Figured out why there’s a market for Apple TV
Well, okay, that’s overstating it a bit. When Apple announced the Apple TV device, I knew perfectly well why they made that device, and I even agreed with the reasoning…to a point. For a lot of tech-unsavvy users who have lots of iTunes content, the Apple TV is a no-brainer solution for streaming the content to other rooms of the house. This is probably the case even for tech savvy people who want a dead simple way to move their iTunes content around. For me, it made more sense to make a media center PC out of the Mac mini — especially the Intel versions with Front Row — than to buy a device to stream content to other displays around the house because the Mac mini is more versatile in handling different types of media with 3rd-party apps like VLC. The Apple TV is bound to Quicktime and iTunes, which means either lots of transcoding of DivX/XviD/whatever videos that Quicktime doesn’t play, or a lot of tweaking codecs and stuff so that Quicktime does play those files. Yeah, the Mac mini is more expensive, but it is more capable, so it really boils down to what you want — a media center that can also be a DVR and/or general computing device, or a “dumb” device that just streams your content around the house.
Anyway, this is not the main point of my post. 🙂 Earlier this evening I was watching an episode of The Scoble Show about Clipmarks. I was watching this video in the family room on the TV that my Mac mini is connected to. The hubby got home with dinner in the middle of the episode, so I had to pause it and move to the dining table. I can’t see the TV from our dining table, so I thought that I’d bring Pigio (my little Fujitsu P1610, for the uninitiated) to the table and stream the rest of the video from the Mac mini’s shared iTunes library while I was eating dinner. There were two problems with this. Firstly, I guess iTunes does not stream video content from shared libraries. I probably already knew this, but forgot. Secondly, even if iTunes did stream video, I don’t think this would have worked very well over 802.11b. So I ended up having to redownload the vidcast to Pigio, which took a while, but eventually worked out. What an annoyance…
So, I guess this is where the Apple TV comes in. Even though I would normally not be streaming HD content (most video podcasts are iPod-formatted, and therefore lower-res), I’d probably benefit from switching all of my networked devices to 802.11n to get the best video streaming performance. If I did buy the Apple TV, though, I’d want to figure out how to stream my recorded HD content from EyeTV, so I’d have to move to the 802.11n anyway. Just to clarify, I am not always watching various video podcasts while roaming about the house; this was a rare incident. 🙂 However, I’m sort of getting back into watching video podcasts (did watch a lot of them over last summer while most of our favorite TV shows were on hiatus), so I might want to figure out a better way to handle streaming video from the Mac mini sooner rather than later. I realize there are other options, like Orb and Sling Media devices. I was just referring to the Apple TV since it most fit the scenario I was in, since the content was already in my iTunes library, and Apple TV is meant to stream your iTunes library around. I’ll be interested to see what people’s real-life experiences are with the Apple TV when it finally ships.