DAVID BIANCULLI

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TOM BRINKMOELLER

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GUEST BLOG #21: Tom Brinkmoeller falls hard for Apple TV
June 3, 2009  | By Tom Brinkmoeller
 

Bianculli here: Guest contributor Tom Brinkmoeller proudly considers himself and his values old-fashioned, but today he takes on something decidedly NEW-fashioned: an Apple TV. Read on, to get to the core of his analysis...


Apple TV Puts Some Programming Power in Viewers' Hands

Consider the following a short burst of enthusiastic applause for a piece of TV-related equipment I ignored for almost three years.

Apple introduced Apple TV in September 2006. At the time, I tried to learn more about it and what it did by searching the Apple website and trade stories. I saw no connection between it and my life, and really didn't think about it again. Now I'm an enthusiastic turnaround on Apple TV, a piece of hardware barely pushed by the Apple marketing muscle that has made Macs, iPods and iPhones as well-known as Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.

Discovery by accident doesn't make the discovery any less satisfying.

Almost a decade before the recession economy put the squeeze on outside-the-home entertainment choices, health circumstances had already made home-based entertainment crucial in our household. Since we're boomers, television has been our default for most of our lives. Cable offers hundreds of channels. But when the number of weekly hours spent watching television approaches the pounds shed on The Biggest Loser, you discover how empty and rerun-ridden those cable channels can be.

Faced with that entertainment vacuum, we were driven to fill it. Netflix and Blockbuster DVDs deliver mostly movies, tie you into a plan and make you responsible for returning their DVDs -- a bit too much effort for the limited television payoff. These companies also offer to sell you hardware to stream a small portion of their offerings directly to your TV. More money, less product -- similar to what today's newspapers keep doing.

So more than two years after deciding Apple TV was irrelevant to my life, I looked at it again. This small box lets the owner download a ton of movies (rent or buy) from the iTunes Store. Also makes it possible to download and play TV shows, audio and video podcasts, music, photos, personal video and YouTube on a home TV.

apple tv rear shot.jpg

There aren't many requirements: an enhanced- or high-definition widescreen set with one of several ways to connect Apple's box to the set; broadband internet connection; a router to wirelessly stream from that connection to the box; an iTunes account. You can download onto your computer (Mac or PC) or directly to your Apple TV box. The only hard wiring is between the box and the TV. The setup is as easily instinctive as any other Apple product, and it takes little time to go from unpacking the box to watching a new kind of television.

The viewing choices seem to outnumber those of the competition, the quality of the picture is high (and often high-def), the initial cost is competitive ($229 for 40GB and $329 for 160GB storage), and there's no plan to sign up for, no DVDs to receive and return.

If Apple TV has flaws, we haven't found them in the month since we bought one. We love the free video podcasts. We can watch full-length movie trailers before making a buy. And our iTunes music library sounds better than ever when played through a decent sound system.

I don't know why Apple TV hasn't done more of a marketing push on this product. I think it's the next best thing to happen to the medium since high definition. And I want to thank Netflix and Blockbuster for helping me rediscover it.

---------

tom-brink-new-sig.jpg


I, like Peter Sellers' Chauncey Gardner character in the film Being There, unapologetically "like to watch." Despite my boomer status, I refuse to be intimidated by technology innovations that make the watching choices better.

 

 

 

4 Comments

 
Chris J. said:

Like you I've pretty much ignored Apple TV. The serious flaw that I see with it is that it doesn't record TV shows a la TiVo. Now put TiVo functionality along with all that other stuff you mention, and now I'm interested. Until then, it still doesn't sound too appealing to me.

(Chris: From reading comments here and other Web sites, I surmise cable subscription in many places is a near-royal pain. Not where I live, so the cable-provided DVR is a handy tool I use often. Were we saddled with a rotten cable provider or were I dumb enough to ever try satellite TV again (not going to happen), I'd want an Apple TV with recording abilities, too. I'm not an electronics expert, but feeding into (instead of just out of) an Apple TV would seem to be a task that
invites more complications, including a higher purchase price. But maybe some Applehead in Cupertino will read your comment and have an Ah-Hah moment. Thanks. -- Tom)

Comment posted on June 3, 2009 8:46 AM


That Neil Guy said:

So, Tom, now I'm curious about your little anti-satellite tv comment. I've never had it, but my folks recently switched from cable to direct tv. What's your beef with satellite? Any problematic areas I should warn my folks about...?
(My problem with satellite is that you lose signal almost any time it rains. I live in Florida; it rains a lot. There is no way to recover the missed programming, and no way of knowing when the rain's interference lessens to the point a picture returns. My other objection is the way I was treated when I canceled -- I moved, and the HOA at the new home does not allow dishes. It was almost an hour on the phone with the rudest customer-service reps I ever have encountered. I had to stay with them, because they were going to charge me huge amounts for equipment if it wasn't returned, but wouldn't tell me how and where to send it until they browbeat me mercilessly -- I'm Catholic, so I wasn't too affected -- and transferred me to every rude employee they could. Hope that answers your question. -- Tom)

Comment posted on June 3, 2009 1:02 PM


Rich said:

I'm sure Apple is pleased that you're pleased, Tom. I will say you are far more adventurous than most Boomers when it comes to the 'New Tech.'

In answer to your question why isn't there a 'Giant Push' for this marvelous device? I think it's an experimental product and as Chris J already commented- He loves his TiVo (others have OnDemand or Hulu.com). Plus, there's the price tag ($229 for 40GB and $329 for 160GB storage).

Here's the ugly truth: I can find virtually ANY TV episode or Movie online for 'Free' (and not a Torrent!). I have a Firefox 'add-on' that lets me download (*koff* steal) and convert almost Any video on the web. The very "Apple Content" you mentioned gets dumped into 'sharing forums' (the same quality as you get) within hours of its release and I can keep, shrink, or burn it to a DVD (and watch it later)- all this with just a lap-top. Granted these 'skills' didn't happen over night. I'm the core audience for this invention and Apple knows I won't pay for what I can FIND or Sample 'for Free'.

What concerns me most is the "ITunes account" you mentioned. They collect all that data, Tom. Every show, every song, every preview. I've had more problems with just a simple 'Quick-Time' player because of Itunes. Most people download ITunes stuff using their Xbox 360 or PS3. Be glad Apple TV is NOT in 'High Demand' yet...as you can imagine your TV crashing like the Apple IPhone store when 'too many people' rush the website.

I enjoyed your review. For someone 'jaded' like myself, it was refreshing to hear the enthusiasm of a Boomer getting 'In the Game' with this new Tech. Will you be getting the new "Guitar Hero: Beatles edition" game for your PS3 next? (don't get an Xbox 360!- they overheat and die in about a year). It was announced by Paul & Ringo themselves at "E3 Con" on Monday- google it.

[Tom may answer you separately -- but thanks to Eric Gould, who designed TV WORTH WATCHING, I'm already up to speed on the Guitar Hero Beatles preview. I'll bring it here soon, just for giggles. -- David B.)

(Thanks for the accolades for being able to deal with the new tech at my advanced age. I think it's just an extension of people my age once buying into what's now old tech -- e.g., early computers, Nintendo --and keeping with up the progressive roll.

Knowing about video games doesn't necessarily translate into skill. The owner of this blog once played Donkey Kong so well for so long in a theater lobby, I celebrated a birthday or two waiting for my turn. It took me longer to drop a quarter in the slot than it did for me to play my turn.

But I disagree on the download issue. Downloading directly to the Apple TV isn't a problem, since even the largest memory package starts playing while the file is downloading. And dumping onto your computer directly from iTunes moves the content to the Apple TV whenever you choose to sync the two. And I've had an iPhone, pre 3G, since the beginning, and never experienced the well-publicized congestion. Nor do I go to a Walmart at dawn the day after Thanksgiving.

Memory capacity isn't too much of a problem, since a movie rental goes away and a purchase can remain within the larger memory of your computer. And I think my Donkey Kong story tells you why Guitar Hero and I are but acquaintances. -- Tom)

Comment posted on June 3, 2009 1:52 PM


giggles said:

Re: the Beatles preview? I love the Beatles and am certainly flattered...but don't do it just for me!! ;-) (Couldn't resist.... I know you'll share!)

Comment posted on June 3, 2009 6:07 PM
 
 
 
 
 
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