Apple TV revamp rumours resurface
An Apps platform too far?
Apple is gearing up to release its fourth overhaul of the Apple TV user interface in as many years, part of a plan to revitalise the telly-connected device.
So claim moles cited by the New York Times, though they don't know whether the UI revamp will sit on top of the Apple TV's existing, Mac OS X-based software or involve a - much rumoured - shift to iOS.
Nor could they say whether all this will accompanied by a hardware rejig.
So they're not that "familiar with Apple’s television-related efforts", eh, NYT?
The Apple TV's UI has sported three distinct UIs, released with the Apple TV software 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. The next major revamp would undoubtedly see the software jump to 4.0 and, by coincidence, that's what iOS is currently at.
But changing the UI isn't going to alter Apple TV's fortunes, beyond create some temporary iPhone-related buzz for it.
Apple TV hasn't proved a major success for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is the a lack of focus: is it the way you get your media onto your telly, or is it an iTunes-centric movie rental box? And both are too tied to Apple's software and the limited range of media formats it supports.
With decent devices that play downloaded content back on the big screen ten a penny, Apple TV's future - if it has one - would seem to be to become even more iTunes centric. For that to appeal, it needs to become cheaper, a throwaway gadget Apple can subsidise through rental sales.
But then iTunes itself needs to change, to promote rentals above sale. Right now, it's the other way round. New releases are quickly available to buy, but can take weeks more to be offered for rental.
If Apple's game is sales, it needs to make the Apple TV better able to play with users' storage needs, either by offering lots of on-board storage so it becomes more of a server than a remotely-connected iTunes client - fully synching an Apple TV today is already a chore - or slims down but is able to work with media libraries on external hard drives or Nas boxes.
A big box seems unlikely, especially now Apple has given its Mac Mini a slimmer casing and an HDMI port.
A slimmed down Apple TV of that kind could also do the rental thing, and internally be little more than a screenless iPod Touch Apple can sell for $99.
That doesn't just make it cheap to sell, it also makes it a potential app platform too. iOS 4 now has the basics of a multi-machine app framework - developers can specify which parts of an app work best on an iPad, which in an iPhone 4 and which on older portable devices.
Apps on TV, which is something telly manufacturers and Google are trying their hand it, in the hope of emulating the App Store's success - or at least grabbing some of the buzz surrounding app stores - could be just what Apple needs to allow the Apple TV to come out of its 'hobby' shell. ®
The cited weakness of the Apple TV is also its strength though, in that it does a lot of things.
If you want music on your TV, wirelessly from a machine with iTunes...
If you want a dedicated box to download from iTunes...
If you want to watch TV/video from iTunes in HD...
If you want to view your Flickr photos...
If you want to view YouTube videos...
Don't knock it until you've tried it, particularly if you are a heavy user of iTunes.
A much maligned device
I'm a geek. I buy gadgets. Often I buy gadgets and soon think 'WTF? What a waste of money!' The Logitech Harmony being a prime example. The Apple TV, on the other hand, was one of my better purchases. Sure, it's a flawed product - but it does what it does so well that I don't really mind.
The biggest flaw isn't actually a flaw in the product. It's a flaw in the name, and in the marketing. Apple TV? Apple 'TV'? I don't watch much TV. But I do listen to a lot of music. And, with the music that I really love, I want that music to be lossless. There aren't many systems out there which can play lossless formats - at least, not for a reasonable small outlay. But the AppleTV does sterling service as a lossless music player on my HiFi. And, of course, for the throwaway background music, it also does MP3.
Sometimes, of course, I do watch TV. And on those occasions my AppleTV plays films that I've ripped from my own DVDs or bought from the iTMS. My DVDs are now languishing in a big box in the loft with other obsolete formats. No need to hunt anymore. I just search for a film and play. In fact, it gets better - because I can rent films too, although it has to be admitted that the quality of films from iTMS is a little hit or miss in terms of picture quality. Some of them were clearly converted by the night watchman. Still, looking on the bright side, films from iTMS don't subject you to interminable adverts or admonishments not to pirate film.
The only real flaws I can see are that it isn't possible, without hacking the device, to add third party applications. I'd love to be able to buy apps for it from iTunes. And it's also annoying that it doesn't have a proper on/off switch - I have to turn it off at the wall. But, other than that, it's excellent - and I look forward to Apple marketing it properly.
No, do *not* put a blu-ray drive in this, it is a device for streaming content created elsewhere. The future is not in physical media (i.e. DVDs or blu-ray disks, or whatever else they come up with), it's in digital content no attached to an optical device.
Task specific functionality is the mantra, and this isn't anything but a streaming device.
Ten a penny?
> With decent devices that play downloaded content back on the big screen ten a penny
Did you miss the word "illegally" before "downloaded content" in that sentence?
I can think of dozens of devices that will play AVI and DivX movies, and movies ripped from copy protected DVDs, but I can't think of many devices that will play legally rented or purchased downloadable movies.
ATV + XBMC = Win
One of the best gadgets I've ever bought, love this little box.
Only problem I have is that the CPU in it isn't quite fast enough to render 1080P video in .mkv format so I have to convert them first. but as a hub for watching media 'on the bigg telly' it cannot be beaten IMO.