The Apple TV was announced by Steve Jobs at the Macworld keynote in 2007. It could have been the Apple product that everyone queued day and night to buy when it was launched, but… Steve announced the iPhone in the same keynote so the Apple TV had some competition.
At the time I couldn’t see me buying one. It just stores your music, photos, podcasts and movies on a hard-drive plugged into your TV. The only thing that I would have used it for was to watch Diggnation from my sofa instead of from the chair in front of my iMac.
So what made me change my mind you may ask? At the Macworld this year Steve Jobs announced that the Apple TV wasn’t the great success that Apple had hoped. He demoed the latest software update which has a different UI, lets you look at flickr photos, will work without being synced to your Mac and that you will be able to rent movies from the Apple TV using the iTunes store.
Since Christmas I’ve noticed that Amazon, who I rent DVDs from, have been really slow receiving and sending out discs. They used to be really quick, like the next day or at least the day after. Now they are so slow that I’ve changed my account to the 4 a month for £6.99. I can’t see me ditching Amazon for rentals completely, currently they give me 10% discount if I purchase a DVD, as I can rent the more obscure titles from them. Renting from the iTunes store sounds good. You have 30 days to start watching after you’ve downloaded and 24 hours to finish watching after you’ve started. Those conditions may change but apparently they are similar to the rental terms available with the cable companies. Also, it will depend on the titles available. At the moment there are no movie titles available to buy at the iTunes store for the UK, TV programmes, yes, actual movies, no. Steve says that the major studios are on board but we’ll have to wait and see what the UK ends up with.
It will also depend on the download speed. I could select a film in the morning to watch in the evening. That should give my 8meg connection plenty of time to download the film. Steve said that you could start watching almost straight away. But I always hate it when the playhead catches up with the downloading in QuickTime. The other good thing is that I’ll never have to scrape the finger prints off a rental DVD. No more polishing the disc on my shirt before putting it in the player.
Steve Jobs also said that for a dollar more you could rent the movie in HD format. Since purchasing a little Samsung LCD TV last year I’ve wanted to see what a HD picture would look like. I don’t want to buy another player while the format wars are still in progress. And I don’t want to have to go back to paying £17 and more for content on disc. So with my Apple TV and a HDMI cable I could see what the fuss is about.
Towards the end of 2006 I started to watch Diggnation but it wasn’t much fun spending my lunch hour sat in the same chair that I’d been sat in all morning. So I stopped. When I bought the Apple TV I noticed that Diggnation is now in HD, the files are huge and I don’t for a minute think that it’s full HD but the picture quality is great. Other podcasts that I subscribe to are commandN and GeekBrief.TV. Both technology podcasts with female presenters. Also lots of short podcasts like TGRtv, DiveFilm, Hidden Universe, Hubblecast and National Geographic. The Macworld keynote for this year I watched, I had waited to watch it on the Apple TV. I also have the keynote from last year and Bill Gates and Steve Jobs being interviewed at the D5 conference. The MacBreak shows from Macworld I watched and I downloaded Mr. Deity and The Guild for a little comic relief.
Setup & Problems
I did have a few problems setting it up. Putting in the wireless routers details was fine. I could watch movie trailers but iTunes on my iMac wouldn’t see the Apple TV. I checked around the Apple discussions and couldn’t find anything to fix the problem. The error just mentioned that iTunes couldn’t sync because of a blocked port in the firewall. Currently I have a firewall in my ADSL router and the firewall switched on in Leopard. All I had to do was go into System Preferences > Security > Firewall and switch from ‘Allow only essential services’ to ‘Set access for specific services and applications’ then add the iTunes application. Then quit iTunes and when you open it again it will ask you to confirm that you want iTunes to have access to the outside world. And it’s been fine since.
The other little annoyance is that moving around using the remote seems a little sluggish to say the least. Possibly because I have a coffee table directly between the remote and the unit, possibly not. The unit seems to re-render the artwork and the file information each time the item is selected. From what I’ve heard about the new update this should have been improved.
The Apple TV so far has been a little lacking. With no movie content then it’s just a more comfortable way of watching video podcasts. I can’t wait for the software update, which has been put back by a week or two from the reports that I’ve read recently.