Practical Technology

for practical people.

The Apple TV Media Extender Revolution

The Apple TV makes a great media extender. But, “What the heck is a media extender?”

Good question. While they’ve been around for years, they’re not that well known because, well, they didn’t work that well. In fact, most of them were the kind of half-baked tech toys that even a video geek had trouble loving.

The media-extender idea was, and is, to make it possible to get the video and audio stored on your PC playing on your high-end media center. Yes, it is a neat trick to watch the latest episode of Lost on your 17″ ViewSonic monitor and your Sony Vaio speakers. It’s not, however, all that much fun after the gee-whiz shininess has rubbed off.

What you really want to do is to get that same TV show or movie on, in my case, a Sony KD-34XBR960 34-inch HDTV monitor and my homebrew hodgepodge of a 5.1 surround sound speaker system.

The Apple TV lets me do exactly that without any blood, sweat or tears. For that alone, it’s worth it.

Other people have said that the Apple TV is the iPod for television. That’s a good analogy, but I don’t think they’ve really thought this through.

Remember portable personal music player before the iPod? They were dozens of different designs, but none of them worked all that well. They were quirky, their interfaces were cumbersome. You could use them, many people did, but they didn’t make it easy to get to your music.

The iPod changed all that. It was easy to manage your music collection on your computer. It made it easy to pick and play your music on the road. It made it: Easy. And, suddenly, everyone had to have an iPod.

Because of that, the iPod has become the way to listen to music on the go. For every twenty Apple 30 GB video iPods I see, I might see one Creative Zen Vision:M 30 GB Player Creative Zen Vision:M 30 GB Player or Zune 30 GB Digital Media Player. It’s not that the other players aren’t good. Well, the Zen is, the Zune comes with a Microsoft brand of DRM (digital rights management) madness.

And, that’s what Apple TV does for media extenders. It makes it easy to manage your video collection on your computer. It makes it easy to pick and play your shows on your television. Again, Apple has made it easy.

Because of that, the Apple TV is going to explode the media extender market the same way the iPod did the portable public player market. And, that’s really why the Apple TV is the iPod for TV. It’s not just a similar technology idea; it’s a similar market revolution in the making.

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