Apple TV… heard but not seen

19 Comments

Months of waiting for the AppleTV is over. The device, which I believe is going to act as rocket fuel for the independent video community, and some day put the likes of TiVo on the defensive, has finally started to ship. A privileged few, such as Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg, had a chance to play around and review the unit.

……our verdict is that it’s a beautifully designed, easy-to-use product that should be very attractive to people with widescreen TV sets and lots of music, videos, and photos stored on computers. It has some notable limitations, but we really liked it. It is classic Apple: simple and elegant.

The NewTeeVee gang wanted one quite badly, so we decided to charge our Mastercard, except Apple wasn’t willing to take our money – at least today.

Our extended friend network fanned out through Silicon Valley, looking for the device, but couldn’t find a single on in any Apple store. Even the company store in Cupertino hadn’t received any AppleTV boxes. It won’t be till Friday when you can walk into an Apple store and buy one.

appletvstore.gif

The non-availability of devices on the day of the launch in Apple’s retail stores does bring up the question: Apple had all these months to get all its ducks in a row, and rake in the big bucks on the “opening weekend.” Well, that clearly didn’t happen. Why not?

Our theory is that as Apple keeps adding more products to its portfolio, we are going to see more delays, and more technical snafus. Such challenges are commonplace for large consumer electronics companies (and handset makers.) Apple, however is going to get a crash course in CE reality, as it transforms away from being just a computer company with handful of product lines. It has to overcome these challenges inorder to keep the early adopters – who give a nice little bump to its revenues – happy. We know the NTV gang is a little disappointed today.

Photos by Niall Kennedy

19 Comments

Reg

There’s nothing really new about new product shortages on day 1.

I’ve been buying Apple equipment since the very early 80s and there’s ALWAYS been a been an issue getting anything from the first shipment, even when the demand for the latest and greatest Apple //c numbered in the mere thousands rather than hundreds of thousands for a modern product.

In reality, a couple of decades on, the current retail operation (and especially online store if you pre-order) has made getting the latest stuff much more timely.

BTW, shortages can be a good sign for a company… The months of immediately sold out shelves for the Wii can’t be that bad for Nintendo!

Ian

You’re pointing the finger of blame at the wrong gadget, Bill. A 720p HDTV only supports XVGA (1024×768) resolution from the DVI input. A 1080p HDTV will do up to 1920×1080.

Thus, my Mac Mini’s (or any PC’s) DVI output is limited by the TV. If you’re going to watch TV on your LCD Monitor (more expensive per inch than an HDTV) then a Mac Mini is of course the best choice.

I forgot to mention that two really big gotchas are going to hamper the AppleTV’s progress into high-end systems:

1) The AppleTV ONLY supports HDTV, while the iTunes Music Store only seems to supply content in 640×480 … does anyone else notice the dichotomy here?

2) Quicktime (and thus iTunes, and thus the AppleTV) has no provisions for Multitrack audio other than RIGHT and LEFT, so kiss your investment in Surround Sound goodbye for the time being.

-Ian.

Bill Erickson

Ian, so your mac mini wouldn’t support a widescreen hd resolution? It has DVI out, and the DVI out on my powerbook is connected to my Dell monitor and pushing out a resolution of 1680×1050 (which is really close to 1080, and looks great).

Ian

I’ve been converting some of my (legal, of course) DIVX rips to Quicktime via the Quicktime Player, and dumping them into iTunes. Presumably when I get my AppleTV tomorrow morning it’ll work out of the box.

I thought about hooking another Mac Mini up to my 720p 37″ plasma, but when I tried it the scaling of the screen (1024×768) made my eyes hurt and reminded me too much of my Commodore 64.

All that is needed to ensure dominance of the AppleTV is a scriptable conversion tool (which would be easy for any geek to write) that let you drag and drop (or feed from your favourite Torrent client) incoming DIVX files.

What made the iPod successful is that you can use Apple’s iTunes-originated AAC format, OR MP3s. If Apple hasn’t learned this lesson I would be surprised… they’re just going to rely on some nerd to write the widget to give them plausible deniability with the studios.

-Ian.

Martin Spedding

Hi,

thanks Jim for your comment. Have you watched how people write sms messages ? A lot of kids, will write a message without even looking at the keyboard. I have even seen people write messages whilst the phone is in their pockets. You are telling me that you will be able to do it with the Apple phone. Also remember when it comes to mobile phones the USA is not the leading market or leading producer of phones. You need to look at Europe or japan if you want to understand the phone market. What Apple have produced is aimed at the US market and even even there I would be suprised if it reaches it’s sales figures. However, globally I really think it is will have enormoous problems. Just look at the problems Motorola are suffering from.

I am really happy with my phone which combines a very useful slide out keyboard and a touch screen and I have been using it for 2 years. Also the interface is simple.

Jesse Kopelman

Jim, that’s a sucker bet. Clearly, Cingular is on the hook to buy over a million iPhones whether their customers want to buy them or not. Let’s see if Apple makes that 10M unit number they were talking about.

Jeff

Although I would agree that the potential is high for the independent video producer, I think that it will be a long time before it is realized. The market share for podcasters is still low as most mp3 and computer users still don’t know that the medium is available for use. There needs to be a way to get the word out for the independents.

Jim

“honestly after the badly designed Apple phone – who is going to write sms’s on a touch screen?”

Badly designed? Uh, Martin, when you are finished with whatever you are smoking, could I get some too? You are quite clearly on a first class reality distortion trip.

As to “who is going to write sms’s on a touch screen?” I suggest you sit back and watch. I bet you a month’s pay that Apple will sell one million of these things–even at their higher than current market “dumb” phone prices–within 12 months of the product’s ship date. Stay tuned…or stay buzzed, it’s gonna happen either way.

Martin Spedding

Hi,

honestly after the badly designed Apple phone – who is going to write sms’s on a touch screen? They really should have done some market research first and seen that is what kids do with phones. The Apple tv product seems another lame duck product. Can’t you do what they Apple product does with cheaper better products today ? Maybe this is the year that people will realise when it comes to Apple it really is the case of the emperor’s new clothes ?

Bill Erickson

Ah, sorry, my prices were a little off. Did they raise the price of the mini? I thought it used to be $499 and you could get it cheaper refurbished…

But I still feel the same way, I’m willing to pay double for a real mac mini media center, and would buy a mini right now but I already have PC’s running Snapstream’s BeyondTV on all my TV’s; don’t want to buy all new USB TV tuners when I have so many PCI one’s already.

Jesse Kopelman

I’m pretty disappointed in the Apple TV. Where’s the DivX/XviD support? A media player without that is like an iPod that doesn’t support MP3 and there is no way the original iPod would have been a success without MP3 support. I don’t see how the Mac Mini is only $100 more, though? Mac Mini has a list price that is $300 higher . . .

Om Malik

Bill,

You have brought up an excellent point – okay I am going to pause and not buy this device. It doesn’t make sense and it is better to just get a Mac Mini and go for that instead.

Thanks

Jonathan

Great I can finally get rid of this flakey Vista Media Center – when do they ship to Australia?! :-)

David H. Deans

I’m curious, does it ship with the standard Apple remote control? Reason that I ask, most cable set top boxes include these 30-50 button remotes with tiny cryptic button labels.

Makes me wonder if Scientific Atlanta or Motorola have ever considered usability tests with mainstream users?

Seriously, these big remotes are getting progressively worse. BTW, the IPTV STB remotes are very similar to cable; satellite STB are a little better; and TiVO better than most others.

Regardless, there’s plenty of room for innovation with this handheld device that is the heart of the STB consumer experience.

Bill Erickson

Even though I’m usually a big fan of Apple products, I’m not interested in this one at all. It requires an HDTV, yet only allows you to download tv shows/movies in SD. How is this any different from plugging your video iPod into the TV?

If you want the real “Apple TV” experience, spend an extra $100 on a mac mini, hook that up and experience real HD. Access high quality videos on your network (or stored locally), access your iTunes music through iTunes shared music, and if you want tivo functionality buy a tv tuner + eyeTV.

I was really disappointed when they announced this, hopefully v2 will be better.

Colin

Today is not launch day it is ship day. My announcement day order shows to be drop-shipping from Shenzhen, China. It arrived in Alaska today, enroute to Albuquerque.

Craig

I got word mine will arrive Friday. I had ordered it back when it was first announced.

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