I just don't get AppleTV. I mean, I totally get it, I understand the intent, but I can do these things now, with either DVDs and Blockbuster Video or with my existing cable TV service. Certainly the seamlessness of the experience between iTunes, AppleTV and iPhone is a huge thing and amazing, but while iTunes and an iPod seem natural, AppleTV seems forced and stilted. I wonder if it'll really stick around for a number of years or if the studios look at it as "just another outlet."
On Demand Movies for $4 to $5
I've had the ability to rent movies on demand for YEARS on Comcast Cable, and they have had HD movies for two years. They aren't portable (see below) but certainly I can sit down and watch a movie instantly unless I'm too lazy to walk to the video store.
The Xbox360 also has On Demand movies in an almost identical way to the AppleTV, and the wife has started using that more and more. We watched "Hairspray" in HiDef and she was impressed with the experience. The benefit of course is that I already have an Xbox (as do 13 million other folks) and that it's a more versatile machine. It'd be cool if you could surf the web on an Apple TV and if it included a slot loading hi-def DVD player; that might make it more useful.
We find that a "DVD Total Access" pass is the best way for us to watch movies. We pay $20 and we get as many movies as we can turn around in the mail, which is usually ~6 a month or roughly $3 each. We can watch them anywhere, anytime, they don't expire or have late fees. I take them on planes and we watch half downstairs then take it upstairs to finish the last half. In this case, molecules are more portable than electrons for my family.
Take a Movie with You
It's a legal gray area, but I could also rip the rented CDs and watch them on my PSP or iPod, then delete them when I return the movie.
This, to me, is the #1 draw of the AppleTV. If you've got iPods and iPhones then being able to buy a movie in one place and watch it anywhere, even stopping at home and finishing on a plane. I can do this with DVDs that I get in the mail from Blockbuster, though, and they are excessively portable.
Storage For Your Own Content
Ripping and storing your own content to the AppleTV is the second most interesting feature I think, but that can be done with any NAS (Network Attached Storage) device and most any uPNP device, provided the codecs line up.
I kind of like having DVDs as storage, rather than the "psychic weight" of worrying about a hard drive crashing with 150 lovingly ripped DVDs sitting on it.
As the anonymous blogger at Shipping Seven says (caustically) about the lack of a DVD Drive on the new Macbook Air:
Dumping the DVD drive is a risky move. Yes, they are bulky, and are not used very much. But walk around any airplane/train, and you'll see a huge number of people with laptops watching movies.
Here's a hint, Apple: Not all those people are going to rent a movie off iTunes for a four-hour flight, like you cheerfully propose. I can borrow a movie from my roommate's DVD collection. For free. For more than 24 hours. People generally pick the easiest and cheapest solution available to them.
It's true, folks like cheap; I like cheap.
Watch Photos on my TV
My TV, and many TVs, have an SD slot for photo slideshows, and the Xbox has both USB for docking a camera directly and uPNP, so this is interesting, but not incredibly so. If I could plug a digital camera directly into the AppleTV, that might be cool. (It has USB, can I do this now?)
Why would I want to pay $2 (TWO DOLLARS!) for a TV Show "the day after it airs" when I can watch it for free by visiting www.abc.com, www.cbs.com or www.nbc.com or any other Torrent site? And who wants to own a TV show. Why not 50 cents just to rent it? I'll wait until it comes out on DVD for those prices.
This is another example of where I think the Cable TV set-top boxes have advantage (today). For example, I get Showtime and I watch my favorite show, Dexter, on Showtime, but if I miss an episode, the entire season is sitting in the On Demand Menu for free. Why pay?
I really avoid buying gadgets unless they will fit into my, and my family's, lifestyle in a seamless and utilitarian way. The WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) is about making everything "one button easy" like we have with the Harmony 880 Remote. When we moved to the new house I swapped out some equipment and we started using the Xbox as our primary DVD player. The wife was "shielded" from this because the Watch DVD button the Remote still worked as she expected.
I can see how an AppleTV could be a central part of one's media life, but I guess even though the Xbox is a totally different devices, perhaps, at least in my house, the Xbox has already taken its place as the "Box that does all things well."
Do you have an AppleTV and do you like it? Is this a gadget worth having? Is it indispensable like a GPS, MP3 Player or Tivo?