Apple TV: Toy or Game Changer?

appletv Apple presented a new Apple TV at yesterday’s event. While watching the event, I was most impressed by the device’s small size. However last night I was thinking, what is the point of something being small? Up to a point, it really only affects portability. Since this is a settop box, portability is not a factor at all. Since it has to have a network connection to do anything. I’m not going to take it to the beach or on vacation. Therefore this "feature" is a waste.

Perhaps the size allows use in tight places like the kitchen and bedrooms. Windows Media Center has no devices now that fit this essential use case, which is absurd. The $100 Apple TV device works in only one location, though. In order for one to cut the cord for their house, they would have to outfit each room with the streaming-only device. Content rented for one unit cannot be transferred to another family unit, so there is absolutely no “whole-home” aspect to it.

Another feature that presented well was Apple’s imitation of Windows 7’s PlayTo. After 10 months of heavy Windows Media Center use with a PC, extenders, and laptops, this feature is something I never use.

Unless you can deliver live, HD sports, you blew it. Cable sports channels are, at this point, irreplaceable. We aren’t going to cut the cord for this device or any other with the current sports model. ESPN’s contracts with cable companies don’t bode well for change any time soon, either. The Cable companies have ESPN (and HBO for that matter) locked down, and aren’t going to let ESPN shunt content to viewers using new technology for many, many years.

Cable is here to stay and any “game-changer” is going to have to have hybrid abilities as we slowly cut the cord. At this point the upcoming Google TV looks like the best suited device, but still misses the mark wildly. Windows Media Center is the most stunning whole-house DVR, but only one room gets to enjoy streaming internet content. Microsoft is oh-so-close to knocking this one out of the park, but seems deathly afraid to connect a few simple dots. Therefore their system in its current state is a mess.

The new Apple TV is an improvement over the last version, and the pricing for the device and content is a very welcome change. In the end, the device doesn’t allow most people the opportunity to change the way they watch TV. It allows one a bit more freedom to buy content for a second time. Sure, that does give a consumer a bit more freedom, assuming the content is really there (Big Bang Theory still isn’t available for streaming on CBS’ own website. Will full episodes be available on AppleTV? Will they be available in time for me to watch them before my next encounter at the office water cooler?). Is it really even worth $100 plus rental fees for this freedom? It’s almost like presenting a sexy scooter and saying you "bought some wheels" so you can pretend you have a substitute device for a car.

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