Why I'm thrilled about AppleTV

by Erica Sadun

Wow. All the negativity. Even our own Jochen isn't impressed. Me? I can't wait for AppleTV. The way I see it, AppleTV is a boatload of hackable fun just waiting to be played with. Think of it as a $299 Mac Mini with a smaller form factor and no power brick. Yeah, it has just a 40GB disk and an underpowered processor but do you think that those limitations are going to stick around for more than a few minutes after we geeks get our hands on it? How much do you want to bet that it's running some familiar code on that underclocked Intel chip? How long until we can upgrade to a bigger disk? How much do you want to bet that we can get that "diagnostics only" USB port working? Yes, I am excited about AppleTV and can't wait to start playing with my Lil' Bastard Consumer Electronics Dissection and Torture Kit.


26 Comments

Robert
2007-01-16 08:48:49
Put me in the unimpressed category. I am sure you will get one for free Erica to play with. For all the people that have to pay it is just an AirPort Base station with a few ports, hard drive, and an interface. It lacks a lot of the capabilities that one would want for such a device like the ability to deliver all and capture all our media like recording TV shows. Hack it. Sure, but the device is $300 it should come with the ability to at least replace Tivo.
Erica Sadun
2007-01-16 08:49:59
No freebies for me. :( I've already put it on the credit card.
haxie
2007-01-16 08:51:30
Seems to be a running theme of negativity and scolding from the community about the features that the AppleTV (and the iPhone) lack... I say give it a chance, it is only the first rev of this box and it is going to get much much better. Apple needed to enter the market place and what they came out with is really good and does exactly what it is supposed to do. The first iPod in comparison with the iPod's of today, is nothing to write home about but it set the stage and was the spark for a revolution in how we listen/use and think about our media. I see the AppleTV and the iPhone as examples of new roads being paved, and if the original iPod is any indicator of Apple's ability to take a first rev and create something amazing from it's foundation, we are in for a great ride.



bill
2007-01-16 09:00:52
"it is just an AirPort Base station with a few ports, hard drive, and an interface."


except nowhere does apple state that it can even act as a basestation! No, the $150 airport Extreme was more useful to me, as it was a basestation router as well as a music streaming breakout box.

bill
2007-01-16 09:02:31
woops- I meant to say "Airport Express" You know, the one with the airtunes inside.
Dutch
2007-01-16 09:19:23
The Apple TV is really a stripped down Mac Mini
Erica Sadun
2007-01-16 09:20:31
Nice link! Thanks, Dutch.
PV
2007-01-16 09:55:15
This may be the most limited product Apple has ever introduced. It seems they had to produce AppleTV to support their iTunes movie sales, but they've only sold a little over a million of the movies. Who, besides playful geeks like Erica, is going to buy this thing? It's a dud.
Rob
2007-01-16 10:14:19
I agree with you, Erica. I'm way excited for this lil' device. In my opinion there is so little on TV these days that I've gone for three years without TV service. And the shows I do want, I buy on DVD or iTunes. And I know other families that do the same thing. The TV is the perfect device for the future. The only potential problem will be exposure to new shows, currently I check out the previews on iTunes or my friends show me, but so far I'm unimpressed with what's on TV.
Barstep
2007-01-16 10:32:39
You may not be able to wait to hack this box, but for the average TV watcher it's virtually useless. All it does is stream content from your Mac to your TV. It doesn't have a tuner - or a DVD player - or any recording software. Why would I want to play music from iTunes on my TV with it's underpowered speakers and hopeless acoustic qualities? I really don't see the point of iTV at all.
constantnormal
2007-01-16 10:48:36
Woo Hoo! You GO girl!


And please report back all the nitty-gritty details of what's hackable and what isn't.


I'd like to find an installed gigabit ethernet port that is constrained to avoid exceeding the bandwidth of the wifi (and the requisite complexities involved in connecting two ports of considerably different speeds). I'd like to be able to enable a hypothetically existing gigabit ethernet capability, jack up the processor to support the increased bandwidth, and connect it to a household gigabit LAN.


I'm afraid that, while it would work OK in an existing fast ethernet LAN, significant network activity elsewhere on the LAN could screw up my TV watching. When it comes to bandwidth (and display pixels, and memory, and terabytes of disk space), TOO MUCH IS NEVER ENUF!!!


Mine is scheduled to ship in February.

Andrew White
2007-01-16 10:51:44
Who, besides playful geeks like Erica, is going to buy this thing? It's a dud.


Who? Lots of people. People like my parents who've seen my modded XBox running XBMC, and want to do that themselves. Or my granddad who wants a way to view a slide show on his TV and has been set up to listen to BBC podcasts. There are a lot of people who are aware that this functionality is out there, but find the current ways of getting it to be way too convoluted.


Also ... "Yeah, it has just a 40GB disk and an underpowered processor". I fail to see why people are making such a huge deal of the processor. (HDD I may concede). This device is purpose-built to do the job its intended to do. If it is underclocked, I would imagine that's probably for heat and power consumption. Its something that the folks over at Silent PC Review do all the time.


I won't be buying it, I have a much better solution in my aforementioned XBMC, but for those who aren't going to softmod an XBox anytime soon, the AppleTV is heaven-sent.

constantnormal
2007-01-16 11:26:26
Hokay ... looking at the AppleInsider page [forums.appleinsider.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=70580], it appears that the AppleTV is not going to be much of a haven for hardware hackers, due to being hobbled by a slow system bus, and having the 256M of RAM soldered to the system board. No word as to whether or not the cpu is soldered in as well.


I'm sure that enterprising folks will have it running Linux almost before it comes out of the box, and replacing the disk with a 160G or 200G unit is trivial. But as to expanding it's capabilities and remaining within the OS X realm, it hardly seems worth the effort.


It will certainly make a nice Linux Tivo box, tho'.

PV
2007-01-16 12:46:39
Who, besides playful geeks like Erica, is going to buy this thing? It's a dud.


"Who? Lots of people. People like my parents who've seen my modded XBox running XBMC, and want to do that themselves. Or my granddad who wants a way to view a slide show on his TV and has been set up to listen to BBC podcasts."


Yikes Andrew, How many people want to hack anything, much less have any knowledge of how to do it? How many granddads want to pay $300 to see a slide show on a TV or hear the BBC? Let's rename AppleTV -- Cube2. That may be a slight on the Cube, but sales figures may be similar.

Terry
2007-01-16 13:25:24
If it can't play any and all video formats on my Mac then I'm not interested.
David
2007-01-16 16:12:18
I've been looking over the Chaos Communications Congress videos from this year and it's amazing how much time and effort goes into porting linux to games consoles - the point being that you've got a sub-$300 pc that kids and tinkerers can hack on. The lack of games makes it less appealing than running linux on the xbox 1 at the moment, but my first computer was a c64, installed in the living room. I can remember spending saturday afternoons with my dad keying in BASIC games from the backs of magazines (I was a very patient 8-year old). The tv seems to fit that niche, though I'm as curious as anyone else to see how big a niche it is anymore since Amiga left the market.
Doug
2007-01-16 16:29:39
I'm out of the running on this one because of the HDTV requirement. AppleTV isn't the perfect solution for everyone, but does exactly what is says: Gets the content from your Mac to your TV. Without paying for a Mac Mini. If you need more, buy a Mini. Or run a cable.


As for video codecs supported, I imagine it's officially pretty limited. Unofficially you can get any quicktime movie to play in iTunes by importing it as reference movie created in QT Pro. How are videos played in Front Row?

Mr. Dave
2007-01-16 16:44:43
It's worth noting two things. It should play everything iTunes will, basically, if Quiktime plays it, there's a good chance it will play on your TV. And, while the user interface is FrontRow based, it isn't running FrontRow as we know it. FrontRow accesses items other than your iPhoto/iTunes libraries...it also accesses the DVD player and your Movies folder. The TV will require you to have your movies in your iTunes library to view them - so those of us with aliases from our Movies folder to bigger HDs are just SOL. I'll wait and see what V.2 looks like.
Chris
2007-01-16 17:02:42
It's a frigging Pentium M running at something like 300 MHz. It's not worth the money. Really. If you want to hack a Pentium M media server, you can do better. The Front Row interface isn't _that_ compelling. It's not iPhone for your TV.


AND IT HAS A FAN. It's clear that Steve doesn't care about this product -- at all. Otherwise, no way would there be a fan, and no way would it have a lame name like AppleTV. Steve might have a TV in his house, but I bet it doesn't get much use.

Jeff
2007-01-16 18:53:20
"Why would I want to play music from iTunes on my TV with it's underpowered speakers and hopeless acoustic qualities? "


Hopefully no one would. The audio out on AppleTV can go into a decent sound system. Use iTunes with your TV/monitor and coverflow to visually browse your music collection. This could be a compelling answer for listening to streaming music with CD quality. This is provided that the bit rate and sample rate of the music from AppleTV match the competition from Sonos and Slimserver. These devices are arleady available and retail for $1000 and $300. AppleTV may get me to buy my first TV in years just to help sort and play my music! I think the bonus of being able to show "slide shows" synched with music played back on a kickass sound system will increase the appeal of this sleeper hardware.

Truth Speaker
2007-01-16 22:46:00
TV will be a huge success because it's the perfect marriage of TV and Internet porn. All technological advancements on the Internet and TV have been driven by porn and TV is the perfect fusion of both. The first widely adopted hacks for this device will be to install/enable codecs commonly used in Porn downloaded from the Internet, or to convert files from incompatible codecs to TV-supported codecs.


I'm saying it a second time - This product will be a huge success because of its perfect fusion of free Internet porn with TV. Apple hit the ball out of the park with this product!

Eric
2007-01-17 03:04:10
Well nobody has mentioned the streaming of video from computer to tellie. More and more interesting video is showing up on the net for downloading ranging from rebroadcasts the big tellie channels are releasing (look for the BBC to lead the way here but NBC is there too and look for the NYTimes to become an internet video broadcaster) to indie videos worth watching (this year the Sundance Film Festival for starters not to mention YouTube and its brothers and sisters). If this box downloads them from the computer and the computer downloads them from the net via subscription then you have your own channel of tellie designed and selected by you. In my opinion this is going to grow and grow and seriously compete with cable, air broadcasting and satilitte. AppleTV is a chance for apple to start learning how to set up a seamless flow. These appliances are going to be big me thinks.
Andrew
2007-01-17 05:44:49
What I want to see out of the gate is a hack to pull in all the YouTube videos. If it can stream directly from the web all the QuickTime Trailers, it certainly can stream YouTube. A case of beer goes to anyone who figures it out first. The AppleTV could be the sleeper hit of 2007... first thing I'll probably do is yank the 802.11n (Atheros XB72 802.11n PCIe mini card - http://snipurl.com/17p2k ) and install it in my rev 1 MacBook. Then hard wire my AppleTV to my home network and stream away.
Steve
2007-01-21 08:05:43
There are many, many valid criticisms of AppleTV's functionality. However, this is pretty much par for the course when ANY Apple product is announced. I seem to recall this list being presented when the first iPod was announced:


1.) Battery life too short
2.) Only works with Mac
3.) Only works with iTunes
4.) Doesn't support enough audio codecs
5.) Closed system for development
6.) Too expensive
7.) Nobody wants this product
8.) Competitors have a larger hard drive
9.) Only connects through Firewire


Obviously, Apple should have just shelved the iPod and never let it see the light day, right? It was such a bad product that wasn't going to serve the needs of any customers.

Steve Sokol
2007-02-17 18:51:17
Forget Apple TV as a TV device. Hack in, install Linux and you have the lowest price set-top/embedded system in its class. Sure, the Gumstix systems are smaller and Geode-based gear is cheaper, but this is a $300 system, with power and case, Wifi, HDD, etc. which (properly hacked) knocks the socks off any of the Mini-ITX gear out there.


Give us a few weeks and we'll have converted Apple TV into an Asterisk server, a web server, a router and more. Bet on it.

Bob
2007-03-24 10:43:59
@Chris re "IT HAS A FAN"


Every Mac shipping has a fan, and this has been true for at least 3-4 years. They are not always big or loud, but they are in there.