Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Apple TV? Here we go again

Thought I'd just weigh in with my opinion of the peek we've gotten of Apple's new Apple TV. It's a familiar old story. We've all been here before. Ready for some deja vu?

I already own a streaming device. It's a Chinese-made gizmo with an unfortunate name: Popcorn Hour. I've had this thing for years, and I love it. It does everything Apple TV is supposed to do and then some. It streams content from your computer to your TV. It streams content from the Internet. It plays movies, music and photos from a built-in hard drive. It even downloads torrents.

It's the missing link between your computer, the Internet and your TV. Kind of like what Apple TV is supposed to be.

What it doesn't do (and the Apple TV does do) is play rentals from the iTunes store. But in every other way, my old streamer is better hardware than Apple TV. It streams up to 1080p. Apple TV streams at 720p. It has a hard drive. Apple TV has none. Why on earth will anyone buy one of these then?

This has all happened before, and I'm betting it will happen again. When the iPod first came out, there were other MP3 players, and some of them had better hardware. But the iPod beat them all to a bloody pulp.

When the iPhone came out, there were smart phones, and some of them were smarter smart phones than the iPhone. But the iPhone is currently beating them all to a bloody pulp.

Now it's Apple TV's turn.

The genius, to borrow the term, with Apple's products is in the software, the design and the ecosystem.

The software just works. It's easy to use.

The design is gorgeous. It just makes sense.

What's this ecosystem I'm talking about? Well, with every iPhone you buy, you're also buying into a whole ecosystem: iOS, the iTunes music store, app store, and iBook store. And though iTunes is far from perfect, it's an uncomplicated system that works.

Try explaining your Popcorn Hour streaming setup to someone over the age of 60 and prepare to get nowhere. The average DVD-popping moviegoer will have no idea how to start a torrent or network their home. Apple TV? My mother can understand it.

And so, love it or hate it, Apple TV stands a good chance of being a part of our collective future. I wouldn't buy one, and I wouldn't recommend that anyone in the Philippines buy one until we can rent movies from iTunes. (Yes, right now, the Philippine iTunes store has no videos. Zip. Zero.) But one day it will catch on. It's all happened before.

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