Greg's bite: hands on with the Apple TV
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Greg's bite: hands on with the Apple TV

By Greg Mills

FedEx delivered my Apple TV device Friday. It was such a small package it sort of surprised me.  When when the packaging came off it was even smaller than I had even first thought. Slickly packaged in the typical Apple retail box, the cord, remote controller and instructions were artfully packed.  

Note that this is the 187th remote control in this house. Due to controller command conflicts with my great but discontinued Apple HiFi sound system, I had to put some black electrical tape over the window air conditioner's RF eye. Remote controllers reproduce like rabbits around here.  Turning the sound system on and off with the remote used to also turn the window air conditioner on and off as well. Reminds me of a time in my youth when I installed a radio in my cousin's car and turning the radio on also opened the passenger window. Oops, I guess I drilled a hole into a hidden wiring harness.   

It was a snap to hook the Apple TV up to the HDTV TV through an HDMI cord and power via the provided 110-volt power cord supplied. The on-screen set up was easy, and I first picked the house Wi-Fi network and input the access password. The menu selections and on-screen keyboard reminded me a lot of the PlayStation3 operating system, but Apple's was graphically better. Next I went to my iTunes account input and hooked up with my Apple iTunes account.  

I synced up the Apple TV system to access my MacBook Pro with "Home Sharing," which is not in the Mac OS system preferences as I expected, but rather under "Advanced" in iTunes 10, which is required for AppleTV. That allows AppleTV to share my music and movie library residing on my MacBook Pro via Wi-Fi.  The DVD Player on the MacBook should also allow DVDs to be played over WiFi to Apple TV, and, thus, on the HDTV but I haven't tried that yet.  Then I went to the NetFlix settings and input my account information and password. Bingo,  the Apple TV was all set up.

My 11 year old techno-junkie-daughter, jaded by her vast experience with everything electronic, and Apple devices in particular, assures me the Apple TV is "awesome." There you have it, $100 well spent.

I was worried that the 720p picture wouldn't be that good, but it is nice and sharp.

I was surprised that in some respects, Apple TV might just as well have been a NetFlix TV device. Frankly, since we have Dish for unlimited TV network offerings, a Dish DVR to record anything we want to see later that comes over 100 cable channels and we have HBO for fairly recent movies, we already have good access to most anything we want to see. The notion of AppleTV as a full replacement for cable or satellite TV is not realistic.  

Apple TV is a addition to current content offerings, but not a replacement due to the high cost of content. Viacom's CEO notwithstanding, pay-for-view TV shows are not worth $1 each, when the very same programing is available at no extra charge on cable networks that are included in monthly cable channel packages.

NetFlix is sort of like an "all you can eat" pay-for-view on demand channel. I can't see myself paying Apple 99 cents to view a TV show or $5 to view a movie. If we wait a few months for movies show up on DVD, we can order the disk via NetFlix through the mail or just stream it when they put it up on the streaming servers. Apple really doesn't have a competitive "go to market" offering, yet. Ground-breaking new technologies need a strong economic or functional advantage to work. For movies and TV shows, Apple TV is not there yet from a price standpoint.  Why pay Apple $5 to see "Up" when we can stream it for free now on NetFlix? Streaming songs from my computer network to the TV audio system is neat, but not a game changer.  

As I have predicted, there must be more to come that Apple TV will support that is yet unannounced. iOS Games with iPhone or iPad as a game controller with the game displayed on the HDTV is an example. The iOS platform will process 720p and a slew of other video formats, which look great on a big screen TV, and the Apple TV processor is powerful enough to run cool games we could rent or download from Apple.  

Much has been written about Apple not really getting into games in a serious way. Nintendo would be quick to tell you that the iPhone and iPad have gotten Apple into the game through the thousands of iOS games available on the Apple App Store. Apple TV may end up being the platform that finally allows Apple to compete with PlayStation, XBox, Wii and Nintendo.

The approach to the game business has taken a far different path, but the results are going to be dramatic. When you buy a game disk for the existing game platforms the game developers pay a percentage to the platform owner. With Apple's App store the same thing happens; when you pay for a game Apple keeps 30%. Not requiring a game media disk allows easy distribution of games through the Internet and will allow Apple to get into the games market in a big way without writing a single game, in house.  

At $99 the AppleTV device has too much costly electronic horsepower built in for Apple to make any money selling the device at that price, so we know Apple plans to make money on it down the line -- or make that "on-line." It is just not Apple to not follow the money. That is why I don't expect Apple to launch their own TV sets. HDTV prices are dropping like rotten apples falling off a tree in a wind storm. Steve Jobs will not chase a market without a tidy bottom line.  

Once the Apple server farm goes on line, much more content of all sorts is certainly coming from Apple. With the pile of cash Apple has on hand, I can't understand why Apple doesn't just buy NetFlix outright. The only other alternative is Apple figures they can build up the iTunes library and simply out maneuver NetFlix.

At some point a system upgrade to the Apple TV device might simply do away with support for NetFlix and leave users with Apple's movie deals alone. The fact that the AppleTV device has the big "A" in the name, means Mr. Jobs controls the system contents of that shinny little black box.  Partnering with Apple is sort of like swimming with a friendly great white shark. Sooner or later your new friend is going to eat you, as that is his nature.

A quick note on the Microsoft Windows Stuxnet worm: The Russians are fleeing Iran in droves as angry Iranian authorities are suspecting anyone and everyone of planting the Stuxnet worm in the new nuclear reactor's control systems. Iran, not known for gentle interrogations, is trying to "interview" all the Russians who built the reactor and had access to the computer. Thumb screws, blowtorches, red hot irons and the skillful use of razor blades tend to "loosen up" the conversation in discussions with Iranian security officials. The Russians engineers are running for the airport in genuine fear. This isn't  helpful in starting up the new reactor, anytime soon. The very experts they need to fire it up are going home. 

The Iranians fear is that the actual target of the worm is the cooling system of the new reactor.  f the worm turns off the cooling system water pumps and then tells the operators everything is just fine, a Chernobyl type nuclear reactor meltdown is sure to occur. Since the worm can reproduce and reinfect control systems if only one copy remains on any computer that will ever be connected to the reactor's computers, they can never be sure it is safe to start the reactor. Very clever sabotage. There is still no way to determine who actually wrote the worm, but the results have been delightful for those who rightly fear an Iranian Nuclear Bomb.   

That's Greg's Bite for today

(Greg Mills, is a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He's working on a solar energy startup, www.CottageIndustrySolar.com using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg's art web site at www.gregmills.info ; His email is gregmills@mac.com )

 

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