Expect a wave of Apple TV imitators waving Atheros chips
More to come
Comment All the talk this week about Apple TV has been highly entertaining. Will it or won't it create a new genre for watching TV wirelessly? But there are two problems with all the talk. Firstly, most of it is about the wrong product and, secondly, much of it is about the wrong company.
People keep on pointing out to me that it is already relatively easy to generate a PC-based video file that can play in the interlaced world of TV, and just as easy to make a wired s-video connection to deliver it, so why get so excited about a wireless way of doing the same?
The truth is that the relatively intricate job of connecting PC-held files to a TV using wires hasn't taken off. But already, with the Apple TV product less than one week old in terms of being delivered, there are already help sites and FAQs for connecting the gadget to different types of TV, and even hacks for replacing the paltry 40GB hard drive with a 500GB monster.
And there are just as many suggestions about what Apple should do next with Apple TV. For instance, could a software upgrade turn the device into a DVR? Well, it would need a couple of tuners for that and it would make it more expensive.
Can it support even higher HD TV resolutions, not just 720p, and can it support multiple HD streams, not just one? Could iTunes just appear on the TV screen and could customers bypass the process of downloading internet content to a computer? Can the iTunes store then offer rentals, and not just download-to-own content?
Could Apple TV support more video formats, not just generic H.264, perhaps a bundled video converter that recognises DiVX and Flash 8 and Windows Media video formats and converts them on the fly? Can it be enhanced to give DVD burning? Blu-ray even?
Can the USB port on the side of the Apple TV be doubled up and allowed a copying connection to portable players? And can customers have more storage, more storage, and more storage?
And the truth is that not all of this is going to be delivered under Apple's current philosophy. For a start it hates other video formats and it won't touch them, it already has a strategy for larger storage, through attachment to its new Airport Extreme, and it already offers format conversion through its Mac-based QuickTime Pro and DVD burning. Take those away and you may take away the need for a Mac. That's not going to happen.
But all of these ideas can be delivered, if other players come into this market and apply pressure on Apple to keep up, and in this market, unlike the iPod market, they will.
Sending TV over Wi-Fi is a notoriously tricky business. In short, it just doesn't work unless you offer some improvements to the basic Wi-Fi. Those improvements, for the most part, need to be in the way that the wireless signal avoids interference and in the way that it prioritises a variety of data types.