Putting the Apple in TV

Apple this week have launched an attempt to transform yet another market, which some see as becoming stale and outdated; television.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.

Brand new, smaller Apple TV

The Brand new, petite Apple TV

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.

itunes movie rental

The previous incarnation of iTunes, and the movie rental store!

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.

apple tv

The previous incarnation of Apple TV, widely considered a flop at the time

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!

Air Video on the iPad, watch your video from iPad to TV seamlessly 🙂

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.

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2 Comments

  1. Hey hey,

    Interesting blog 🙂 I think the main future for this is as a netflix streamer, its cheap and cheerful compared to other such streamers and so should do well. What I don’t get though is TV rentals at 99c – that just doesn’t add up for me. Lets say you follow just two shows each weekend night, that is $20 a week, $80 a month – and you don’t get to keep them! Amazon is *selling* TV eps at 99c at the mo. I can’t see that pricing structure working. I think Hulu / Hulu Plus is the model to go for – built in, non skippable ads must surely make more sense to advertisers than paying for broadcast time when an increasing percentage of viewers are PVR’ing content and skipping the ads…

    Colm

    • Hey Colm,

      Interesting point, I see what you mean and it can get expensive. I think TV on demand, much like 4OD with ads is the best way to go – but some people might want to skip ads and pay the bit extra – as far as I know it’s 99c an ep, which with a standard US TV series means that you pay about $24 per season compared to about $50 for the DVD, benefit of DVD of course being you own it for life! LA times has an interesting look at it from TV bosses point of view, apparently they’re not best pleased – http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-apple-20100902,0,5348426.story?track=rss

      I do think streaming with some ads is the best way to go, some kind of Spotify/HULU as you said, style thing, with premium users getting no ads whatsoever, and free users getting the occasional ads, like a regular OD service, and way less then on TV itself.

      I think the costs for movie rentals are very good though, I just wish that iTunes would compress file sizes for download, in Ireland, and even most households anywhere, 3GB can be a lot of waiting time.

      🙂

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