Close But No Remote Disc


Apple TV Box

The Apple TV’s new found friends may have brought it up to par with several of its competitors, but does it compare to Apple’s own standards?

With a completely redesigned UI and a slew of new features, the Apple TV seems a new breed of set top box. One, oddly enough, in the same packaging we’ve seen for the past year.

Apple TV meet Apple TV

On the outside we still have the aluminum shell, slim profile and HDMI out. But like all good kids, I was taught at an early age that it’s not what’s on the outside that counts, it’s what’s on the inside. So in that regard the Apple TV seems to have faired well. With the Take Two updates, we’ve gained Flickr/.Mac galleries, 5.1 surround sound support and 1080p upscaling.

Yes I still hope for a rental subscription the likes Netflix couldn’t even compete with, and yes I would appreciate the ability to stream local broadcasts in HD. Maybe those Mac World wishes never really go away.

The Gaping Hole

Let’s go back to Mac World and combine the two big announcements:

  • MacBook Air
  • Apple TV Take Two

Both devices are completely aluminum. Both devices are super slim. Both devices offer media playback. Both lack a DVD/CD Drive, but ONLY ONE device does anything about it. The MacBook Air offers Remote Disc, the ability to share a CD over your network for installing software. Why couldn’t the Apple TV receive the same treatment? Adding the ability for Remote Disc within the Apple TV would be huge. Provided that it has all the media support you expect, DVD streaming over a network, etc.

According to Engadget’s article the MacBook Air doesn’t currently offer the ability to stream DVD media using Remote Disc. Probably for the same reasons, the Apple TV isn’t able to.

Apple’s Standards

Think back to the days you resorted to Winamp. If you wanted to copy the CD you just bought, you’d resort to audio ripping software that seemed quite sketchy. Then iTunes came around and the ability to import your own CDs became ubiquitous. Did the music industry suffer? Was potential profit so far gone that the industry went under? No, not even remotely.

If anything one would argue the ability to purchase individual tracks was the beginning of the end for them. Not because of cost, but because of demand. Now with digital media, users want the same ability that CDs offer. The right to transfer purchased content from one platform to another, DRM free. As a pioneer, iTunes became more than just about organizing music, it became about the ability to own your music.

Pioneering The Next Digital Revolution

So why hasn’t the Apple TV taken the same route? Apple, known for pushing the right buttons at the right time should have opted for Remote Disc media streaming as well as capturing. What I mean is, just as iTunes imports CDs, the Apple TV should import DVDs. A big stretch, I understand, but I think opening up Remote Disc could easily have been the next step in achieving this.

The Apple TV is a closed system. Content on it cannot be moved back to your PC or Mac. By demands of the hard drive, I imagine the capacity to hold DVDs would also be limited. So why not? Thinking of it on a grand scale, even if people were to rent DVDs and store them onto their Apple TV, the capacity alone would limit them. Also they are still renting the movies aren’t they? That’s still money in someone’s pocket. What if they borrow the DVD and rip it? Aren’t people doing that already? Is the movie industry suffering enough to close shop? I think to have the option for Apple seems far greater of an achievement, far more innovative than any corporate reason for why not to do it.



@Arvin Dang: “h.264 isn’t as universal as say DivX” – you make them sound like they are very differing technologies.

DivX is an implementation of the MPEG-4 Part 2 specification, H.264 is an implementation of MPEG-4 Part 10 specification – H.264 is the newer, faster, better sibling of DivX.

The Apple TV can play any MPEG-4 content, including DivX and xvid, as long as it is in the standard mp4 container, and not the proprietary avi container.

Apple never created a “competing digital format”, they just used the most recent version of standard MPEG4.

Arvin Dang

@Darth Zack: I know where you’re coming from with the DivX, but you have to understand H.264 is Apples remedy against both DivX and Flash. They want to create a competing digital format that provides the best quality at the best file sizes. I understand that h.264 isn’t as universal as say DivX is, but on a commercial scale, DivX isn’t that big either. It’s more known amongst us “tech geeks” that enjoy a movie download or two. I think if anyone should by DivX it should be Windows. But that’s for another article, and for another time.

@John: I don’t have any of the answers off the top of my head, but jump into The Apple Blog’s forums and post your question there, hope you find your answer.


Just bought the Apple TV 2 weeks ago. Does the Podcasts you put in favorites automatically update, if so how often?
We have found You Tube to stop about 1/2 way thru and won’t continue, suggestions?


Darth Zack

i have an apple Tv and love it – how ever – 3 things i would like to see change – better quality i have a 1080p 42″ lg and videos still look bad, cheaper rental –

1.) why would i rent movies at 2.99 vs. netflix/blockbusters monthly online subscription ? needs to be more like that

2.) I think apple should buy Divx and start using that technology more and try to dominate the video world

3.) allow uses to stream other content – like AVI etc.. i have an apple tv -but i also have a d-link dsm520 to stream all my other content to my stero/tv — apple needs to step up on that


The LAST thing AppleTV needs is a DVD drive (remote or otherwise). It’s all about streaming and downloading media. That’s the whole point. Just say “no” to DVDs.

With the new Studio deals in place, AppleTV is poised to provide us a virtually unlimited and permanent online library of all films ever made. Think about it.

And since every TV network is owned in some way by the Studios, television content is bound to follow. So the future of online media is looking brighter with Take 2.

And besides, as stated above, the reason iTunes has NEVER included an “Import DVD” button is because they legally can’t. They would be sued by every Hollywood lawyer straight into the ground. Nuff said.


No tv rx and recorder and no dvd drive. Still cant find a good reason to drop cold cash on this puppy.

Dan Moren

“What I mean is, just as iTunes imports CDs, the Apple TV should import DVDs.”

The problem here is not necessarily one of technology, but rather of legality. Ripping a DVD is still technically illegal, as it involves circumventing the DRM scheme, thus violating the DMCA. That’s why Apple and Fox came out with the Digital Copy scheme, where an iPod-compatible digital video is included on the DVD, thus going around the need to break the encryption on the DVD.

Streaming DVDs to the Apple TV would be nice and convenient, I agree, but the movie industry seems pretty hell bent on this not happening.


Apple TV does not honestly need a disc drive. Apple TV can stream any video from your iTunes library. All we need is an EASY way to import our existing media, just like we currently can with CDs. The Managed Copy option in the Blu-ray Disc spec is a start, but the recently introduced Digital Copy feature needs to be adopted quickly.

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