Sunday, January 14, 2007

...there's Apple TV

We privately joke that when it comes to posts, I excel in quantity, Ken in quality. This time he also beat me to the punch with commentary about the iPhone. I, too, want to draw the reader's attention away from this epicenter of media commentary. Rather than go retro, I'd like to focus on the other device Steve Jobs unveiled –- Apple TV.

When coupled with the new AirPort Extreme, Apple TV has the potential to significantly impact the way we use media in our homes, and the creation of media for the home. And that’s good news for me as a consumer, and me as a producer of new media.

The Apple TV is basically a 40GB hard drive with audio and video output. With the WiFi network and USB connectivity the AirPort Extreme brings to the party, things get interesting.

With the Apple TV system you can display photos, play videos and music –- including audio and video podcasts -- on your HD-ready TV. And most it will look and sound pretty darned good.

You can also connect an external hard drive to the AirPort Extreme's USB port, and access that for display on the TV. And use the external hard drive as a backup for your computer.

And you can access anything stored on the Apple TV's hard drive as well, although I haven't found any info that suggests it works as a DVR – yet. The system also supports up to five computers (both Mac and PC) with wireless connections. So videos/photos/music libraries on other computers (providing they have iTunes) can also be added to the mix, without having to hook anything up.

So how do I think things will change? Now that it's easy and convenient to store and access all your media, I predict an increased demand for new media to fill up that space. Some video podcasts are already shooting in 720p and higher. As viewing on a full-sized TV as opposed to an iPod's screen becomes widespread, I think we'll see video podcasters get more creative and visually more interesting.

Apple TV places podcasts in the main navigation menu, along with TV shows, movies, music and photos. The easy access of podcasts through iTunes spurred the first creative boom – look at the success of Rocketboom, Ask A Ninja and This Week in Tech. Having it front and center on Apple TV will unleash a second wave, and like before, the best programming won’t necessarily come from the Big Three, either.

I think indie film making will also increase – especially for shorter films. Who needs the studio system when you can sell downloads of your film through iTunes? I also expect to see more network TV content available for download. And if the networks are smart, they'll also start creating new content specifically for download rather than broadcast.

There were MP3 players long before iPods. Apple’s took off because of their seamless integration between online store, computer software, and portable device. The rest is history. Apple’s not the first with a computer media center. They just created one with seamless integration between their online store, computer software and your PC (or laptop).

As a podcaster, I’ve very excited. And its potential for a new creative renaissance makes the Apple TV much more interesting than the iPhone.

- Ralph

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