Why I'm not excited about the new Apple TV

Mel Martin
M. Martin|09.03.10

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Why I'm not excited about the new Apple TV
I'll admit it. I'll buy almost anything Apple makes. I was going to hold out on the iPad, but after reading more about it, I wound up in line the first day it was for sale. As they say, resistance is futile.

That's not the case with the Apple TV. When Apple brings a product out, I expect a small revolution. Some exciting new concept, or new and unique feature. With the Apple TV, it's certainly lower in price, but instead of revolutionizing the idea of a set-top box, the new unit actually takes features away from the now discarded Apple TV 'classic'.

First, there is the loss of actually owning a movie or a TV show. When the VCR first appeared in the 70s, the idea of owning a movie was quite unique. Before VHS or Betamax you went to a theater, paid your couple of dollars, or watched the oldies on TV loaded with commercials.

Second, the Apple TV requires an HDMI connection -- its HDMI port means you need an HDMI hookup or nothing. I understand the reasons for going with that standard, but I'm still holding on to an older AV receiver, and my 'classic' Apple TV works just fine with that.

Not everyone wants to own a movie, but I often do. There are classics I like to look at again and again, share with friends, or just study. DVDs aren't terribly expensive, and actually are a fraction of the cost of a VHS movies when they first came out.

Apple hasn't lowered the price of movies with this product. Some TV shows are cheaper, but those aren't the kind of thing I want to watch over and over. Sure, I can still buy a DVD, but the catalogs are getting thinner. The DVD is starting to look like an endangered species. The studios loved the idea of stores like Blockbuster Video, but they are already all but dead because people can rent the same content through their cable satellite company, Netflix or even, of course, the Apple TV.

Hollywood hates the idea of my "owning" a movie. They want to rent it to me, again and again. Apple is playing along with this, and I can understand it. I think it may work for a lot of people, but this is a bus I'm not likely to get on. There are a lot of products that already stream Netflix. I have a Sony Blu-ray player that is under US $250.00 and can do Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and a host of other services. And it doesn't require HDMI for HD output. While Steve Jobs hates Blu-ray (and all other optical discs, it seems), I can tell you that quality-wise a Netflix or Apple streamed movie just can't compare to a high bit-rate 1080p disc seen on a larger screen. It's a fact. Don't get me wrong -- I love Netflix, and have rented quite a few recent movies on my Apple TV. But by going to strictly rentals, I'm losing choices, and that's never good.

I'm not sure if this new Apple TV is going to set the world on fire, or be another yawn. It's a good price, and a good idea, but it's just Hollywood putting a boot on my throat with Apple aiding and abetting them. The Apple TV is not a revolution as much as it is a ceding of ground to the big studios and the entertainment conglomerates. Apple is not 'thinking different' here, at least for this consumer. In the new Apple TV, I see product with very little that has shipped a little late.
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