandwidth will increase and they will be able to deliver true DVD quality in the future. For now, DVDs are the current medium for the average person.”

Jeremy Horwitz, Editor-in-Chief, United States: “I’m really not sure what to make of Apple TV at this point. On one hand, I strongly disagree with those who suggest it’s inferior or equivalent to connecting a Mac or PC with iTunes to a television set with a video cable. Most people don’t want to keep any $500+ computer tied to a television, or going back and forth all the time, for storing and playing videos, photos, and music. In fact, most of them don’t really care about playing photos or music through their TVs at all. They want—or will want—a separate, less expensive, smaller device that runs quiet and is ready at all times with their choice of videos. That’s what Apple TV could turn out to be.

The problem is that the current Apple TV seems like it’s missing some big features. iTunes video content isn’t yet popular enough to warrant such a device on its own, especially outside of the United States, and Apple TV doesn’t include a DVD player or digital video recorder to augment one’s currently limited iTunes library. With either of these features at the $299 price, it would probably be a smash hit with mainstream users. Similarly, hard-core users are concerned about its very limited hard disk space and reliance on sub-DVD-quality video content, which will probably look fine but not fantastic on the big, widescreen TVs it’s intended to interface with. My sense is that Apple’s focus on providing a hardware solution tailored towards the iTunes Store—rather than the big new TVs people are buying—is rapidly threatening to transform the company into the next Sony, so obsessed with its content-selling business that it compromises the sales and popularity of its new hardware devices.”

Jerrod H., Contributing Editor, United States: “Back when the iTV prototype was first demonstrated, I honestly wasn’t interested at all, as I didn’t have the equipment to make it useful, and I didn’t recognize the appeal. Since then, however, I’ve come to understand—and desire—the product more, partially due to my recent purchases of an HDTV and 802.11n-compatible computer hardware. It’s not often described as such, but I like to think of the Apple TV primarily as a stationary iPod for your TV. In a way, it’s the ‘true video iPod’ in that it’s a super-easy way to experience digital video content the way it was meant to be experienced, as the iPod has done for digital music.

The Apple TV’s library syncing mode—as opposed to pure streaming operation - should make Apple TV feasible even for laptop-only homes like mine, where there is no ‘always on’ central media computer to stream from. As my iTunes video library grows, I’ll certainly be buying one, but I’ll quickly be attempting to replace the internal hard drive with something larger—40GB just isn’t even close to enough for a video-centric device.”

Christina Easton, Contributing Editor, United States: “I really like the idea, but I’m not sure about the execution and timing. For instance, what should we expect from the quality of iTunes videos on a big-screen, high-definition television—will a download of ‘The Office’ or ‘Battlestar Galactica’ look great? Price-wise, I think they would have been really smart to do it at $199—I really don’t like the idea of having to buy multiple $299 units for multiple TVs, and that seems inevitable. Also, I don’t know that there’s a great incentive for people to want this for their TVs at this point, so bundling some iTunes video content would make this more attractive, maybe ‘buy an Apple TV and get one Season Pass of your choice.’ No matter how well it’s marketed, Apple TV won’t take off unless people actually have video content to view with it. A digital video recorder like TiVo creates TV-ready content for free, and since so many people have DVRs, and Apple TV depends mostly on content that costs money, I’m not sure that it’s a smart alternative.”

Jesse Hollington, Contributing Editor, Canada: “The Apple TV seems a promising solution for those who want a simple plug-and-play solution for accessing a large library of content that is already available in their iTunes library, but it’s overall appeal may not be as widespread as Apple thinks. The first problem is likely to be the limitation of content that can be played with the Apple TV; although it is too early to say for certain, the current specs would seem to indicate that only content playable through native Quicktime, without plug-ins, will be supported, and this is likely to exclude everything from non-converted DVDs to programs recorded with Elgato’s EyeTV software, but not converted to iTunes format. The second problem is the lack of support for any output other than HDMI/Component, which will essentially make this device viable only for those users who already have an HDTV setup. This is definitely a device for the higher-end home entertainment user, but not the power user. In my case, I’ve already adopted a Mac mini as my home theater solution, leaving me with no use for the Apple TV in my household other than for a secondary room that doesn’t have an HDTV in it.”

Your comments and thoughts are appreciated below.

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Comments

1

NO!
I think that itv will not succeed until Apple open his eyes and open his bloody itunes shop to all countries without any area restrictions. I live in the real middle of the europe and what do you thing - am I able to use itunes shop? Play ipod games? Buy items? No - i don´t…SO i think that it will not succeed until apple opens his market to larger area….

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 12:36 PM (CST)

1

Oh yeah baby, I’m waiting for mine to arrive. This will be as big as the iPod. AAPL wins, and the loser will be cable companies with bloated bills. I’d rather pay $1.99 for the shows I want to watch than $100 a month for cable. It will change how America consumes TV programming. At first I wished for an AAPL DVR, but I grok this now.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 12:51 PM (CST)

1

I really don’t see the appeal, not only for the reasons already noted, but also because this device seems entirely backward to me. What I want is a device that hooks up to my TV and stereo and is the central repository for all things video, photo and music. The AppleTV does exactly the opposite - your music, photos and videos all have to reside on each and every computer you wish to play them on. The AppleTV should be a standalone device with a built-in dock and allow you to use it for the iTS (and you might as well have web browsing too) and syncing with your iPod(s). To make that really work, your computers should be able to use it as their iTunes library seamlessly. I.e. not like iTunes sharing works, rather it would be your iTunes library, acting like a wireless hard drive. You’d “import a CD” on any computer and it would actually end up on the AppleTV instead of on your computer (or, optionally, in addition to.) And such. That’s the device I want.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 12:55 PM (CST)

1

I’m going to have to say ‘no’ to this as well… at least in this first version. If Apple adds TiVo functions (can that be done as a software download?) then it might have a better chance in the future. Another thing that may help its chances are if Apple adds videogame console functionality (broken record much, Multimoog?)

Then again, I can see Apple being stubborn and not changing anything. Then it’ll be another failed product - sometimes people forget that before the iPod, Apple had a lot of those…

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 12:58 PM (CST)

1

I think the AppleTV will succeed.  I think it is the best way to connect iTunes to the home entertainment system.  Unlike an iPod, it is easier to navigate from the sofa with the Apple Remote.  And don’t underestimate the desire to simply connect your music and photos to your HDTV.  I even agree with Apple not to include PVR features: most PVRs now are bundles from the cable or satellite company.  But I see several factors that will limit the success of the AppleTV.  First, AppleTV has limited video content, especially for customers outside the USA.  Second, the video quality is limited, especially since the AppleTV is meant to be connected to a HDTV.  The saving grace of AppleTV could be IPTV.  If we get more quality content beyond RocketBoom and DL.TV, then the AppleTV could launch interest in IPTV.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 1:18 PM (CST)

1

It’s an interesting idea, but one that I think is far too close to what TiVo does all ready. To note, the only time I buy shows on iTunes is when I forgot to have TiVo record them.
As it stands, TiVo will stream music and photos to your T.V. Admittedly, perhapse not with the great interface that Apple offers but it still does’nt make me want to go out and drop three bills.
It’s easy to see the direction the big ‘ole screen in the living room is moving, and I think Apple has the right idea but did’nt quite pull off another hat trick with this.
I think the television is evolving into little more than a secondary moniter for the computer. Currently, most T.V.s will have a PS3, or Wii, a Tivo, a cable box, a DVD or HD/DVD-BluRay, and just maybe a museum quality top-loading VCR trailing enough attached cables to make your screen look like a cyber-age tribute to C’thulu.
A truley revolutionary device would perform the functions of all those gadgets buy itself and do it wirelessly. When will such a gizmo arrive?...Oh, wait…I’ve all ready got a home computer..Sure, it does’nt do all those things as well, but give it time, give it time…

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 1:35 PM (CST)

1

I don’t know if AppleTV will succeed or not for most people, but I think it will be a success for me.  Unlike many of the people this device is marketed towards, I receive all of my HDTV signals over-the-air.  I plan on buying the AppleTV and a few season passes on the cable channels I can’t receive over the air (Comedy Central, Adult Swim, etc.) to supplement ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, WB and FOX that I already receive for free.  It’ll probably cost me less than $20 a month for these programs—so the initial cost of the AppleTV will be made up in less than a year (relative to cable).  I know the quality won’t be HD but if you look at the popular cable channels, none of them are in HD either.  I don’t see the value in giving $75 to $100 to the cable companies every month for low-def content I probably won’t watch—when I can get everything I want for much less.  For people already on board paying $100 for cable every month with DVR, AppleTV won’t mean much.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 1:59 PM (CST)

1

My wife likes to watch Ugly Betty when The Office is on (which sometimes I watch on the train into the office). We have two young kids who love Nemo and Bugs and Oz and “Mick and Don”. I have already converted all our Disney movies to iTunes and my iPod is hooked up to our TV. We have a Season Pass for the office. My wife listens to music on the iPod through the TV most of the day because we don’t want the kids watching “too much” TV. I travel a lot and when I do I take the iPod with me. AppleTV will make our lives easier.

When you first got iTunes, did it blow your mind that you could so easily make mix tapes? That you had every live Pearl Jam album in one place now? That you could put your entire music collection on random and just listen for days, alternating between Nelly, Britney Spears, The Strokes, Prince, Afghan Whigs, and The Temptations? Well the AppleTV will do that for video and TV shows and photos… all your media will finally be in one place! If Grandpa is in town and wants to see the videos we threw together, we won’t have to search through drawers… we click the remote! If our kids want to watch Wizard of Oz but it’s upstairs, then no big deal… we click the remote.

Our kids had their friends over for a Holiday Party last December. I built a video playlist of Christmas movies and played it as background during the party. Didn’t have to change a DVD, nothing… it just worked. We have the Disney DVDs with shorts of Donald, Mickey, and Pluto… I have a video playlist of those for my kids.

I have a rule about technology… when my parents ask about it then it’s going to be big. And my dad wanted to know how to watch the video podcast we have set up on his TV.

Now if only they didn’t require a HDTV…

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 2:21 PM (CST)

1

Parties, Parties, Parties.  My roommate and I (both 26) have several people over every weekend to drink and such.  Anyway, I bought the iPod tv dock awhile ago…and then we started downloading tons of music videos.  I mean like +400. 

When you have people over, you want to be social, not watching a movie, and listening to music just seems so yesterday.  So we settled on music videos.

Well the iPod dock works fine…but we both have iPods and different tastes in music and end up switching each others ipods out during the party and eventually hiding them on each other to get to be the “king of the hill”

The Apple TV for me, fixes this dilemma.  We will both be able to have both our playlists of music video’s on TV.  I also have the main 52” wired to a small 13” in the kitchen so music videos can be watched during “shot time.”

Maybe we need to grow up…but damn, it makes a party a whole lot better w/ jamming music and videos that you don’t need to pay attention to but can.

March 23 can’t come soon enough.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 2:45 PM (CST)

1

i think the main limit is the file format. there’s little reason to limit the kinds of files that can be played, yet the AppleTV requires you to convert your content to a specific filetype. this is the same issue with the XBox 360. The amount of labor required to convert home collections to the right file type is more than just off-putting. it’s a show-stopper for anyone with a real job. Jeremy, as usual, gets it right. This is a Sony move meant to sell more iTS content. I’m still unsure if I’m going to bite (the interface is soo sweet!)

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 3:22 PM (CST)

1

At first I thought that paying for TV shows was crazy, but then the power went out for the season 2 ender of The Office.  I was able to download the show for a measly $2.  Fast-forward to 2007:  I’m getting tired of waiting for DirecTV to give me local HD channels.  I’m also getting tired of shelling out $70/month, when I pretty much only watch the HD channels and my local networks.
Apple TV will be an excellent way for me to listen to my lossless audio library in my living room, and view TV shows and music videos.  I plan on converting all of my TV Show DVDs and Music Video DVDs to use on the Apple TV.  Imagine being able to play random music videos just like they used to do on MTV!

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 3:25 PM (CST)

1

You hit it right on the nail, twitzgall!

I entertain at my apartment almost every weekend.  We listen to my iPod as well as others that are brought over.  My current setup is Apple’s AV dock plugged into my Hi-Fi.  While we use the remote to skip songs, it’s very limited.  When somebody wants to find a specific song, they have to go across the room and find it by using the click wheel.  Apple TV solves this by providing a interface for guests to find the song they want to hear.  Yes, I know there are new docks out that can do this, but their interface is @ss compared to Apple TV.  This
alone is worth $299 for me.

On to video.  You don’t have to use iTunes purchased movies.  The device supports up to 1280X720p using the main profile.  This is significant.  Current iTunes movies are somewhat crippled to allow them to play on the iPod’s limited processor.  It’s not so much being only 640X480 vs. 720X480 for DVD.  That’s pretty insignificant.  It’s the DATA RATE.  iTunes movies use the Baseline profile with the data rate limited at around 1500.  This is what causes them to look less than DVD.  Apple TV supports the Main profile up to 1280X720p.  So you can rip your DVD’s with Handbrake or other such tools and get the full 720X480 at a data rate MUCH higher than 1500.  This will produce files equal in quality to the DVD, at less than half the space.  Problem solved.

Plus, now that HD camcorders are coming down in price, this device will let you manage and play them in 720p

720p movies are going to come from iTunes eventually anyway…in my opinion.

I could care less about a DVR.  I watch just a few shows on FOX, and rarely ever miss them during the week.

I love this product!  I can’t wait to get it installed and throw my first party with it.  It’s going to be a big hit, and people see how nice it is.  Everybody I know has gotten an iPod since I got the first one in my group of friends.  Apple TV will follow for many of them too.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 3:50 PM (CST)

1

I think what amuses me the most is that Apple is around 4 years late to the “stream my media to my TV” party and people are acting - once again - like they invented the technology.

I have two different boxes that are region free, up to 1080p, pal/ntsc converting, dvd, divx, mpeg and wmv playing, cd/dvd-+r/w reading and ethernet or wireless connected.  Call me when Apple TV catches up.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 4:29 PM (CST)

1

The quality is subpar on both sound and video. Only supports Apple formats, doesn’t support surround sound.

Why do I want this again? Even the most basic MCE computer is light years ahead of AppleTV.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 4:35 PM (CST)

1

I would consider buying one if only it worked with older analog tv’s. I can’t understand why they have not incorporated support for older 4:3 tv’s.  Yes it would be great to have a new widescreen, but that is not an option for most people yet.  And $299 is too high for what you get.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 4:43 PM (CST)

1

Stark23x,

Apple didn’t claim to invent this technology anymore than they claimed to invent the MP3 player with the iPod.  They simply have implemented it in a way that makes it attractive and easy to use.  And while you boxes may do all those things, I doubt it’s as small, cheap, as easy to use, or as elegant and Apple TV. 
These forums are mostly visited by techno-nerds who complain about everything from lack of DIVIX to OGG.  Apple TV is clearly going for mass market.  I.E., it’s not for you.  Move along.

PPGMD,

MPEG 4 and H.264 are open standards.  They are not “Apple formats”.  Both codecs are supported on a wide variety of devices, including PSP and the ZUNE.  H.264 itself is used with HD-DVD and Blu-Ray.  Get your facts straight before you blurt out unfounded criticism.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 5:11 PM (CST)

1

I agree that it’s got problems. I was hoping for PVR functionality and a DVD solution—not an onboard DVD drive, but being able to rip DVDs into iTunes in native VOB format and syncing or streaming them. I have to assume that legal complications disallow this, which is a deep pity. I also think that they want you to buy content from ITS rather than using your own.

I bought an EyeTV when I found Apple TV had no PVR functionality. Elgato is promising tighter integration with the Apple TV (rip direct to iPod- or Apple TV-compatible format?). This will improve the experience.

I don’t think 40Gb is too small. I have an 80Gb iPod and it contains all my music and a large video collection. The video, being so big, is constantly rotated into and out of the iPod and quite a lot of it, like recorded TV and video podcasts, is temporary. Only the music is static. This is how I’ll use my Apple TV.

I’m in Australia, so no TV or movie content on my ITS. Despite this, having ripped over 200Gb of video from my DVDs for my iPod, I’m the perfect target for it.

I think it will do well in the US due to the availability of content. People are saying it’s expensive but it’s less than half the price of an entry-level Mac Mini here. I’ve got a desktop and a laptop, so I wouldn’t be using a Mini for more than a media centre, and I just couldn’t justify it at this time.

Even if it doesn’t do so well, I think this is an important step that some company had to do. It’s not necessarily groundbreaking, but it’s evolutionary. Given that it’s Apple, I hope it succeeds. We need a robust, affordable applicance-based media-centre solution. If next year’s model doesn’t add PVR or DVD capabilites, then I might change to a Mini. Right now, it’s perfect for me.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 5:38 PM (CST)

1

I think this product will find it’s market… If you don’t think it’s for you then don’t get it…

It seems like a much simpler route than Media Center or Streaming to the Xbox…

The interface alone gives you reason to get it. Also when they start selling 720P movies on iTunes it will be great… It’s a great addition for anyone who uses iTunes and wants to use it via the TV.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 1, 2007 at 9:32 PM (CST)

1

I cancelled my cable yesterday and returned the converter today. I’m shopping for deals on 720p tonight.

My family watches more movies than TV, and my son can’t wait to have iTunes in the family room. Apple TV will make that easy. Apple is surely lining up more video content for iTunes. It’s just a matter of time. Then I can watch what I want, when I want, without paying for 120 channels I don’t want.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 2, 2007 at 1:14 AM (CST)

1

Chanceless product. Just as chanceless as the whole video downloads concept from ITS in the first place. I mean come on, some people may buy into this whole low res drm riddled video files for the price of a full quality dvd thing, but the rest of the world is smarter than that. This is the age of HDTV people, not of 640x480.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 2, 2007 at 4:18 AM (CST)

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