One of the more fun products that never seems to get the attention it deserves is the AppleTV. Often described by Apple themselves, for some curious reason, as a hobby endeavour I think it will prove to be anything but a hobby endeavour. Again, it represents yet one more step into the future.
My First AppleTV
I bought the first generation AppleTV shortly after they came out. I also bought a Blueray player that fortunately was on an incredible sale. Very quickly after the purchase of these two products, I wondered why I bought that Blueray player. I bought both about three and a half years ago an I think I’ve used the Blueray player possibly twice. Granted, in the beginning there weren’t a lot of Blueray movies but it played regular DVD movies which I used to rent and the operative word here is used to rent frequently.
Once I got that AppleTV there was simply no looking back nor turning back. I loved that first AppleTV tremendously with its built in 40 gig drive. I’ve never bought movies but I probably bought about a dozen on that device.
My Current AppleTV
I now have an AppleTV version 3. I skipped the second generation device as I was so happy with my original device. And it certainly got an awful lot of use as I like to watch movies. Shortly after getting it, as movies were released for DVD or Blueray rental they were released via iTunes for the AppleTV. Now it’s not the case of whether a movie will be available on the AppleTV for viewing or a TV series or what have you but it will be a matter of what to watch as there are so many choices available.
If you’re feeling bored and there’s nothing on TV there’s definitely something somewhere on your AppleTV to watch or buy for that matter. Today there’s a multitude of choices from currently released films to top notch released films on iTunes to Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Vimeo and as of today HBO and others. The list keeps growing but it’s not only a list of movies but that of TV series to Youtube videos on anything that’s on Youtube. It really is hard to get bored with TV if you have an AppleTV.
Greatest thing since Sliced Toast
So what makes this device so wonderful. Well a variety of things which leads me to wonder how it could ever have been thought of as a hobby device in the virtual world that we’re entering. I can assure you, this is anything but a hobby device. This is exceptional and it was very easy for me to get everyone of my friends and I mean everyone of them to buy one once they saw what it could do.
It is one the easiest to use devices you will have in your entertainment collection. Running off your wifi/internet connection, figuring out what to watch is as much fun as it is to watch it as the interface is just so strikingly beautiful yet simple to use. You interact with your AppleTV also from this extremely small controller with all of about six different options. When I looked at my Blueray controller and the Apple controller I wondered how could one be so complex and the other so strikingly simple but powerful.
The simplicity of use and what you could do with it made this a great selling feature not only to myself but all of my friends. However, secondly although I loved to browse the DVD store for a movie to watch I hated returning it. Gone were those days. You rented the movie and from time of download you had 30 days to watch it which was incredible. However, from time of first play you had 48 hours which in itself was incredible. How could one not love this. How many times did I forget to return a DVD only to be stuck with a late charge. Well, simply too many times. So tick off major selling point number two.
With your AppleTV you can sign up directly with Netflix for all of $8 per month and it is just billed to your iTunes account. What could be simpler. If you’re like me and you like watching a lot of movies you’ll probably want Netflix, Hulu, HBO etc as although iTunes movies are great in terms of the array of their library and the currency of the films, it can be expensive at $5.99 a film if you watch a lot of movies like I do. Yet, I don’t personally find a lot exciting on TV and I do on my AppleTV from TV series such Downton Abbey through to the movies that appeal to me and just the simplicity of watching a Youtube video in the comfort of my living.
AppleTV is definitely no one trick pony. If you have a current iPad or say a MacBook Air etc you can stream something interesting from the internet to your AppleTV and play it on your big screen TV. So, in my case I love watching tech tutorials and it’s not uncommon for me to stream a tutorial done by Don MacAllister of ScreenCastsOnline through my iPad 4 to the AppleTV which then plays on my TV. Life is good.
In fact, you’re AppleTV is more versatile than meets the eye. With the ability to go anywhere on the net on a current iPad or Mac you can simply, using AirPlay stream anything to the AppleTV.
If you want to show people or for that matter look at your own iPhoto photos on the big screen there’s a channel for that. The AppleTV is simply a device sitting on your home network which is talking to your computer. That disk I mentioned in the original AppleTV, as wonderful as it was, wasn’t large especially if you bought HD movies which is all you can buy on iTunes now. For those you’ll store them on you’re say iMac and simply stream those from your iMac to your AppleTV again from a channel titled computer.
Enhanced Simplicity of Use
If it wasn’t already easy enough to use, you can easily control it from say you’re iPad or iPhone. The app that I like to do this with is Remote for either the iPad or iPhone. All aspects of your AppleTV can be controlled via Remote. One of the handiest uses of Remote though is when you want to search for something and have to type out what you’re searching for. That little controller, although versatile is a bit slow as you choose character by character. Using Remote you just either use your virtual keyboard or if you have a Bluetooth keyboard you simply type out what you’re looking for. Everything working with everything in your Apple ecosystem unlike of days gone by. This is a harbinger of things to come.
A Word of Warning
With the beauty of your AppleTV there’s one little catch depending on how many movies or TV shows you end up watching. This is all being piped through your internet. With that, you’re likely to have both a speed and bandwidth restriction. Depending on how much you use the internet for other things plus your AppleTV, you’ll want to assess how much bandwidth you’re going to require. Bandwidth is simply the amount of data you’re allowed to transmit in any given month. So, for arguments sake, let’s say you have a service in which you’re subscribed to 80 gigs of bandwith per month. This is plenty if you were just surfing the net and doing email. However, once you start getting into data intensive things like downloading music you’ll have to now start paying more attention to your bandwidth requirements.
However, you’d have to download a lot of songs to use a ton of bandwidth but not in the case of video whether you download it or stream it. All video comes with different requirements in terms of the bandwidth it uses but as an example a standard definition movie will likely take 1 to 1.5 gigs of bandwidth while an HD movie, depending on length will likely take 5 to 7 gigs of bandwidth. As you can see, if you watch even a few HD movies it won’t take you long before you’ll burn up the 80 gigs of bandwidth. However, you have to bear in mind everything else you’re doing with the internet and your Apple devices like sync’g them, storing files in the cloud and downloading and sharing files, uploading photos to say flickr or transferring your new great shots to a friend.
As time marches on we’re going to see a rapidly expanding requirement for more bandwidth over the next ten years. The bandwidth requirements we had only five years ago will pale in comparison to that which you’ll require in the next five years let alone ten.
Recommendations for Speed and Bandwidth
It’s necessary to weigh a number of things to determine this. There’s first the question of what is available in your area to you. Then there’s the question of what can you realistic afford. From my perspective, this is a situation though, if you’re going to be doing a lot on the internet and enjoying the joys of your AppleTV and all it has to offer more is definitely better. You really have to weigh this carefully.
I’ll start with speed considering just watching a movie and nothing else. At a miniumum I would suggest a download speed of 25 megs per second and above. This will allow you to start your show faster and it will also ensure that as you’re watching your shiw there’s no pauses or stumbles.
In terms of bandwidth, again it is really dependent on how much you’re going to do. Just as an example with myself, in terms of the work I do and I do like to watch the occassional movie, I use the internet extensively. I like listening to classical music streamed from a Paris station all day long which is taking bandwidth. Add to that all the other things that I do plus the occassional movie and 250 gigs of bandwidth per month is cutting it tight for me. So, that I don’t concern myself I have an unlimited amount of bandwidth which is only temporarily available but I thought while it was available I’d grab it. The amount of bandwidth we are actually going to be using over the next ten years is going to be very surprising. We’re going to use more and more as new applications and technologies come on stream.
Internet companies will read the requirements of the market and make available the types of bandwidth that will be required. As we are adjusting to these new realities so too are they. So for myself, simply because I live on the internet, I have extremely high speeds and unlimited bandwidth. This definitely is not required for everyone by any means. However, as you get into a lot of what the internet can bring you just say via your AppleTV you’ll be surprised just how much bandwidth you’ll be using. At the end of the day, this all has to be balanced by what you can afford but if you think you’re going to do a lot on the internet then the more is better approach is the route to take as if you go over your bandwidth cap it is very expensive. Secondly, if you don’t have enough you’ll limit yourself on what is truly something essential in today’s world. Sitting down with your AppleTV in hand and just relaxing and enjoying all that is available to you from this device is only one of the numerous things the internet will be used for.
This is No Hobby but it Represents the Future
It’s interesting when you look at how or why Apple deemed the AppleTV a hobby device when actually in reality it was and is a key pointer to the future and transforms the present more than many things. Possibly one of the reasons they described it as a hobby device is it just didn’t quite catch on the way their other products caught on as people just didn’t see it for what it is. Or they did see it for what it was but the market wasn’t quite ready for it both in terms of what it could do and infrastructure requirements it demanded so it was best to view it as a hobby device until the market was ready to embrace it.
I can tell you, as soon as I showed this or described this to my friends it didn’t take them long to go out and purchase one. I don’t know anyone who’s AppleTV doesn’t get used. Some of course use it more than others which goes for anything. Yet it does get used and people are incredibly happy with it. The days of the DVD store are numbered not unlike other things this digital revolution has changed in the way we live and do things. Although it doesn’t change our love of movies it changes just manner in which we view them. The VCR is long gone, the DVD is becoming history and will eventually be history and the stores that rented the DVD’s are vanishing too at a relatively rapid rate.
So if you’re feeling bored I can assure you that an AppleTV a day will keep the boredom away. And there’s nothing worse than being bored. So at $99 treat yourself to something that you’ll not only find wonderful to use but really enjoy. It’ll accomplish two things at one time in one of the most pleasant ways. It’ll allow you to defeat boredom, enjoy a good movie whenever you get the urge both in advance or just on the spot and it’ll move you that one step further into a fascinating new world.