September 01, 2010, 3:17 PM — I like owning videos. I like knowing I can watch and compare the classic Maltese Falcon and first version from 1931 whenever I want. Or, on the lighter side, that I can watch Dr. Who episodes from anywhere in time and space at my convenience. That's why I'm totally unimpressed by the new Apple TV.
I've been a fan of the old Apple TV since day one. Unlike a lot of people I never had much trouble with it. The only problem I think it ever had was that Jobs damned it by calling it a hobby. Without putting Apple's marketing muscle behind it, the device did indeed stay a hobby and that's a shame.
I use it to this day to bring movies from my NAS (Network Attached Storage) drives, via iTunes, to my TV over my 802.11n network. Thanks to the Apple TV I have access to my own personal collection of over a terabyte of movies and TV episodes. I've been buying some movies from Apple and converting my DVD collection to MP4s with Handbrake for ages now. It's proven to be a great way to keep a video collection that I could stream anywhere I had an Apple TV without taking up yards of shelf space.
You can still do that with the new Apple TV, but it appears you'll no longer be able to buy videos directly from Apple. This midget device is all about rentals. Oh, you can also use it to view streaming Netflix movies, but let's get real. What's new in the way of TV gear that doesn't support Netflix these days? Xbox 360, Wii, PS3, Roku, HDTVs, and, in my own case, a Sony networked BDP-N460 Blu-Ray DVD player.
This is just Apple playing catch up with everyone else in the Internet TV game. You might say that Netflix doesn't offer that many good movies for streaming. I'd beg to disagree. If you like classic movies, as I do, a goodly number of the Criterion collection is available for Netflix streaming. And, if you're in the mood for something light and fun, or bloody and action-filled, now that Netflix has access to the Paramount Pictures, Lions Gate and MGM film libraries. So, for example, I'm looking forward to streaming Iron Man and Iron Man 2 soon.
In other words, if I want to rent a movie, I don't need a new Apple TV. Yes, I know it's only $99, and $5 for HD movie rentals and a buck for TV episodes, but even if you don't already own something that will stream video, the Roku video player is only $59.99. And, unlike the Apple TV, it can also stream sports, like MLB.TV, NBA Game Time, and UFC.
No, if you want a pure streaming device, the Roku, not the new Apple TV, is what you want by your TV. And, if you want something for your home library, the old Apple TV works just fine. Steve Jobs is a pretty smart guy, but once more, Jobs has blundered on Internet TV. Now, if in the next few weeks Apple buys Netflix, maybe there will be something interesting here, but as it is, I don't see anything really new or interesting in the next model Apple TV.