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Apple TV Connects Computer to TV

Looking to take advantage of a niche in the video market provided by Internet download movie enthusiatists who are not "techies" and don't understand the intricacies of hooking up a computer to a television, Apple Corp presents Apple TV.

Apple TV is a box that can connect computers and TVs without wires. After many delays, Apple TV finally went on sale Wednesday for 300 U.S. dollars.

Apple does have competition in Microsoft's Xbox 360 (400 dollars), which also acts as a bridge between PC and TV, and Netgear's week-old EVA8000 (350 dollars). Xbox 360 also has its own online movie store, and Netgear features an Internet connection for viewing YouTube videos and listening to Internet radio.

A good feature of Apple TV is it's small and quiet compared to the Xbox, but a drawback is it requires a widescreen TV — preferably an HDTV. It doesn't work with the traditional TVs many people still have.

Apple defends its audience-limiting decision by saying the future is HDTV; Apple is just "skating to where the puck is going to be," as a product manager put it.

Apple TV doesn't come with any cables. You're supposed to supply the one your TV requires (HDMI, component video or HDMI-to-DVI adapter).

Basically, Apple TV is an iPod for your TV. It copies the iTunes library (music, podcasts, TV shows, movies) from one Mac or Windows PC on your wired or wireless home network to its 40-gigabyte hard drive and keeps the copy updated.

The drive holds about 50 hours of video or 9,000 songs; if your iTunes library is bigger than that, you can specify what subset you want copied — only unwatched TV episodes, for example.

You can play back videos, music and photos even if the original computer is turned off or (if it's a laptop) carried away. (Photo playback requires iPhoto on the Mac, or Photoshop Album or Photoshop Elements on Windows.)

A tiny white remote control operates Apple TV's stunning high-definition white-on-black menus, which are enlivened by high-resolution album covers and photos. You can see the effect at apple.com/appletv.

The integration of iPod, iTunes and Apple TV offers frequent payoffs. For example, if you paused your iPod partway through a movie, TV show or song, Apple TV remembers your place when you resume playing it on your TV.

Although only one computer's files are actually copied to Apple TV, you can still play back the iTunes libraries of five other computers by streaming — playing them through Apple TV without copying them. Starting playback, rewinding and fast-forwarding isn't as smooth this way, and photo playback isn't available. But it's a handy option when, say, you want to watch a movie on your TV from a visitor's laptop.

All of this works elegantly and effortlessly. But there are lots of unanswered questions that make onlookers wonder if Apple has bigger plans for the humble Apple TV.

For example, it has an Internet connection and a hard drive; so why can't it record TV shows like a TiVo?

Furthermore, it's a little weird that menus and photos appear in spectacular high-definition, but not TV shows and movies. All iTunes videos are in standard definition, and don't look so hot on an HDTV.

And then there's the mysterious unused U.S.B. port.

Still, if you stay within the Apple ecosystem — use its online store, its jukebox software and so on — you get a seamless, trouble-free experience, with a greater selection of TV shows and movies than you can find from any other online store. (Agencies)




 

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