Look this way and that and you’ll notice that the life-cycle of a hot technology product, as viewed through the prism of the world wide web, goes a little something like this: Announcement, Hype, First Look, Review, Obscurity. After the hoopla, the rush to be the first to document the undressing of Product X, Y, or Z; and finally, judgment issued, it’s rare when a further word is written. And I think that’s too bad because, while it’s possible to glean the worth of the latest Whatever-Killer in a few days of use, it’s just as worthwhile to comment on how this same W-K fits into your life long after the parade has passed by.
Now that the
has become a fully integrated member of my multimedia family, I’d like to do just that.
As I mentioned when first covering the Apple TV, I’m one of the few and mostly proud who has
incorporated a Macintosh into my TV scheme
—attaching a Mac mini to my plasma TV and AV receiver via DVI-to-HDMI and Toslink cables. As much fun as it was to put together, this was very definitely a work-project—something I did for the benefit of those who were interested in seeing how parts A, B, and C go together and interact. Once I’d wrapped up that project I rarely used the mini, preferring to stick with discs in my regular DVD player and, when the need arose to play iTunes-like media on my TV, jack in a 5G iPod. Transferring the media from the downstairs computer to the mini upstairs was too slow and Front Row’s networking capabilities weren’t capable of streaming video without serious glitching.
Conversely, I use my Apple TV just about every day and, increasingly, it’s taking the place of my DVD player.
I have a young child and, as parents understand, young children tend to watch the same programs and movies over and over again. Rather than purchase yet more copies of
Curse of the Were-Rabbit,
Over the Hedge,
Yellow Submarine, and
Be The Creature, to replace those smudged by my daughter’s precocious mitts, I’ve ripped them and synced the results to the Apple TV’s hard drive.
As for the elders of the family, we’re busy catching up on TV shows we managed to miss the first time around. Currently we’re lost in
waiting in the wings. Because the Apple TV streams content beautifully over the 802.11g wireless network between its upstairs home and the downstairs computer that acts as its media server I haven’t bothered to sync these TV shows to the Apple TV’s hard drive. It’s for this reason that I’m not tempted in the slightest to purchase the recently released $399 version of the Apple TV that carries a 160GB hard drive. The $299 model’s 40GB hard drive offers plenty of storage for our needs.
While I’ve become more interested in exploring other TV series (but could someone explain to me the logic of selling seasons five and six of
but not the first four?) the Apple TV hasn’t motivated me to buy a lot of movies from the iTunes Store. Partly this is due to the all-too-limited selection of movies—I already have the Pixar stuff on DVD thanks to my daughter, too few of Disney’s classic movies are available, and, so far,
is the one grown-up film at The Store that I’m sure to watch often enough to justify the purchase.
The Apple TV lives in the family room along with the rest of the TV gear. This isn’t the room where we normally listen to music because the AV speakers used with the 5.1 audio system are weak compared to the B&W stereo speakers in the living room. There will eventually come a day when I run wires from the family room to the living room so I can control all upstairs audio from the Apple TV but that day remains months away. In the meantime I have an iPod jacked into the living room receiver and only occasionally listen to music and podcasts streamed to the Apple TV in the family room.
Whenever I mention my wife and her disinclination to take advantage of technology, I get messages that generally begin, “You sexist bastard….” In the hope of giving my Inbox a rest, allow me to say that my wife is smarter than I am (and has
the little gold key
to prove it) and has authorized me to say, “But it’s true!” when I suggest that she refuses to use gear that isn’t dead simple to operate. It’s not that she couldn’t, it’s just that she feels she has better things to do with her time.
And she loves the Apple TV.
I’ve yet to convince her of the worth of the
that haunts the coffee table because she’s put off by its plethora of buttons, yet even having to use three remotes—Apple TV, AV receiver, and TV—she’s perfectly comfortable accessing programming both on the Apple TV’s hard drive and from the downstairs streaming computer. As long as I leave that computer on and iTunes open, we’re golden. By way of comparison, she wouldn’t touch the Mac mini on a bet.
And, unlike with some other gadgets she’s forced to use, she’s taken the time to play with the interface. Just the other morning she told me that she’d found three movies she wanted to see based on the movie trailers available in the Apple TV’s Movies screen. This may seem like small potatoes to you, but this is a woman who asked me to place aliases of her favorite applications on her Mac’s Desktop because she finds the Dock too distracting. This is not someone who, unlike me, happily explores every nook and cranny of a box bearing an On button.
My six-year-old daughter isn’t to the point where I allow her to have free access to our remotes’ buttons, but she enjoys guiding me through the steps necessary to play her favorite shows. “No, Dada, HDMI 2. Now the Apple picture. Scroll down to
Be The Creature
. Yes, “Cheetah,” and start from the beginning, not where I left off.” It’s that easy.
Honestly, I have very few. I’m quite happy with the quality of the picture despite some people’s complaints about the lack of high-def content at the iTunes Store. It’s a tiny drag that the first couple of seasons of
aren’t offered in widescreen, forcing me to use the TV’s Just aspect ratio to get rid of the black bars. If I purchased more movies I might mourn the loss of a 5.1 soundtrack, but I don’t, so I don’t. And it’s too bad that I’m forced to sync pictures to the Apple TV rather than streaming them.
Small regrets aside, however, after two months of use, my wife, child, and I are glad that the Apple TV has joined the family. Despite also owning two TiVo boxes and a multimedia Mac, it’s hard to imagine watching TV without it.
A tiny plug: If you’re interested in all-things-Apple TV, Macworld has just released the
Apple TV Superguide, a 57-page electronic guide (also available in printed form).