CNET reviews Apple TV: Pitch-perfect design and user interface; AirPlay has game-changing potential

Apple Online Store“In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a revolution going on in how people watch movies and TV. Traditional services like cable and satellite are losing ground, as more people are streaming content directly from the Internet, using services like Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon Video On Demand. The revamped Apple TV is the company’s aggressive move to capture the streaming-video business: for just $99, you get access to Netflix, YouTube, TV, and movies from the iTunes Store, plus all the music and videos on networked computers running iTunes,” Matthew Moskovciak reports for CNET Reviews. “And with a pitch-perfect design and user interface, it’ll be hard for Apple fans to pass it up.”

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“Tech enthusiasts have been referring to AirPlay as Apple TV’s secret weapon and for good reason,” Moskovciak reports. “The basic concept behind AirPlay is that you’d be able to take any content–music or video–playing on your iPhone and ‘push’ the content to your Apple TV with a couple of taps. The most basic implementation of AirPlay will include any media that plays in the iOS device’s native media player, but the Apple representative we talked to mentioned that developers will have the ability to add it to their apps as well. So the idea is, if you’re listening to Pandora on your iPad, you’d theoretically be able to easily push that to your Apple TV, getting around the issue of the Apple TV lacking an App Store. (At least for those who own iOS devices.)”

Moskovciak reports, “That’s the idea, but unfortunately we won’t get to test out AirPlay until November, when Apple releases the iOS 4.2 software update. It will also depend on how many third-party apps support it. Bottom line: if AirPlay works as advertised, it has the potential to be a game-changing killer app for the Apple TV, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Full review here.

42 Comments

  1. I think Apple may have people fooled on how AirPlay actually works. I don’t think it will actually “push” content from the iOS device to the Apple TV. To do so would be very inefficient, especially with streaming “HD” content; the content would come in from the broadband connection, go through the WiFi router to the iOS device, get temporarily cached, then get “re-streamed” from the iOS device back through the WiFi router to the Apple TV, get sufficiently cached for a second time, and finally displayed on the TV screen. That’s so wasteful and entirely too dependent on things Apple can’t control, such as the quality and speed of the local WiFi network.

    Instead, when the AirPlay feature is switched ON as the display mode for the iOS device, I think what really happens is that iOS and Apple TV start to act as one device (with two parts). The streaming content never touches the iOS device; it goes directly to the Apple TV. The iOS device turns into a remote control device for that streaming content, and the Apple TV handles everything else. If the AirPlay’ed content happens to reside on your computer (because everything that is synced to iOS device should be on the computer), then the stream goes directly from computer to Apple TV, and again, the iOS device is only acting as the controller, not the source of the content data.

  2. I think Apple may have people fooled on how AirPlay actually works. I don’t think it will actually “push” content from the iOS device to the Apple TV. To do so would be very inefficient, especially with streaming “HD” content; the content would come in from the broadband connection, go through the WiFi router to the iOS device, get temporarily cached, then get “re-streamed” from the iOS device back through the WiFi router to the Apple TV, get sufficiently cached for a second time, and finally displayed on the TV screen. That’s so wasteful and entirely too dependent on things Apple can’t control, such as the quality and speed of the local WiFi network.

    Instead, when the AirPlay feature is switched ON as the display mode for the iOS device, I think what really happens is that iOS and Apple TV start to act as one device (with two parts). The streaming content never touches the iOS device; it goes directly to the Apple TV. The iOS device turns into a remote control device for that streaming content, and the Apple TV handles everything else. If the AirPlay’ed content happens to reside on your computer (because everything that is synced to iOS device should be on the computer), then the stream goes directly from computer to Apple TV, and again, the iOS device is only acting as the controller, not the source of the content data.

  3. Ken1W: “…The iOS device turns into a remote control device…”

    iOS devices can already be used as remotes/keyboards for Apple TV via the Remote app. The new version of Remote is a nice step up in UI, too, BTW.

    I’m not sure why you are invoking a paradigm of streaming to the iOS device and then to the Apple TV. There is no reason for that – as you point out, it would not be efficient. From what little I have read about Airplay, it will simply enable the iOS device to serve media from its flash memory to the Apple TV. Unlike iTunes/OSX, I am sure you would get to control the media from the iOS device as you note.

  4. Ken1W: “…The iOS device turns into a remote control device…”

    iOS devices can already be used as remotes/keyboards for Apple TV via the Remote app. The new version of Remote is a nice step up in UI, too, BTW.

    I’m not sure why you are invoking a paradigm of streaming to the iOS device and then to the Apple TV. There is no reason for that – as you point out, it would not be efficient. From what little I have read about Airplay, it will simply enable the iOS device to serve media from its flash memory to the Apple TV. Unlike iTunes/OSX, I am sure you would get to control the media from the iOS device as you note.

  5. What I’m hoping for is that streaming will eventually be bi-directional so you can stream content on your Mac or iDevice to your Apple TV to your home theater AND also be able to access the media content on your Mac with your iDevice via your Apple TV. I know there are apps like StreamToMe that do this now, but I have 2 routers (Ooma and WiFi) in my network chain, which makes configuration to access your computer remotely from another WiFi network other than your own or via 3G a bit involved and complicated.

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