Apple Playing Catch-up in Internet Television Race

Published by: Frank Galvano on 7th Oct 2010 | View all blogs by Frank Galvano


Apple Playing Catch-up in Internet Television Race

Though Apple has historically led the pack in many tech areas, they are lagging behind in the race to put internet content for TV into US living rooms.

The company originally entered the market in 2007 with a small box called the Apple TV which brought iTunes movies to televisions, but the hardware was too expensive and cumbersome to achieve any real success. Now the company has released a revamped version of the box, which will sell for just $99. The product represents Apple's attempts to catch up with competitors in the market, but does have several unique features that set it apart.

Apple TV is a small, black box that comes with a remote. The box connects to the telvision in your living room either directly or through a receiver. The box's software sends a computer-style interface on the screen, which users will navigate with the remote. The box can be connected to the web via a wireless signal or directly into a router with an ethernet cable. Once the box is online, users can use it to rent movies or television shows from Apple. Netflix subscribers can also use the system to access their content.

In terms of both setup and operation, the new Apple TV is less complex than the older version, which was more like a computer, containing its own hard drive. It was designed to first download content from iTunes or a computer, and then play it back. The new system, however, uses streaming technology to acquire content and play it at the same time. This means that there is no hard drive, making the device smaller and lighter, and saving users from having to worry about storage space.

One complaint from potential buyers is that when they rent a movie, they only have access to it for 24 hours, so if a user can't watch it in one day, they would have to cough up the rental price again to finish it. Many working parents find watching an entire movie in one sitting quite difficult. 

This limitation has very little to do with Apple TV itself, and more to do with restrictions placed by content providers. The only progress made on the issue in the last several years is that users now have 48 hours to view television shows after they rent them. The ridiculous part is that most TV shows, which we have 48 hours to view, are half or a quarter of the length of motion pictures, which we have 24 hours to watch.

The Apple TV does, however, offer a very cheap way to watch feature films. With a subscription to Netflix (as little as $9 per month), you can view as much of their content through Apple TV as you want. Streaming Netflix movies onto a television screen is not new, however, as a small company called Roku introduced a box two years ago that could essentially do the same thing. The box was sold for $100 with no monthly service charge to pay. The Netflix service has since been introduced to a handful of Blue-Ray players and video game consoles, and several televisions have been introduced that can access Netflix by themselves.

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