Apple TV vs MacMini: I just had an interesting conversation with a friend interested in buying an Apple TV. I told her I'd never buy one, not in its current state. With few exceptions, everything you do on the AppleTV is just going to cost you more money.
Want to watch a movie on Apple TV? Pay up.
Want to watch a tv show on Apple TV? Pay up.
Want to put a DVD you already own (or just rented) in an Apple TV? Sorry, no DVD slot.
Want to watch free movies and tv shows on Hulu or browse other websites with Apple TV? Sorry, for some reason Apple has locked down the Apple TV without a browser, so you're going to miss out on all the free internet content that makes the internet a great place.
The only good thing about the AppleTV is that it only costs $99, down from whatever it used to cost ($300 or $400, if I remember right).
Before getting into my Apple TV / Mac Mini comparison, if you're looking for something in the price range of an Apple TV, get a Roku instead. I wrote about the Roku Netflix gift idea at the end of last year. Or if you watch a fair amount of tv and don't have a Tivo, get a Tivo first.
MacMini - A better Apple TV than Apple TV
And now ... while I feel like I'm comparing apples to oranges a little bit here -- the MacMini is $699 and the Apple TV is $99 -- the Mac Mini currently makes a much better "Apple tv" solution than the Apple TV. With a Mac Mini you can do all sorts of TV and movie related things:
- Pay for movies and TV shows on Netflix
- Watch free movies and TV shows on Hulu
- Apple TV and YouTube? You betcha. Watch anything you want on YouTube
- Apple TV, Twitter, and Facebook? Do anything you want on the internet - check your email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
- How about an Apple TV DVD solution - Yes, go old school and stick a DVD in the Mac Mini DVD slot.
- Want to drive your Apple TV with a wireless keyboard? Again, the Mac Mini is your answer.
Apple TV, DVD, Hulu, Twitter, Facebook, and the Internet
I don't know what Apple's motivation is with the Apple TV ... it seems like so many of these things are obvious, and they could make the Apple TV a great product by opening it up to the internet.
Personally, I live in a small apartment currently, and I use my 24" iMac as my "Apple TV" device: I do everything I wrote about above, including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, DVDs, Twitter, Facebook, keyboard, mouse, email, and on and on. Again, this seems like such an obvious approach, I don't understand why Apple doesn't make the Apple TV a light version of this.
So my Apple TV recommendation is that until Apple "gets it", get a Mac Mini (or a PC), hook it up to your HDTV, and enjoy the entire internet on your TV.
Steve Jobs comments on the Apple TV and TV/cable industry
(Follow-up) As I've been researching why Apple has chosen this approach with their Apple TV design, I ran across this Steve Jobs TV/cable industry quote on the Apple Insider web site. It partially helps to explain why the current Apple TV is such a crippled product:
In a June interview with Mossberg, Jobs predicted Google TV's current struggles, noting that the current situation with cable operators "pretty much squashes any opportunity for innovation because nobody's willing to buy a set top box."
"Ask Tivo, ask Replay TV, ask Roku, ask Vudu, ask us… ask Google in a few months," he said.
"The only way that's ever going to change," Jobs said, "is if you can really go back to square one, tear up the set top box, redesign it from scratch with a consistent UI across all these different functions, and get it to consumers in a way that they're willing to pay for it. And right now there's no way to do that."
This Steve Jobs quote doesn't explain why you can't navigate the entire internet freely with the Apple TV, but it at least explains some of the problems with the cable companies.
Yikes - the Apple TV / Mac Mini Haterade
Wow, to all those who have written me or tried to comment on this article, all I can say is I don't think you get the points of this article, specifically:
#1: When a friend asked for a suggestion about an Apple TV, I said "Don't buy one, it's not worth it."
#2: Then, still trying to look at Apple products, the next best thing we could come up with for an "Apple tv" solution was to connect a Mac Mini to your tv.
And yes, I have no doubt you can hook Windows' PCs to your tv as well, but I don't own any Windows systems at the moment, so I can't really comment on that approach (which is again why I wrote about this Mac Mini tv approach).