Thursday, March 8, 2012

Still waiting for THE Apple TV

Currently I have two Apple TV2's.  I picked up the "hockey puck" style device the first week it came out and considered it a work of wonder.  The idea of having no on board hard drive or "Mega Memory" didn't faze me.  Netflix adoption was the key and I was satisfied with the idea that on any given friday or saturday, sitting with my family, we could order a movie from Apple's large library of new releases or find a movie or show on Netflix.  Along the way, we suddenly noticed that we wanted to re watch some of our older movies and actually watch a few of the movies that were given to us for birthdays and holidays.  We rarely used a DVD player thus saving a copy of the movie on the computer was beneficial.  But it became cumbersome.  Add to that, the idea of converting formats for older films, the whole thing became burdensome.

With that in mind, I picked up a second ATV2 device with the intent of modifying it completely.  I looked around and considered Firecore, but decided that this would be better if I did the whole modification myself.  I was able to keep the installation nimble, using up very little memory and installed only the programs that I needed.  XBMC became the go to product.  With XBMC, there were issues that were eventually worked out, including the intermittent playback issues of movies encoded in Apple's .MV4, the defacto for the AppleTV.   However, I was able to watch other movies from my NAS server without problems.   More importantly, I did not need to have a computer on to stream movies to the Apple TV.  A simple NAS drive with AFP or SMB protocols did the trick.   Surprisingly, I was even able to play back 1080p MKV files without problems or hiccups.

Along the way, the family decided that it would be good for my psyche to pick up an old BOXEE device.  They got it on the cheap and I was a happy camper.  Something else to tinker with.  Although the software was not as refined as the Apple TV, I was impressed by its ability to stream anything and everything with impunity.   It was even able to Airshare and 1080p was the defacto setting.  Without a doubt, Boxee, with its 150+ apps was a winner and I found myself watching less and less of the Apple TV.  However, my wife and kids still loved the ATV hockey puck.  Whether it was the hacked version or the unadulterated one, they went back to Apple's simplicity - the one remote control with its minimalist buttons.  Everything about it was better for them.  And to be honest, the UI was just simple to use.

The New Apple TV Apps/Home Page
So imagine my dismay last night when I updated the ATV2 (vanilla device, not the hacked one) and saw what appeared to be a very close cousin of the Boxee UI. Additionally, imagine my dismay at the finding that one can only select two screen sizes - Standard and 720p.  The ATV2 has the A4 chip, the same chip found in the iPhone 4, which by the way can also handle 1080 p videos without a glitch.  The new ATV3 has the new A5 chip which is supposedly the reason why it can handle 1080p.  However, as many of the hackers have already proven, the A4 chip found on the current ATV2 can handle 1080 p without problems.  This begs the question - Why is 1080p only allowed in the new Apple TV and not the current model?

The Boxee Apps Page
Additionally, why is Apple skimping on the Apps?  Boxee has 150+ Apps, including the Wall Street Journal, Netflix and Vimeo which are found prominently on the ATV iOs 5.0 .  These incremental adjustments may be making way for what I believe is an inevitability.   I believe that this is an incremental upgrade in the grand scheme of things.  It is a move akin to the iPhone 3G to 3GS.   There is really nothing in the new Apple TV that would warrant a major purchase.  The hardware serial numbers or markers are probably preventing 1080p downloads from Apple's servers.   And this again must mean that Apple is planning on making the hockey puck obsolete within the next 12 months.  Obsolescence is always started and concluded by Apple and not by its competition.  If the reports are true, expect the next great release of hardware to be a real television or a totally revised Apple TV.

Still waiting for an Apple device that reads from a NAS drive without iTunes.


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