The new Apple TV

Steve Jobs announced the new Apple TV today and it’s just about everything I wished for. It’s small, eliminates storage hassles and supposedly runs much cooler than the current model. I was way off on iOS apps, but overall I’m happy with it. Here’s an overview of what the new Apple TV does, what it doesn’t and what the future could bring.

My chief complaint about the outgoing model was the cost. I had a hard time spending $2.99 to watch a show that could be found online for free. With this update, Apple has dropped the price to $0.99. That’s great, but not I wanted: a $X-per-month subscription that provided unlimited streaming of available content. That won’t happen any time soon for many reasons, so instead Apple joins the list of providers I’m paying for similar (and often the very same) content.

The evolution of the computer and TV into a single device will be slow and difficult. We’re talking about changing very old models of behavior, habits and revenue…lots of revenue. Right now, I send Comcast, Hulu Plus and Netflix a monthly check. They each provide something unique that I’d hate to give up. Comcast provides live pro sports. Netflix offers streaming access to obscure movies across all iOS devices (and now TV). Hulu Plus is super convenient with 3G support and looks great on my iPad. Finally, Apple TV blows away the experience of renting from a brick-and-mortar store.

Yet there’s a lot of overlap. For instance, I’m now paying Comcast, Hulu and Apple to see “The Office.” I’m paying Netflix and Apple for many of the same movies. You can’t help but feel that you’re getting ripped off somewhere along the line. [2. No, I’m not being forced to subscribe to Netflix, Hulu Plus or Apple TV] Additionally, consider Kohl Vinh’s exlpanation of the “disaster” that our living rooms have become:

“…a sprawling, schizophrenic mess of rat king wires hanging off the back of inscrutable devices sending cryptic signals to one another under the auspices of an alphabet-soup of initialisms and branded nomenclature — HDMI, DVI, component video, Blu-Ray, progressive and interlaced resolutions, Dolby, DTS, etc. — and that’s not even mentioning the terminology that intersects with personal computing.”

The Apple TV will play its role very well I’m sure, but it’s not a fix to the overall problem.

My other complaint about the old model was the huge amounts of storage that purchases required. Apple has eliminated that issue by restricting the new Apple TV to streaming rentals from Apple’s servers, a home computer with iTunes content or from Netflix. I’ll be the Netflix support alone will sell a lot of these things.

Finally, the hardware looks great. It’s small, cool and without a hard drive. It’ll blend in beautifully with people’s black components or even live out of sight for those with the iOS Remote app. Apple knocked it out of the park with the design.

I was dead about it running iOS apps, at least for now. An interesting tweet from John Gruber all but confirms that it runs iOS, and we know it’s also got an A4 chip. Maybe we’ll see apps in the future.

All in all it’s a solid update that will do its job well I’m sure. Not a solution to the mess that our living rooms have become, but certainly a welcome citizen.

[Thanks to Shawn Blanc for pointing out Kohl Vinh’s article]