Indications are that you’ll be able to walk into any Best Buy this week and pick up an Apple TV. Now, there are only a few at each store (likely about 6), but considering the market for this device you just may be able to score one. If you’re lucky enough to still have an Apple Store right next door (unless your CompUSA closed, sucks to be you), you can probably get one their as well, along with a nice demo they’ve setup to explain the device to normal humans (read: most of the buying public).
Early reviews are scattered, but for what the device is marketed to be, I think they reached their goal. It’s a single-core Pentium box with a 40GB hard drive, 802.11n wireless networking, and an HDMI output. Pretty cool stuff. It connects to iTunes just like an iPod, so you sync content to it. You can also stream to it from iTunes for playing video, audio, photo slideshows, etc. Pretty slick stuff. If you have a nice home stereo and always wanted to be able to listen to your music on it, as well as playing your videos, this could be the hot setup.
Here is the real killer app for me though. Kids. That stack of scratched, lucky if the play correctly, likely seen 100 times videos that comprise the kids video library. At least I’m smart enough to burn backup DVDs of all the movies (without the annoying ads, menus, and other things that frustrate young viewers). With the Apple TV, an easy to use remote, pictures on the screen of the movie instead of just words, and a library of 40-50 movies makes for some serious babysitting. At least you would think so, kids surprise you every day.
Another place I think the Apple TV would completely rock… The car. If you snagged that double-din unit with video inputs, you can likely try to hack a component to composite 480i output and use your Apple TV in the car. Upgrade the drive to 120GB (or more) and have a ball with tons of video and audio content on the movie. I’m thinking of this option myself, actually.
So check it out, and don’t let the less than favorable reviews by XBOX360 fans steer you away from it. It’s just like buying another iPod, only it hooks to your TV. And you can play content OTHER than iTunes Music Store content, you just have to choose from a dozen different programs that will rip your DVD content to H.264 for playback in iTunes. Or use DivX and one of the hacks to add the DivX codec to your unit. After all, it’s just running Apple OS X. Chew on that MS, Windows Mobile < Apple OS X.