Thursday, October 18, 2007
In the past, most of the attempts to combine the two types of technology have focused on the "living room PC" which was essentially a conventional personal computer that would use the living room TV screen in place of a normal computer display. Even though it seems like it should be common sense that people would want to surf the Internet, play computer games, and get work done in the comfort of their own living rooms, this idea never really caught on in the general population. Even better wireless technologies that allowed keyboards and computer mice to be used in the living room without cords to trip over didn't do much to increase the popularity of these machines.
Now in home computer networks could be the key to success for combining the computer and the home entertainment center. That's because networking technology- combined with remote controls that can send signals through walls- would allow the computer to send content to the TV and other home entertainment system components while remaining in the home office or study where most people feel that it belongs.
The problem with this is exactly how to make a network like this work. Part of the problem is that in most scenarios, you still need some kind of a set top box in order to receive the media from the computer and feed it into the TV set in the case of video and into the stereo system in the case of audio. Of course such a set top device could be much less intrusive than an actual computer. Another problem is the actual network. Are you looking at stringing Ethernet wires or coaxial cables all over the place or are you looking at some kind of a wireless set up?
While cables have obvious advantages in transmitting video, Apple has opted for the wireless alternative even though it's more difficult to send video over a wireless network. And that could be part of the reason for the delay of the Apple TV.
The Apple TV promises to be convenient in the sense that there won't be cables to deal with and at about three hundred dollars retail it is affordable, but it does have some drawbacks. For example, the wireless technology that it will employ to transmit video is still experimental and may be subject to interference under the best of circumstances. Perhaps a more major drawback is that only media that's been downloaded from Apple's online store, iTunes, will be able to be transmitted. That could seriously limit the versatility of the device!
The Apple TV also faces competition from much more versatile- albeit more expensive- devices. There are a variety of devices on the market right now that resemble computers so closely that there isn't really a difference, but because these devices are called "DVR's" instead of computers, they seem to be allowed in the living room. These devices typically combine DVD players with DVR's and are capable of much more than the Apple TV. In general though, Apple will probably find a decent amount of success with the Apple TV just because it is Apple.