The AppleTV is an Anomaly
I have to admit that the new $99 AppleTV caught my attention when it was announced a few days ago. Small, cheap, works with iTunes, Netflix built in, and all for $99. Sounds pretty cool, right? I don’t think so anymore.
See, in my home everything is wireless and there are only laptops and soon a NAS. I want to have access to all of our files and media assets in one spot and be able to access those files on multiple devices. Most decent NAS solutions provide the storage and retrieval functionalities I need. What’s missing is the devices to play it back on. Clearly, I can play back stuff on my Mac and PC laptops and other devices. Getting media on my TV is another story.
The new AppleTV has no internal storage and only streams media files from another source. In order to do this, a Mac or PC has to be running with iTunes open in order to stream the media files. This is rather inefficient since one of my laptops would have to be running while I’m watching TV. Now one could use a NAS to stream media files. Most NAS devices can stream audio via some type of iTunes friendly media server. Video likely won’t work on such NAS devices since some content would be DRM’d with FairPlay. Since Apple does not support DLNA and has gone the proprietary route, there isn’t really a good way to stream video from a centralized source other than a desktop running iTunes.
Apple appears to be hanging on to the “digital hub” mentality whereby the Mac is still the center of “your digital life.” Actually, my so called “digital life” resides in the data itself and not so much the mechanisms that I use to access it. At $99, the Apple TV isn’t a bargain once you start to realize the extras you’ll need in order to make it participate in a complete solution. For me, this complete solution doesn’t appear to exist yet. The closest thing that comes to it doesn’t bear an an Apple logo but rather a Windows one.