Apple TV Take 3 - My Musings and Other Wishful Thinking

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by ITGuy, Oct 13, 2008.

  1. ITGuy macrumors regular

    Dec 5, 2005
    I own an Apple TV, and I believe that it is not a big seller because people take one look at the features and specs then realize that it does not quite fulfill its potential. There are folks like myself who have been eagerly hoping for Apple to sell an updated or similar appliance type product that would become the true digital home media hub, home automation, and home monitoring controller. The current iTunes and Apple TV library and synchronization architecture must evolve to add support for centralized iTunes and iPhoto libraries stored on the Apple TV. Apple TV should become the iTunes and iPhoto media server for your home. It would also be fully integrated with MobileMe. Although Apple TV might not be the appropriate eventual product name, I will optimistically refer to the desired product as "Apple TV Take 3".

    Apple TV Take 3 would host the master iTunes library in the home, from which you could access your media just as you can with the current Apple TV. You would be able to acquire all types of content from the iTunes Store: music, movies, TV shows, music videos, podcasts, audiobooks, and App Store applications. Apple TV would also be the master iPhoto library in the home, and could also publish iPhoto albums to your MobileMe galleries. When creating the master iTunes and iPhoto libraries, Apple TV could discover Mac or PC based libraries throughout the home and perform an initial import of media, photos, applications, etc. to the centralized master repository. The built-in Superdrive or optional Blu-ray drive would allow users to play and import their CDs, play DVDs, and import Digital Copy movies from DVDs. You could also plug a digital camera or video camera directly into Apple TV to transfer the desired photos or videos to the Apple TV iPhoto or iTunes libraries. A webcam and microphone could be connected to Apple TV in order to conduct video iChat calls. The iPod Touch and iPhone would be capable of being a fully featured remote control for the Apple TV.

    You would be able to sync the Apple TV with iPods or iPhones that you connect to the USB port on the Apple TV. You would also be able to sync the Apple TV iTunes music library with up to five Mac or PC iTunes libraries in the home. You would also be able to sync iPhoto albums between Apple TV and Macs. This way, for example, you could sync certain music playlists, movies, and photos to the iTunes and iPhoto libraries on your MacBook so you have the media when you travel on business or vacation. All iTunes Store purchases and any new photos taken and added to your iPhoto library on the MacBook would all sync up to the Apple TV master iTunes and iPhoto libraries when you returned home.

    I believe where Microsoft Vista Media Center and Apple TV are failing is in the architecture of how these products synchronize and stream music, video, and photos. A computer should not be required AT ALL to ingest, consume, sync, or stream media throughout the home. Apple TV must evolve into a true independent digital media hub, and not remain simply an adjunct of the iTunes software or iTunes Store. It must be a well designed and easy to use home theatre component appliance. If iTunes detects an Apple TV on your network, it should confirm if it should use its own iTunes library as it does today, or if it should configure itself as a slave to the Apple TV's master iTunes and iPhoto libraries with full bidirectional synchronization.

    People have been asking for the ability to automatically sync iTunes libraries between computers instead of having to manually copy media files between computers. Instead of doing that, Apple should implement the suggested Apple TV master iTunes and iPhoto library hub architecture and let iTunes on computers optionally sync with Apple TV instead. Make people go out and purchase an Apple TV so iTunes clients can have either a customized partial or complete library that is synced to their computer.

    To distribute music, video, and photos throughout the home, Apple TV would also be able to sync with other Apple TV units. You would also be able to sync and stream from Apple TV to other Macs and PCs running iTunes, and stream audio to multiple remote AirPort Express speakers. A new "AirPort A/V" product would allow you to access streamed audio, video, and photos from Apple TV. Your MobileMe email, calendars, contacts, and web galleries would also be available using the AirPort A/V device. It would be controlled by using an iPod Touch or iPhone remote and a 10-foot interface. A new Bonjour-enabled wireless "iPhoto Frame" digital picture frame product family of various sizes would allow you to sync or stream certain photo albums to the picture frames in your home. You could also then take a synced iPhoto Frame to your office to enjoy cherished photos at your desk. You would customize each iPhoto Frame so it would only show the pictures at certain times, such as during weekdays during business hours, or at home during the daytime. A new iPod Hi-Fi boom-box would also sync wirelessly with Apple TV and you could take it with you to the beach or cottage.

    Apple will also need to provide a SDK with appropriate APIs for developers to build solutions for Apple TV. Developers would then be able to create widget type applications, games, and also build sophisticated home control and home automation applications that would integrate with Apple TV, iPod Touch, iPhone. I was invited to spend a long weekend birthday celebration at a $3000 per night MGM Grand Skyloft penthouse in Las Vegas this Summer. Let me tell you, I was BLOWN AWAY by all the things I could do throughout the huge two-story Skyloft using the Crestron touch pad remote. Apple could finally bring that level of sophisticated home control capabilities to the masses. I could easily see myself using an iPod Touch or iPhone to do some of the same things in my own home.

    Apple could ignite an Apple TV software and hardware accessory ecosystem. Just think about it. Weather widgets, games, and other applications like the elgato EyeTV PVR application, Sirius XM Radio application, digital picture frames, home control hardware modules, wireless cameras, CableCard or Tru2Way USB tuners, wireless keyboards, wireless speakers, and more. Home appliances that integrate with Apple TV. A Nike+iPod application for Apple TV to review your progress and goals. Controlling and monitoring your home from a remote location using your iPhone would be incredible. Do it yourself, custom home installations, or home builders integrating Apple TV. The iPhone SDK is a smash hit. The Apple TV SDK will be too.

    Apple should get over the fact that Apple TV PVR applications would conflict with selling television shows on iTunes. iPod has and continues to sell quite well despite the fact that people can obtain music from CDs, other DRM-free stores like Amazon, and from sources on the Internet. Apple TV sales will flourish similarly. Besides, doesn't Apple say that the iTunes store is there to support the hardware and not be a large profit maker? Apple should also finally permit the Apple TV to play videos encoded in other formats, such as DivX. Users would purchase and download the desired codec pack from the Apple TV section of the iTunes Store. The Sony PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 both support DivX. iPod was a success in part because people did not have to transcode their existing MP3 collection in order to play them. Transcoding media files is for the birds. Sony figured that out the hard way with the first Network Walkman models that only supported Sony's ATRAC3 format instead of MP3 files. I believe Apple TV is encountering similar resistance and requires expanded video codec support. Let the DivX crowd pay extra to gain codec support and that complaint will be squashed.

    Other additional enhancements to Apple TV Take 3 would be most welcome. A Netflix-type monthly rental model for movies and television shows would be a big hit. So would the Visualizer from iTunes, and the ability to conduct video iChat calls from any properly equipped room or display in the home to anywhere in the world. AppleTV would integrate with your MobileMe account, including family accounts. A public shared family calendar and individual private family member accounts would be accessible once a password was provided. Apple TV would provide full access your email, schedule, contacts, and photo galleries using your iPod Touch or iPhone remote.

    Apple TV Take 3 would require a more powerful CPU than the one used in the current Apple TV. From a capacity point of view, it would be sold with either a 250 GB, 500 GB, or 1 TB storage. Time Capsule would also be upgraded to perform backups of the Apple TV iTunes and iPhoto master libraries. The USB port would be activated to support external devices.

    The Apple TV website says "Your computer is the center of your digital life". I disagree completely. I grudgingly use the computer to side-load media content like photos or CDs to my Apple TV, then turn it off. My home theatre setup is where I consume my digital media (music, home video, movies, photos), and it is the center of my digital life. Apple TV should adopt a true client/server architecture with its role clearly being the server, and a computer running iTunes and iPhoto being optional clients. I bought a CD yesterday and in order to hear it in my living room, I had to go to my computer in the den to import it, then sync with Apple TV. Well wouldn't you know the Apple TV would not appear in iTunes and I eventually had to do a factory restore of the Apple TV to fix it, then re-sync all content from the PC. What happened to the ease and simplicity of taking a new CD directly to your home entertainment device the living room? I realize that digital downloads of music is where things are headed. Still, people who don't use or want to use a computer should still be able to enjoy a rich digital life by directly importing their photos, CDs, DVD digital copies, home movies, then sync to iPods, iPhones, iPhoto Frames, or stream content throughout their home to AirPort Express or similar devices. This is how Apple will rule the digital home.

    Apple TV Take 2 was about movies. It is also basically a glorified iPod for your television that can purchase or rent content from the iTunes store. It will remain just that, a "hobby", unless these changes are made. Imagine Apple TV waking you up at your specified time, your favorite music playing in the bedroom and/or living room, the customized high definition television display showing you the music details in a larger window pane, the weather, traffic, or public transit updates in another pane, a summary of your email, daily schedule and to-do reminders in another pane, and your favorite morning television newscast (on mute) in another pane. Using your iPhone remote, you could select a display pane to expand and minimize the others. As you got ready for work or ate breakfast, Apple TV could also speak to you, reading email to you, telling you your appointments, reminding you of a friend's birthday or specific errands to run. The remote would let you display your Nike+iPod progress, and you could revise goals for your scheduled run later that day. You could also add events to the family calendar, such as a doctor or dentist appointment, dinner at Grandma's, picking up the kids from soccer practice, and assign household chores that family members must do during the week. All changes would synchronize with the MobileMe cloud and update each family member's MobileMe account and iPhone accordingly. Later in the evening you could have a video iChat session with a friend from the comfort of your living room. All without sitting at a computer. This brings new meaning to the term "digital life."

    The opportunity to vastly expand Apple's digital media leadership and the Apple brand to new and existing customers is tremendous. Apple TV Take 3 should be about the home. It must be the digital media and home automation server we've been waiting for. It can and will be the fourth leg of Apple's business that Steve Jobs was talking about. I would buy one in a heartbeat.

  2. jeremy.king macrumors 603


    Jul 23, 2002
    Fuquay Varina, NC
    Or just add BlueRay support to the Mac mini and satisfy almost everything above*

    * with the appropriate software

    I like the idea of a mac media/mobileme/life server, but don't think the Apple TV is it because of issues that go with "server" grade machines. For example, a backup strategy for one and availability being another. In my opinion, what you describe well beyond the scope of the AppleTV.

    PS. When I want to listen to a CD in the living room, I put it in the CD player and hit play ;)
  3. marklight macrumors 6502

    Apr 6, 2006

    I really think apple just needs to add an hdmi port to the mini and update its graphics/processor speed, and support updates to front row- like it does for the apple tv, and you've got a winner. Go real crazy, and have an option for blu-ray.

    bam! now you can hook up hard drives straight to it, and you can use 3rd party dvr adapters.
  4. Mackilroy macrumors 68040


    Jun 29, 2006
    As the first reply said, adding Blu-ray to the Mini would solve a lot of those issues, though it has a larger footprint than the :apple:TV. What you describe sounds quite complex and expensive, and would certain drive up the price of the :apple:TV were Apple to actually create what you propose.
  5. nutmac macrumors 68040

    Mar 30, 2004
    I don't see the need to turn Apple TV into "home server". Doing so will turn Apple TV into an expensive product (something Mac mini is better suited for, with some enhancements of its own). I think "home server" is a legitimate category, but it doesn't have to be integrated into home theater hub. I would much rather see further cost reduction in Apple TV ($199 or less), while adding much needed external disk support, 1080p, and SDK. Apple's "home server" should have larger form factor to allow multiple internal storage (e.g., 4 SATA disks) while adding server apps such as CalDAV/LDAP Address Book and iCal server, Time Machine backup, iTunes server.
  6. Tilpots macrumors 601


    Apr 19, 2006
    Carolina Beach, NC
    Wow. I actually read that whole thing. :)

    Like the above guys said, add HDMI and a Blu Ray option to the mini, plus build in a DVR and TV Tuner. Game Over.
  7. hitekalex macrumors 68000


    Feb 4, 2008
    Chicago, USA
    All this ultra complex multi-directional synchronization of iTunes libraries across multiple aTV boxes is unnecessary.. and probably impossible to implement in an easy to use and reliable fashion.

    Apple instead needs to further reduce the cost of aTV and make it into a true "thin client", possibly even removing local aTV storage beyond what's needed for stream buffering. Centralized iTunes library needs to be stored on a "home sever" computer, preferably a headless system intended to be kept in a closet. This system needs to be easily expandable and able to host large volume of storages, TV tuners, back-up systems etc.

    aTVs, Macs, iPhones and any other devices simply act as clients to this centralized system on a local high-speed network, which also cleanly and cheaply solves the "synchronization" challenges. Mobile devices (iPhones/iPods) can obviously sync subsets of the centralized iTunes library.
  8. Alfie macrumors member

    Feb 22, 2004
    South Dakota
    I think the Apple TV can be improved a lot with more software updates. I'd like to see the ATV interface resemble the iPhone/iPod touch interface. The home screen would have the same colorful square icons (and programs) that the iPhone/iPod has today including Safari, Mail, iCal, Weather in addition to the Music, Movies, Photos, YouTube icons that it currently has. Apps could be downloaded as well. I would think all this would be possible with a software update.

    The sales pitch would be very easy...."Get the iPhone on your TV". With the popularity of the iPhone, I think an ad campaign like that would really make it take off.

    In my opinion, there's no need to make it more complicated, just give it a interface that people recognize and like, make it affordable, and keep adding content. People will see it for the great device that it is.
  9. ipedro macrumors 68040


    Nov 30, 2004
    Toronto, ON
  10. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    All good ideas. Only thing I would personally dispute: the thin client concept.

    Since modding my atv to use an external eSata drive, I could not be happier. Divorcing it of its tether to a home pc (in my case a laptop) and the required consistent network performance has been a true godsend.
    Having the atv totally independent (due to the big time increased capacity) has really made it usefull to me and the others in my household.

    Ultimately these discussions all seem to come to down to one thing: Content is King. However you can get it and as easily as you can get it. Period.

    Having said that, seems to me that the more content available and as easily as possible only helps the product. While I admire the iPhone/iPod Touch interfaces, I do not think the atv's weak point is its interface. Set Top Box wise its about as slick as anything out there imho. Its all about content thats readily available with a minimum of fuss and muss.
  11. spice weasel macrumors 65816

    Jul 25, 2003
    What I would like to see in a new Apple TV:

    1) A better remote and interface. The combination of the current remote and interface is a pain. Take 2 is much improved, but there is still a long way to go. I like Alfie's suggestion about making it look more like the iPhone or iPod touch.

    2) As Dynaflash said, content is king. I love what the folks at Boxee are doing to expand the capabilities of the Apple TV. Why can't Apple do that directly? Most of the networks already provide free content over the Internet so long as you are willing to watch a few ads. Why not work with the networks to get that capability built into the Apple TV, with a slick and easy to use interface? If you don't like ads, or want higher quality, purchase from iTunes. I suppose the counter-argument is that this would bite into Apple's (no pun intended) iTMS revenue. But people already get broadcast content for "free" (not counting cable costs), and TV show sales seem to be doing well over at iTMS. As I see it, such a move would only serve to boost sales of Apple TVs.

    3) Speaking of iTunes offerings, give us better HD, not the overly-compressed stuff Apple offers now. Perhaps this is more an issue of bandwidth infrastructure.

    Last but not least, please sync podcast subscriptions across computers!!!! I know this is an iTunes issue and not an Apple TV one, but if I have to sign into the iTMS to subscribe to a podcast, why on earth can't that info be synced across all the computers I use?
  12. Donar macrumors 6502


    Jul 12, 2008
    In my opinion it would be good if local storage of the ATV would be user upgradable easily, but i do not think that it should be "the" media server in my household. People do have big media librarys plus other things and probably need 2-3+ Terabyte of storage to hold all things and maybe they want to keep stuff on a raid system. That would make the ATV a very big device. The ATV software should be upgraded so that it can Stream from a Synology, Linksys, QNAP (or whatever make) NAS or an iServe (Newest secret Apple product - i will make a blurry picture the next time i take it into an elevator) via UPNP, SMB, NFS or Appletalk.

    I was in the market for a media extender/streaming client and was curious about the ATV but in the end i decided to buy a Popcornhour NMT A-100. It can stream e.g. from my Synology NAS or i FTP things to it.
    I bought this and not the aTV because:
    -It plays 1080p content without problems
    -Supports many formats even .mkv and .flac
    -User upgradable hard disk
    -No hacking required
    -Streams from nearly everything

    HD itunes rentals would be a plus for the aTV unfortunately we do not have them in germany...

    The things above are my wishlist for a future :apple:TV. (besides BluRay capability so i can bring my PS3 out of the living room). ApplePVR would be nice too, but i think i will have to get a Dreambox (Sat PVR) instead of it. Nice dream to have all devices from one vendor - integrated perfectly with the others...

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