I have recently gotten AirPlay working to prepare for a move. As I wrote, I got an Airport Express and an Apple TV. At the time of writing I had to wait to get the Apple TV working. Now I have, and I love it. The whole model of content distribution needs to mature, and Apple will lead the way.
I ordered my Apple TV and it arrived within twenty-four hours. I felt amazed just examining the box and its contents. The Apple TV looks like a little square with a few ports on the back and rounded edges. The remote looks like the coolest remote I’ve ever seen, just a thin rectangle with convex surfaces and round corners. The remote has a button with the four arrows and enter in the center, plus a Menu/Back button and a Play/Pause button below it. It reflects a zen minimalism perfectly.
I couldn’t wait to get it working. Things worked out very nicely actually. For Christmas my Mom gave me a little lightweight TV to bring with me on the move, as compared with the bulky one I bought when I bought the house in 2002. It amazed me how in ten years media and the technology around it has totally changed. The old one didn’t even have an HDMI port, something Apple TV needs. I had a friend come over and haul the old one outside with a FREE sign on it. In my excitement I had tried hooking up the Apple TV to the new TV, but hit the wrong button on the new TV’s remote, putting it in a perpetual menu and making it silent and useless. I really hope APple really does come out with a full TV which talks! Imagine that, no more inaccessible menus.
My friend got the new TV working with Apple TV just fine. Hitting the lower right button (Play/Pause) three times during the initial setup will enable VoiceOver. Once we got it off the ground I could operate everything with Apple TV’s remote, plus a few buttons on the other remote my friend taught me. I could now try to evaluate this thing.
Apple TV has a simple menu structure. Going left and right goes through the different categories of things (movies, TV shows, etc.) and going up and down goes through the options in that category. In this way you can rent movies, watch TV shows, listen to music in your iTunes library, subscribe to podcasts, watch Youtube videos, and lots of other fascinating things. For the first time I can lounge in my recliner with a remote and browse on-demand content and have it talk to me, something sighted people have enjoyed for years. I love it!
First I looked at hot movies. Apple has a notorious anti-pornography stance, so it seemed interesting to see the fascinating documentary DMT: The Spirit Molecule in the top ten independent films. You can’t have sex, but smoke all the DMT you want! I also saw a documentary about Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, one of my heroes. I plan to rent both.
Next I looked at TV shows. I added some favorites to my list. I watched the latest episode of the Simpsons just to try it. The episode parodied Glen Beck and the tea party movement, and I enjoyed it. It felt cool to see all the different networks and shows. It just has on-demand content, nothing live. As soon as they start streaming live content we can cut the cable forever, and I look forward to that day.
Then I wandered over to the internet category. I watched a Ron Paul video on YouTube, and subscribed to a few podcasts, including the very funny Radio Free Oz. I really like listening to podcasts on my Apple TV from the comfort of my living room. I could really get more into podcasts this way. I also browsed my iTunes library, very cool. And of course, Apple TV acts as an AirPlay device, so I can hear anything I want over it as long as I can stream it.
All and all, I love Apple TV, but the current generation represents a stepping stone. I think that things need to mature so we can enjoy live TV. People have become tired of paying insane amounts of money to watch their favorite two or three channels on cable. In his biography, Steve Jobs said that he has cracked the secret to an easy high definition television. I hope he has, because I welcome a full Apple TV. Should you get one? If you like watching on-demand content or have a large iTunes library then I would say yes. If you don’t know then you might want to wait to see how the rumors play out. Either way, I have found my Zen TV.