What's Missing from AppleTV Take 2

 Articleimages 2008 01 Dsc 0012

Apple has released the software update for the Apple TV that was announced at MacWorld 2008. It offers new features like an improved interface, video rentals direct from the iTunes store, podcasting, and the ability to browse photos from Flickr and .Mac.

I just realized, though, that the update that would actually get me to buy the Apple TV is missing: some sort of real use for that USB port on the back of the device. While many would like it to support an external hard drive (and some have had success doing so with some hacking), that's not the feature that I'd like to see.

What I'd like on the Apple TV is something that I do with my Mac on a daily basis - watch and listen to the media that's stored on my iPhone. I keep my iTunes library at home and sync my music and movies to my iPhone. When I'm at work I plug my iPhone into my work machine and I'm able (since I manually manage my music) to access that media on my computer. Since the Apple TV is essentially a "Mac lite," and can already access iTunes files (and iTunes DRM as well), the problem certainly isn't incompatible media formats or an inability to read the iPod. It seems that the only real limitation here is one of interface. That seems like a fairly small limitation.

There are two other possible limitations, of course. The first is that it's such a "niche" feature that Apple doesn't want to waste resources enabling it. This seems unlikely to me, though, as it would be awfully convenient for my buddy to bring over his iPod or iPhone and we could watch a movie stored on it (granted, of course, that it may not be as high a resolution as we'd like) -- it seems like the sort of thing that wouldn't be that difficult to do and that Apple would happily tout as a feature. The second is that Apple is choosing not to develop this feature either to help Mac sales or because of pressure from music and movie industry execs.

You know what would be even nicer? The ability to transfer a rented movie from the AppleTV to an iPhone.

Dieter Bohn

Dieter Bohn is former editor-in-chief of Smartphone Experts, writing across iMore, Windows Phone Central, Android Central, and more. You can find him on Twitter (and everywhere else) @backlon.

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There are 4 comments. Add yours.

gruswitz says:

I still think there are three VERY obvious omissions that take this from an interesting niche device to a viable media center device.
1) How about TV on the Apple TV? There needs to be EyeTV on the AppleTV, preferable with the dual tuner HD Homerun. A logical interface for the mac remote would make the Apple TV a Tivo replacement.
2) A web browser, please! It is already pulling content from the web. Why not give us the real deal?
3) I know that 720p is high-def, but there are shows broadcast in 1080i and in time there will be downloadable and maybe even broadcast in 1080p. Why not give us the ability to use it?
There are three wish list features that I crave as well:
1) With the SDK around the corner, I'd like to be able use my iPhone or iPod touch as an Apple TV remote, including keyboard and touchpad interface.
2) In a dream world, the AppleTV begs to replace the DVD player as well. Even if it cost a little more and is little bigger, I'd like a blue-ray/DVD drive. External would be fine as well.
3) Media sharing on your home network would be huge. Now that the syncing thing is all but abandoned for Apple TV, I'd like to hook up a Drobo to my AppleTV and put all my audio/video files on it to share on the home network. It just needs an iTunes server application and use of the USB for external drive storage.
Sure, I could get most of these item with a Mac Mini, but I hear that device may disappear (which I think would be tragic). I think an intuitive AppleTV interface and my listed improvements would make Apple TV the DVR/Media device of choice for more people than currently use either. It's like the iPod - sure there were other MP3 players, but it took apple to make the interface usable and quality sufficient. Then again with the iPhone - sure there are other smartphones, but none can touch the mobile web browsing and intuitive interface. Renting movies and picture/music streaming are just not enough when other devices many of us already have can do most of that (ex. Tivo).

Rene Ritchie says:

I have a Mac Mini as well. I chose it over the Apple TV for some of the reasons you say. I don't think Apple will EOL it, it's set up as a media PC, probably intended as the next-step up from the Apple TV.
(I don't do PVR with my Mini, as I live in Canada, and we have on over the air HD, no Clear QAM, no cablecard, and the networks sometimes flip the "no copy" bit even on SD just to frak with media centers -- benefits of monopolies without regulation!)
For the US masses, however, I think your points are valid.
What about games? Apple got all them new patents...?

gruswitz says:

Thanks for the props in the podcast. Let's hope Apple is listening to us.

External Hard Drive Enclosure says:

Using such a hdd will definitely save my data in safety :)