New Apple TV: The Bottom Line
I received my new AppleTV a couple of days ago – check out the un-boxing images on Flickr. The really amazing thing about the new AppleTV is its size – it is really small! You can read several reviews on many, many tech blogs on the Apple TV, I have tried to look deeper into what they have to offer and the implications. Here are my thoughts:
Trade Off: Seamless Experience vs. Locked Up Eco-System
The most annoying thing with the new AppleTV is that before I can stream any content from any PC – I need to have iTunes installed, and not just that, you need to have Home Sharing turned on (to be fair the old AppleTV also needed iTunes). And the puzzling thing is that if you have more than 5 PCs and Macs – good luck – you won’t be able to share everything. Beyond annoying, I think, this is where the Apple eco-system is getting tightly locked down.
Heck, you won’t be able to use your iPad or iPhone or iTouch Remote Control App if home sharing is not turned on. The experience is seamless once Home Sharing is turned on – any Apple Device will discover the content and the device that is being home shared.
There is a downside to the above – you cannot experience any content that is stored on UPnP/DLNA device – rule out streaming content from devices such as WDC My Book World, Windows XP/Vista/7 etc.
More importantly – everything being tied to Apple is going to own tremendous consumption behavioral data moving forward. However the thing is that iTunes is widely accepted and consumers owning Apple devices are attuned to using iTunes.
Oh and add to it another major annoyance – because it is streaming only box – if you have the PC and Mac turned off, no content can be streamed home sharing or not!
Airplay: A new de-facto standard in Content Sharing?
While certainly Airplay is not just an AppleTV feature, the combination of the two is going to be very powerful. I tried Airplay between my iPad running iOS 4.x Developer build and the new AppleTV. I was able to select and stream the audio from both the YouTube and the iPod app on my iPad to the AppleTV. I was unable to stream the YouTube video the AppleTV – I am not sure if this is not supported yet or it was something that I missed (in that case can it be attributed to a ‘design’ failure on Apple’s part?).
Airplay requires Home Sharing as described above to be turned on. 9TO5Mac claimed Airplay to be a ‘Flash’ killer. It is going to be a serious threat to any entity try to make a market or money in the Connected Home Market. Why? Because, I believe, Apple would license Airplay and commoditize the entire opportunity in Connected Home or Home Networking market.
The scale of Apple consumer devices and iTunes penetration would both threaten and attract content creators to make it available for consumption through the ‘Apple’ channels and devices.
I had a theory that Apple rushed the AppleTV as a preemptive strike to GoogleTV. Apart from a size improvement and addition of Netflix – the current release of AppleTV (using SW Version 4.0) is not much of an upside to spend the $99. The looks and feel, including the navigation, is very similar to the old AppleTV.
Also I found interesting behavior on how the thumbs nails were being generated for the Netflix or the YouTube app. The thumb nails (or Poster Art) is rendered bottom up from the screen – so when watching the screen you can see the thumbs nails being refreshed just below the bottom of the screen and then continuing up.
The user interface (including navigation) is a virtually identical to the old AppleTV – which makes me think – what OS is this device running? A variant of OS-X that was on the old AppleTV or is the iOS running the ported over AppleTV application layer from the old AppleTV?
I still have to play with it more (e.g. try out the USB port) but for now part of my recommendation is in line with the Gizmodo post – if you rent or will rent content from iTunes, own a lot of Apple devices like the iPad, iPhone etc. – then the new AppleTV will fit well with your needs and at a very good price point. And if you do not happen to have any Netflix-ready device or need a second one – then the AppleTV is perfect.
The new AppleTV will become a real game changer once Apple brings the App Store to it till then, if you can, take a wait & watch attitude. Heck if you are a technology adopter or geek, it may not be a bad idea to get the GoogleTV available on Logitech Revue or the Sony TV and Blu-Ray Players.