Apple this week have launched an attempt to transform yet another market, which some see as becoming stale and outdated; television. No doubt many were disappointed that no iphone or iPad updates were released apart from iOS4.2 as rumours had predicted for the Christmas market. However, the extremely exciting announcement of the new Apple TV picks up where it’s predecessor model left off (generally considered to be a flop, and just one of Jobs own pet projects) in beginning to make television much more networked an experience.
This is nothing new, companies like Sky and Samsung have been starting this process for a long time, on demand services like 4OD and BBC iPlayer are slowly building pace and seriously factoring into estimates on TV viewerships. Also many homes now have media drives allowing users to wirelessly transfer movies, TV shows and songs over to their drive and on to their TV. However, Apple TV aims to link not only the Internet directly to your television, but also to your iPad and iPhone. Bringing the idea of a media drive to a whole new networked level.
Inspired by the hit app AirDisplay, Apple have made it easy to switch between viewing on your portable to your TV, the ability to seamlessly network and transfer data and video between several devices in such a way is a key selling point, and one which other manufacturers (and the original Apple TV) couldn’t monopolise on because of various hardware incompatibilities between consumer products. This allows your iPad or iPhone to act as a universal remote for your Apple TV, alongside the standard apple remote.
The new Apple TV can wirelessly sync with your iTunes and play music, movies and photo slideshows right to your television. And not only that, it does all is over a HDMI connection with the television, something Apple has been seriously criticised for a lack of on it’s Mac computers who support Mini DVI rather than the more accepted standard of HDMI.
What’s truly impressive from a hardware point of view is the size of the device, so small it fits in the palm of your hand and could easily be mistaken for a small toy box, even the slim and sleek Apple remote looks a little large put next to it. The size can be put down to lack of a hard drive, there’s absolutely no storage space whatsoever on the Apple TV, this is more of a networking device rather than a media drive. It packs an A4 chip, just like the iPad, meaning that there’s no problem with streaming or getting it to obey commands, it’s all a nice and seamless operation. Given that there’s no onboard storage, I would expect this to be honest, the only delays I could really imagine are the strength of your home Wi-Fi and any delays you might have on your ipad or laptop.
The new Apple TV connects directly to the iTunes store and netflix in the united states, and the appearance is much like the standard media centre interface on your Mac. Its a very clear and very neat layout that has served Apple well so far. It will be interesting to see how exactly the content plans will work over here. Netflix is only available in the US and unless your on a VPN, you’re not going to be watching much outside of the sparse itunes store. Perhaps Sky or UPC might consider a hook up, even RTE Player might lend itself well to the platform, but I’d have my doubts over who would offer content. Sky might be the forerunner here, already having streaming sports apps for the iPad.
At the moment it’s 99c US to rent a television show episode, which is good value when you pit it against paying Sky and UPC a set amount each month with nothing on, compared to a small amount to watch something you’re actually going to be interested in and watch right through.
Movies can also be rented from the iTunes store which vary in price, the only downside being that these are not compressed for download, which means unless you have a seriously good connection, you might be wait a while for your film to download.
Content is probably how Apple are looking to make their money here, much like the iTunes model, even with sales of iPods slowing, the app market is booming, and Apple are reaping the benefits of a fair pricing structure which favours both developers and Apple themselves. It makes a lot of sense to take a small cut of each rental or purchase charge for tv shows and movies when downloads could go through the roof. They may well do this with the new lowered price of $99 for the Apple TV, which is €120 to you and me.
Apple TV Is launching in the states in about four weeks, as usual we’ll be in the second release group and should see it just in time to watch Doctor Who on it on Christmas Day!
For me, this begs the question as to where Apple are actually headed, are they less of a Computer company and more of a phone manufacturer, or more a portables, or even more just a lifestyle company? Maybe they’ll just end up being a content company who occasionally throw out the odd, yet stunningly brilliant and clever product to support the ongoing sales of apps, music and movies.
One thing is for sure, I still love my Mac, my iPhone and my iPad so they still tick the right boxes, no matter what they do.