Apple TV ships with mixed reactions (and wildcard)

Boom! It's Thursday's IT Blogwatch: in which Apple TV finally breaks cover. Not to mention interactive animations to wiggle your mouse at...

Gregg Keizer snarks, "AppleTV ships late, as scheduled":

Apple Inc. yesterday began shipping its AppleTV living room digital appliance to customers who had placed preorders -- making good, more or less, on its promise last month to deliver the device by mid-March. AppleTV ... is an 802.11n-draft wireless device that streams iTunes-purchased movies from a Mac or PC to a television. It also can sync content between as many as five home machines. It sells for $299 and is available on Apple's online store or at the company's retail outlets. According to the online Apple store, shipping now takes place between three and five business days from the date the device is ordered.


Some technology analysts have big expectations for the AppleTV, with at least one predicting that the long-term market for the device will be considerably larger than that for the much-more-hyped iPhone, which is slated to go on sale in June.

Wall Street analysts have also been bullish on AppleTV. Earlier this week, Piper Jaffray & Co.'s Gene Munster forecast that 2007 sales of the device would hit 2 million units.

Katherine Böhret helped Walt Mossberg write this:

Apple TV is tiny, just about eight inches square and an inch high, far smaller than a typical DVD player or cable or satellite box, even though it packs in a 40-gigabyte hard disk, an Intel processor and a modified version of the Mac operating system. And it has a carefully limited set of functions.

Yet, in our tests, it worked great, and we can easily recommend it for people who are yearning for a simple way to show on their big TVs all that stuff trapped on their computers. We tried it with various combinations of Windows and Mac computers, with movies, photos, TV shows, video clips and music. And we didn't even use the fastest wireless network it can handle. It performed flawlessly. However, it won't work with older TVs unless they can display widescreen-formatted content and accept some newer types of cables.

Derik DeLong decodes that last line:

You’ll need at least an enhanced definition TV in order to use it with your TV ... Bummer for those of you not in the club yet (I’m in like Flynn and even know the secret handshake of the HDTV owner).

Thomas Ricker adds video:

Only Walt Mossberg's clout can muster up an Apple TV 10 days prior to its launch. So naturally, he and WSJ colleague Katherine Boehret were first-up with a review on Apple's initial living room sally ... They tested on three Macs and three PCs (yes, running Vista too) running iTunes and successfully streamed data without stuttering over both 802.11n (as you'd hope) and even 802.11g WiFi. Oh sure, there were limitations: for example, you can't control the volume with Apple's remote and only trailers and "previews" of iTunes Store content can be streamed directly from the Apple TV interface. Although Walt expects the latter to change via a "software update" to give users the ability to stream or download a variety of content (like Google Video?) direct from the Internet.


The Walt and "Katie" video review is now available.

Noah Robischon has pictures of an unboxing:

Packaging is one of the only things about the AppleTV that we haven't seen already. I was lucky enough to get one early. Biggest surprise? No cables in the box.

Rob Beschizza proffers pros and cons:

Here's why Apple TV will change the world, slightly.

  1. It's currently the only easy way to get stuff locked away in iTunes streaming to a TV set. Bam. Simple as that.
  2. It's sexy. It just looks nice ...

  3. It goes spiffingly with the Mac Mini, using ... a similar form factor at half-brick height ...

  4. There's not a lot of high-profile, branded competition ...

  5. Everyone else has finally, belatedly, decided it's hot. This might seem like a stupid reason [but] most of us want it to be a near-invisible interface between us and our media, not a science project.
Ready to buy? Think again. Here's five reasons why it won't change much of anything.
  1. It's $300. Damn. And no free cables!
  2. If you don't use iTunes-DRMed media, it offers nothing new ...

  3. It doesn't do much. Even though it's a capable computer in itself, it's all in the service of functionality that's designed in ...

  4. With all that grunt, it's basically a  Mac Mini Mini with lots of outputs and special software. Why can't I just slap OS X or Windows or Linux on it and use it as a kids' computer, the heart of a MAME cabinet, a Car PC, or something a little more fully-featured? ...

  5. Won't work with other DRM systems. Goes without saying, but say it I must.

Hackability is what it comes down to for me. I want it to be a success, so that lots of people dick around inside it, and I want to get into it for use as an ultra-tiny computer. Don't laugh: if Debian can be stuffed in a $75 hard drive ethernet adapter, it can be stuffed in this.

Thomas Hawk yawns:

Cannot easily stream cable or satellite HDTV content to your TV ... There is not a lot of free HDTV content on the net yet ... I'm also not crazy about having to manually convert a lot of different video file formats out there to get them to play ... No DVD player. Yes, I know Apple wanted to keep it simple, but if for no other reason than it looks cool being able to ditch your clunky DVD player for a beautiful Apple TV might make some sense ... $300 for something that basically just allows me to watch crappy quality internet video on a 43 inch plasma or buy Apple supplied DRM'd non HD content (that I'm already paying for and recording on my HDTV TiVo in HD)? No thanks ... It doesn't play kick ass video games ... You can't control the volume ... Wireless speeds still suck ... 40GB drive? What is this 1997? My HD TiVo has a 250GB drive ... Why in the world isn't there built in functionality to search and view YouTube videos? ... Why not just buy a Mac Mini, use Elgato's EyeTV, and skip the middle man?

bwalling runs the numbers:

I'm buying one to get rid of my cable bill. At $85/month (factor in digital cable, HD service, DVR box rental, DVR service, etc), my cable bill comes to $1020 on the year. Take out $300 for the AppleTV and $100 for an OTA HDTV antenna, and I've got $620 to spare on buying shows. I don't watch nearly enough shows for that, so the AppleTV pays for itself in the first year. Starting in year two, I have no hardware costs, so I'm saving even more money.

n6mod discovered something interesting:

There's an "Export to [apple]tv..." option in the latest quicktime that produces unencumbered H.264 files. So DRM is not a requirement for it to play. The apple specs only declare a smallish subset of H.264 and MPEG4 files, but 720p H.264 isn't bad at all.

slughead is angry:

I, for one, will not be buying this. $1/song, $2/TV show, $10/movie all in awful fidelities and with a sub-par selection is absolutely ball-busting. Moreover, I can't loan any of this stuff to a friend or resell it when I'm done.

You buy your big-ass plasma TV and an AppleTV and you'll notice damn fast the difference between your HD Cable TV and the mess you downloaded off iTunes. Not to mention a 128kbit/s AAC iTunes song streaming to your stereo.

Apple's 'digital lifestyle' is cheap, highly limited crap with a high price tag. With the money I save from NOT buying into this vicious cycle of over-priced lock-in, lock-out, I'll buy myself a TiVo and a Netflix/Blockbuster account (which is now shipping HDDVD and BluRay). Larger selection, higher fidelity, more choices, choose to rent or choose to buy.

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... Wildcard: interesting interactive Japanese Flashimations

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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