Gone is iTV. Here is AppleTV. The Apple logo now graces the top of the box with the letters “tv”.
After setting the cell phone industry on their collective heels with iPhone, will AppleTV revolutionize how we watch TV?
Through a friend from Apple Kate and I were given a few minutes of show and tell, and touch and feel of Apple’s newest media baby.
First impression? It looks smaller than you expect; the same footprint as a Mac mini, but thinner, sleek, understated.
From the front all you’ll see is the small dot of what appears to be the infrared port for the Apple Remote, and a small light to show the device is powered.
The backside is much different and loaded with connectors, some of which you may not have seen before.
Viewing from the back is the power connector, a single USB 2.0 port, an Ethernet port, the new HDMI port for connecting to your TV, standard RCA component video ports, dual analog audio ports, and a digital optical audio port.
That’s it. Park AppleTV next to your digital widescreen television and plug it in.
If you have a multimedia center, AppleTV fits nicely right on top and assures capatibility with your sound system.
What appears to be a new version of Front Row will grace your TV screen and the Apple Remote is used to walk through the menu. That’s the front end.
On the backend, you also need a Mac or PC with wireless capability to stream media to AppleTV. Apple has definitive steps to help us part with our money.
The first is to use iTunes and iTunes Store as the center of our personal media commerce universe. Carol Miller was spot on with her view of iTunes on Macs and PCs. iTunes is key.
Download music, TV shows, movies from the iTunes Store. Or, add your own music from CDs, or any movies from iMovie HD. iTunes doesn’t really care where the video comes from. That’s a big hint for Handbrake users.
The second step is to “synchronize” your media from your Mac to iTV. Assume that your Mac or PC is wireless and at least 802.11 b, g, or n. Your media is streamed from your Mac or PC to AppleTV.
Step three is the Apple Remote and the menu then puts what you want to watch straight to the TV screen via the HDMI connect.
It’s that simple. Once you set up your Mac and iTunes for streaming to AppleTV, and once it’s all ready to go, all the work is handled by the Apple Remote.
There’s a key word in all this. Synchronization. From what we can tell, AppleTV doesn’t just stream digital media from your Mac or PC and into your TV screen. It synchronizes what’s in iTunes to AppleTV.
Change something on iTunes, and it’s changed automagically on iTV. Apples web site carries plenty of details, specifications, and some good demonstration videos of how AppleTV works.
I see some problems on the horizon with the 40 gigabyte hard drive inside AppleTV, assuming that it is a “store and go” function. I’m by no means a power user and I have about 12 gigabytes of photos and slides shows on my Mac, and over 15 gigabytes of music, and many more gigs of movies, trailers, etc.
40 gigabytes will not be sufficient unless there’s some kind of “store and go” jockeying of media assets.
Clearly, iTunes and iTunes Store are the two names which Apple probably wished were something else as movies and photos start popping up on TV screens, Mac and PC.
That brings up another item which Apple has addressed, and we correctly predicted—AppleTV is Mac and PC compatible, and iTunes is the core for both.
Wiring all these media pieces together is not easy for some folks, so Apple goes out of the way to show the steps involved, and the pieces you need.
Mac or PC. Widescreen TV, iTunes, Wired or wireless network, HDMO cable (probably an adapter for older TVs), component cables for audio, as needed.
Apple is selling a new and improved and very Mac mini-like Airport Extreme with a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time version of 802.11n standard.
The new Airport Extreme base station looks similar but not exactly like a Mac mini, and according to the Apple folks on the Macworld exhibit floor is 7.7-inches square.
What’s really new about the new Airport Extreme, as we predicted would happen, it’s also PC compatible. Apple has embraced the PC world to the tune of another $179 per user.
AppleTV works with widescreen TVs capable of displaying 1080i, 720p, 480p, even 576p for PAL. Windows XP Home or Pro with service pack SP2 is required for Windows PC users.
Not many extras are required, though a few are availabale, including a component video set, and the popular XtremeMac XtremeHD HDMI to HDMI cable.
Apple says AppleTV will store up to 50 hours of video, which I assume, means less music. The iTunes version we’ve seen on the floor appears different than what’s currently shipping, and displays some settings I don’t remember seeing on iTunes 7.1.3.
AppleTV supports pretty much what you see in iTunes. AAC, MP3, AIFF, and Apple Lossless are supported, as is H.264 video, protected and unprotected, including various resolutions and MPEG-4.
Make sure to hit the Apple web site for additional details. We’re heading off to look at the iPhone.