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January 10, 2007

Apple TV: The Real Scoop

Categories Apple Follow-up 

Admittedly, I'm a little obsessed with the AppleTV and after the announcement I eagerly went online to pull up some more info about it. Unfortunately, I couldn't find answers to my questions, so I called up Apple and spoke to an unbelievably helpful and gregarious sales rep. Most of my questions seemed to stump him and he had to ask someone else for clarification, so here's what I found out.

Things you can't do with Apple TV:

  1. Shop on iTunes - You can't buy music or movies directly from the Apple TV you have to shop from a computer.
  2. Connect an iPod - You can't connect an iPod to the USB port and access it's media.
  3. Access the Media on the Apple TV from your computer - You can sync media to the Apple TV, but you can't access media on the Apple TV from other computers on the network.
  4. Record Live TV, Play DVDs - Yeah, the Apple TV is not a DVR, just like we all expected. And it doesn't have a DVD drive.

I have to say I'm a little disappointed with the Apple TV. I think it should be able to do more, and perhaps it will through software updates. Anyways, one question the sales rep asked me is "When do you think you might order one?" To which I answered "When it can do the things, I've just asked you about." But it was a really good question and it got me thinking about what would make be plunk down $300 for an Apple TV. Read on for my list.

Ok, here's what I want.

  1. Primary Media Source - I want to store all my music and media on the Apple TV and then serve that media to my computers. I don't want to have to turn on my computer and start up iTunes just to access the media on it from my TV.
  2. Expandable Storage - I'd like to be able to plug an external hard drive into an Apple TV, for when I run out of space on the Apple TV's internal hard drive. Essentially these first two items could be addressed by a sort of Apple TV and new Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station hybrid.
  3. Shop on iTunes - I want to be able to shop on iTunes from the Apple TV.
  4. iPod Connectivity - I REALLY want to be able to connect an iPod into it. I can't believe that the Apple TV doesn't have iPod connectivity?! Not even for me as much as I'd love for my friends to be able to come over with a movie or song on their iPod and be able to connect it to my Apple TV. To me, streaming media from a laptop isn't good enough.
  5. Play DVDs - I really don't want ANOTHER device. If the Apple TV played DVDs I'd be able to ditch my DVD player.
  6. Burn CDs and DVDs - Ok this is a long shot, but I'd love to be able to burn a slideshow or playlist from the Apple TV and cut my computer out of that process.
  7. Record Live TV - I know, never going to happen. But hey as long as we're dreaming...

The lack of iPod connectivity seems like a big misstep on Apple's part. I just don't see why you can't plug an iPod into it and select it as a source. Maybe the sales rep is wrong and you actually can. I really hope he was.

Also, the fact that you can't shop on iTunes with the Apple TV was a huge shocker to me. Right now the entry fee for shopping on iTunes is the cost of a computer, but if you could shop on iTunes using the Apple TV, Apple could widen their customer base even more. I guarantee if you could shop on iTunes with the Apple TV, we'd start seeing Apple TV in hotel rooms before then end of the year.

Oh, well. Maybe we'll start to see some of these features added through firmware updates. I'll keep my fingers crossed.


love the site... very very interesting! espcially your apple-related stuff!

found this site through David Pogue's article:


keep up the good work!

PS. are your contact details on this site? didn't see any

Thanks for the kind words, I definately will check out that Pogue article. I always really enjoy reading his stuff.

Anyways, if you want to e-mail me use gregotype at gmail dot com.

I stumbled upon here through the comments in David Pogue's article also. Great job! I loved hearing a bit more about the technology behind Han's demonstration, especially in layman's terms and not the geekspeak Han had on his website.

I'm definitely adding TSDT to my feedreader by the way; this place is awesome! Every few weeks I start to think it'd be a great thing to have my own tech blog, and it seems promptly after that thought I discover a new place like this, a blog that does it so well that I'd have simply no idea where to start in order to be original.

You have my admiration!

Now to the Apple TV:
– From my understanding (I've read too many news pieces this past week to remember where this one is from), selling iTunes songs and media on the iPhone will require Apple to renegotiate contracts with studios. Apple has been rather hush-hush because of this about whether the phone can or cannot, though it certainly has the potential. I'd imagine it's the same way for the Apple TV... it's going to require Apple to renegotiate. (Though I can't say they haven't had enough time with the Apple TV to do so!)

– A DVD player would also be sweet in the Apple TV... simple, yes, but it would've let you get rid of one more box around your TV. With the HD/Blu-Ray war waging right now, though, I can understand Apple's hesitation to step into it quite yet. (Maybe for an Apple TV model down the road?)

Sadly, the Apple TV also doesn't at least have the DVD Player software on it - it just "plays what an iPod can play," according to Apple. Thus the Apple TV is already no good for DVD Assist users.

– Recording live TV would be wicked, but I wonder if you could plug an EyeTV into the Apple TV? I doubt it right now (the USB port is "only for diagnosis"), but it'd be a wonderful move on Apple's part for the future.

The question is only whether the Apple TV has enough muscle to do so. From the specs we've seen of it, I'm doubtful.

It's pretty clear that Apple's official stance, however, is that DVR devices are obsolete and that purchasing media nearly-instantly over broadband is the way to go in the future.

So... yup, I'd really have to say that I'm sticking with my desire to get a Mac Mini and just hook that up instead. Only slightly bigger footprint, definitely more value for the money, and does everything I want already. All I'm waiting for is Leopard.

That said, I really do think the Apple TV is generally a good product. Just not intended for people like us.

Wow, I'm suffering from long post syndrome today. Sorry. Both the iPhone and the Apple TV have me really excited!

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