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Entertainment (March 2007)

Apple TV Hype
by John R. Quain
Is Apple the New Microsoft?

The much ballyhooed Apple TV box finally arrived in stores this week. The silver device is designed to wirelessly connect your television to your home PC so that you can play videos stored on your computer on your living room TV screen. Sort of. Not surprisingly, it all works if--and only if--you stick exclusively with Apple’s iTunes. YouTube procrastinators are out of luck. And anyone who wants to rent a movie from other Web stores like CinemaNow or Movielink (which have a much better selection of movies than iTunes) can go fish.

worm appleMany other so-called media adapters have been available for several years with identical capabilities (indeed, the Xbox 360 can even, gasp, play games), but Apple’s copycat entry should help legitimize the market. Unfortunately, Apple TV owners may need the patience of Job (or should that be Jobs?) to use the box considering Apple TV’s other sticky problems:

Its Wi-Fi wireless connection is slow (Apple chose to support 802.11n, but handicapped it by only allowing one of two available radios to be used at a time)
It cannot record programs from the television (in other words, it doesn't even have a DVR)
It only works with wide-screen TVs
Its picture quality is subpar (most material still isn’t up to DVD standards, let alone HD quality)
It can’t download video from the Internet (you first have to download using your computer, then sync it or stream it to the Apple TV box—which begs the question, now that I’m up off the couch, why don’t I just watch it on my computer?)

So why would anyone pay $300 for a box that can’t even match the capabilities of today’s cable TV set top boxes? (Hey, it’s from Apple—kool!) Current cable boxes can already get video, shows, and movies on demand and can record any program you want at the push of a button.

If you want to see the future of TV, check out Amazon Unbox on Tivo (which allows you download new movies to your TV) and TivoCast (which allows any online video source—even you!—to become a channel on your television). And keep an eye on other products creeping into the market, such as the network enabled televisions from the likes of Pioneer that will eventually obviate the need for overpriced boxes like the Apple TV.

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