I bought an Apple TV over the weekend. It’s quite simply the most elegant, well-designed consumer electronics device I’ve used.
Apple TV works with iTunes to bring music, video, movies, photos and podcasts to life on your HDTV. (In geek terms, it’s a “digital media adapter.”)
You can virtually flip through your music collection and select what you want to listen to. Album art is shown on screen as the music plays. You can play unprotected music or music purchased through iTunes; music from competing services such as Rhapsody won’t work.
In the photos section, photos from your PC are rendered in high definition. The pictures are so vivid that I could watch them for hours. You can choose to have background music as the slideshow runs.
Apple TV also plays back audio and video podcasts, including some podcasts that are HD quality. This opens up a wide new range of content possibilities for your TV.
You can also watch TV shows and movies purchased from iTunes; I haven’t tried either of those.
The software is easy to understand and the graphics are gorgeous. The photo screensaver alone is almost worth the price of the box.
Unlike my new laptop, configuring it to work with my wireless network took just a few minutes.
A lot of companies have tried over the years to bridge the computer-to-PC divide and I’ve tried many of these products. This is the first one worth using. And this is just the first release.
Some of the things I’d like to see:
- A better remote control. Apple TV comes with a very limited remote control. For content libraries with thousands of songs and photos, the remote is serviceable, but not ideal.
- The ability to rent movies from iTunes. I really don’t want to pay $10 or $13 to “buy” a movie from iTunes. Rumors are that rentals are in the works.
- More Internet connectivity. You can watch movie trailers on Apple TV; you should be able to click to get showtimes. You should be able to share pictures with friends.
I’m excited about the possibilities for a device like Apple TV, but I may be one of the few. The signs so far aren’t good — I’ve seen pallets of Apple TVs sitting at Costco. In a recent speech, Steve Jobs referred to Apple TV as a “hobby”. There’s still hope, though: Jobs also announced upcoming support for playing videos from YouTube.