Two movies, two Apple TVs, one iTunes library

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Reader Jeff Heyl considers adding to his stable of Apple gadgets but wishes to know about configuring it for both adult and pre-adult use. He writes:

I have an Apple TV 2 and am thinking of adding another one, depending on your answer. With two Apple TVs I’d like the kids and adults to be able to watch different programs in different rooms drawing on the same repository of movies and TV shows (on a MacBook Pro) using the same WiFi network (there is only one network in the house). Is this possible?


Much as I love giving one-word answers, I can expand on that a bit. Not only can you play two different movies from the same source to two Apple TVs, you can play different parts of the same movie on the two devices. So, for example, if you and your helpmeet have settled down to watch a movie, find yourself half-way in, your daughter returns home after street-luging practice, and exclaims, “Hey, I wanted to watch this! Start it over.” you can politely suggest that she move to the rumpus room and watch the movie—from the beginning—on that Apple TV.

And you can because it’s all just data. We’ve developed this notion that the playback of audio and video is necessarily a linear operation because of the media on which we’ve stored and accessed that content. For example, you listened to music on an LP by dropping a needle at the beginning of a groove and let that needle run through the length of the groove to move from start to finish. Or, in the days of tape, you watched a movie by playing a VCR tape from the beginning to the end. You couldn’t play two parts of that content simultaneously because only one portion could be read at a time.

But computers and the specialized computers we call by other names (iPod, iPad, Zune, Mildred) don’t access media that way. They have the ability to access multiple chunks of data. To them, playing both the middle and beginning of The Loved One is no more challenging than simultaneously playing the first episode of Police Woman and Twin Peaks’ unsatisfying finale.

And this may lead you to ask, “If that’s the case, can two iPads using iOS 4.3’s Home Sharing feature play different movies from the same source computer?”


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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Small size
    • Low price
    • Runs cool
    • Supports Netflix streaming
    • Solid 720p playback
    • Responsive interface


    • Limited rental content on iTunes
    • Home Sharing requires single iTunes account
    • Initial setup still requires tedious text input
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