My turn to chime in on iTV: I'll pass for now

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Everyone else has had their chance to chime in on iTV. Now it's my turn.

I'll cut to the chase: I won't be buying this first iteration of Apple's $99 replacement for Apple TV. It just doesn't do enough. The price is good, the tiny size is pretty appealing. I find myself wishing I wanted one. But I don't. Perhaps I'm not the intended audience.

I do pay for cable (well, FiOS actually) TV. I guess iTV is aimed at people who don't. There's no real reason for me to rent TV episodes at 99 cents a piece, aside from the odd situation where I've missed an episode of a favorite show. And guess what? I can buy ABC and FOX (the two networks Apple currently has 99 cent deals with) shows from Amazon for that same 99 cents. Buy, not rent. (To be fair, Amazon introduced this pricing in response to Apple's announcement.)

I am a big Netflix Streaming enthusiast, but I already have access to Netflix Streaming on a number of devices. Ditto streaming content from my computers.

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Now you could argue that iTV is aimed at people who don't already have game consoles, Tivos or internet-connected TVs to do these things. For those people, I'm in firm agreement with CrunchGear in saying that the Roku is a better value than iTV is. Roku (which sells its best player for $99.99, and a very good one for $69.99) supports Netflix Streaming, Amazon Video-on-Demand, Pandora, Vimeo and a host of other sources of content via Roku Channels.

Roku's Achille's Heel is streaming content from your computers. Out of the box that isn't yet possible but there are people working on adding that functionality via Roku Channels (for an example, check out Roksbox). In particular, the Roku is probably never going to integrate with your iPhone or iPad to stream images from your device to your TV. If that's appealing to you then yup, iTV is what you want.

My tastes are more eclectic. Last night I was watching a sitcom on Hulu Plus via the PS3. On the weekend I was watching an old sci-fi series via Netflix Streaming on the Roku. We're catching up on some missed series via Amazon Video-on-Demand, also on the Roku. Essentially I don't want hardware that locks me into a particular set of services (iTunes and Netflix) when there are quality alternatives out there.

For iTV to cater to me, Apple needs to add some kind of app or plug-in system to the device. Let us download a software package to enable Hulu, or Vimeo, or Rdio, or Amazon Video-on-Demand, or whatever service we want to stream from. By locking us in to iTunes and Netflix, they're severely limiting the desirability of iTV, to me at least.

Maybe Jobs is right and people are as dumb as he implied they are in his presentation, and choices just confuse them and worrying about storage space is too hard. Maybe the very limited functionality is what the Apple devoted are looking for.

From where I stand, though, Apple designed what appears to be a really elegant hardware solution, then shackled it by making it non-extensible.

So now I go back to waiting to see what Google TV and the Boxee Box can offer. Or for Apple to add more functionality to iTV. Or, are you listening Roku? For a Hulu channel on the Roku box.

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