AppleTV, the first of Apple’s 2007 product line, is ready. It’s either very good, or missing a couple of major features.
From what I can see of first reports, AppleTV is good, and still missing what is needed most.
I can’t wait to check out the Apple Store to see how AppleTV really works on a good TV screen. It’s Apple, so it can’t be bad, right?
Stock analysts have been talking up AppleTV, Apple’s stock is approaching new highs again, and AppleTV is shipping. All good, right?
Almost. Even without the hands on experience, there are two major features AppleTV is missing that pop up in reviews regularly.
The first is a glaring omission. For now. AppleTV doesn’t have a DVR. There’s no digital video recorder. There’s no DVR in QuickTime, nothing in iTunes, nothing that we know of in AppleTV.
What we know is that the latest version of iTunes, Mac OS X Tiger, or Windows XP on a PC, synchronizes with AppleTV. AppleTV plugs into your new high def TV, and you control it all with an Apple remote.
Actually, that’s very cool all by itself. Walt Mossberg says it’s a “beautiful design, easy to use, classic Apple, simple and elegant.” That’s good enough for me.
Except for those two glaring omissions. We’ve known all along that AppleTV is not a DVR. For now.
To some extent, that makes sense because Apple wants us to shift our media paradigm to a parallel universe where we don’t use cable TV or terrestrial TV and just buy TV shows and movies from the iTunes Store.
That kind of wholesale adoption won’t happen quickly, as most cable TV users with a TiVo or DVR love the device. AppleTV would be almost perfect with a DVR built in. As it stands now, a DVR is a $100 to nearly $300 add-on device.
The other problem, the other “missing in action” feature is an inherent problem within QuickTime, Mac or Windows. It’s file conversion. Converting a recorded TV show or movie to a format for iTunes, which can then play said video on your TV via AppleTV.
Even on today’s Intel-based Macs converting a one hour video (using Apple’s QuickTime technology) takes about an hour. A two hour video takes about two hours to convert. That’s a built-in weakness of QuickTime, Macs, and PCs, and won’t be fixed soon.
One could argue that the 40 gigabyte hard drive inside AppleTV isn’t sufficient storage space for a video collection, and I would agree. There is a USB port on the back of AppleTV, so we’ll see if Apple allows us to use it for external storage.
As it stands, AppleTV will play music through your entertainment system just fine. Ditto for TV shows from the iTunes Store. Movies, too. Since there’s a synchronization that takes place between your Mac or PC and AppleTV, even the tiny 40 gig hard drive might not be a major issue.
AppleTV is just hitting the streets, so I’m willing to give Apple some time and room to address the shortcomings. No DVR. AppleTV needs an Apple-like solution. Slow video conversion. That has to be fixed. Larger storage capacity. Users will demand it.
I’ll buy AppleTV after I’ve seen it in action. Not before.