Cringely on AppleTV

by Erica Sadun

Over at, the "I, Cringely. The Pulpit" column takes on AppleTV, particularly asking why the Mac Mini, Airport Extreme and AppleTV share the same stackable footprints: "There is simply no imaginable situation where you would want to stack together these three components that are clearly made to be stacked. Unless what you want to do is somehow connect the Apple TV to the Mac Mini through the AirPort at a range of three inches just to take advantage of 802.11n, which the Apple TV and the AirPort Extreme have but the Mac Mini doesn't. Well that's just crazy."

The columnist suggests that perhaps Steve Jobs is just messing with us--or that the seeds of a peer-to-peer movie distribution network can be found within the AppleTV's always-on state. A Peer-to-peer system, he suggests, could reduce the network costs for iTunes, "making the network costs effectively free. Hello HDTV!". Except of course, for that wonky DRM stuff.

Cool article. Read it all.


2007-02-16 09:51:22
I have one question, are they actually meant to stack? At least is the Apple TV meant to stack with the Mac Mini and Airport Extreme? They're not actually the same dimensions:

Apple TV Dimensions: 7.7" x 7.7" x 1"
Mac Mini Dimensions: 6.5" x 6.5" x 2"
Airport Extreme Dimensions: 6.5" x 6.5" x 1.3"

Erica Sadun
2007-02-16 09:56:20
I'm not sure if they are meant to stack. I certainly don't plan on stacking!
Ben Brophy
2007-02-16 09:56:45
The same size thing is kind of a nice for companies like Lacie making stuff like this hard drive.

I could see myself stacking the hard drive on any of those (I don't know if the iTV supports external drives, but it could).

Erica Sadun
2007-02-16 09:57:49
Ben: What's interesting to me is that the Airport Extreme supports external USB hard drives, but that the AppleTV states quite strongly that its USB port is for service only.
2007-02-16 10:00:48
Actually, I could see stacking 2 out of three of these. For example, you might stack the mini or the Apple TV on the Airport Extreme. Stacking the mini on the Airport Extreme makes sense, because you could connect the mini via ethernet which is faster/more reliable then Wi-Fi. Then other devices in the house could connect via wi-fi.

Similarly, if you have an Apple TV and a laptop,you could stack the AppleTV on the Airport Extreme and connect the Extreme to your cable/dsl line and use the wireless for your laptop.

2007-02-16 10:24:39
I think Cringely has been watching too much Monty Python lately and thinks Apple is going to become the Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things.

His predictions have always been entertaining but seldom anywhere close to grounded in reality.

Jay Elmore
2007-02-16 11:38:04
Maybe I missed something, but Apple has said all along what the hard drive in the AppleTV is for:

AppleTV is an iPod. You can sync your media with iTunes like the AppleTV is an iPod. You also have the option of streaming your video as well (in case you don't want to wait for that 800MB movie to copy to the HD first).

The fact that Cringely missed this obvious detail (it's in almost every article I've seen, like this Macworld article) simply astonishes me, and makes me wonder where the heck he pulls his "it's really a P2P node" assumption from.

Erica Sadun
2007-02-16 11:41:52
Jay: The AppleTV is even listed under the iPod section in the Apple Store.

Steve: ROFL!!! Love the Monty Python ref!

2007-02-16 12:21:27
Cool article my ass.

> "It wouldn't surprise me at all if the Apple TV hardware is based on the iPhone, with the exception that the mobile phone transceiver is replaced with Apple's WiFi bits"

Right. Except that the iPhone has Wifi already, so it would be the iPhone's mobile transceiver AND wifi chip replaced, and the iPhone is widely believed to run on an ARM processor, unlike AppleTV which, as Cringley states in the same fricking column, runs on something Intel.

> "the components are clearly designed to be stacked"

Wow. Cringley, stop writing about Apple. You really just don't get it. You see three products that look similar, and can't imagine a reason for that other than "oh, they're meant to be stacked". Apple knows how to design hardware so it's beautiful as well as functional. Apple knows that if our products have consistent design, it makes a strong visual brand so that users identify with your stuff. Did you notice how the iMac looked like a giant iPod from the side? the question is why would Apple make three similarly sized products look different?

As far as wondering what the internet hard drive is for, Steve told us. It's for syncing movies and photos from your Mac to the AppleTV. I presume this is to reduce network latency and stuff. 1.5 MBits per second may be comfortable with a good 802.11g set-up, but I've had AirTunes frequently cut out in the same room as me, using less bandwidth than that. Apple knows that the user experience will be ruined by glitches like that, and that in the real world, set up by normal people, wireless networks don't work nearly as fast or reliably as one might hope.

As for the idea of pre-seeding movies and TV shows for BitTorrent-style distribution online: I think Apple will struggle to sell enough AppleTV units to make it work (if Cringley's minimum requirement of 500,000 is correct). Nice idea though.

Erica Sadun
2007-02-16 12:24:13
Paul: Sorry you didn't like the article. I love reading creatively speculative stuff like this.