Twenty years ago, I setup a computer on my breakfast bar. At a time before Wi-Fi this required me to route a cat 5 cable around my house from the location of my ADSL router. It was a bit messy but it worked. And I had an early 10 inch LCD screen above the bar, with a keyboard and mouse. It was great, and set me on a path to make it better.
Since then I’ve tried an amazing number of ways to be able to integrate my computing and my music/movie/internet viewing with my life, and to varying degrees I’ve had some success. Of course my success came with a lot of remote controls, script files, weird cables and lumps of technology sitting in strange places. Along with a plethora of applications to convert video formats and music types.
I’ve always loved to live on the forefront on consumer tech, but anyone else trying to use my setup has had a very hard time. When guests stayed it was almost impossible for them to use the setup without a significant level of training, and on a number of occasions enterprising house guests have assumed the setup wasn’t working and attempted to “rewire” it, causing me days of rework to get it back to life.
But these are the trials and tribulations of an integrated AV setup, and we have all become used to it.
Then along comes Apple and rewrites the entire world of home entertainment.
People complain about itunes, because it can seem a little restrictive (and it is), but there is nothing else in the world like the Apple setup. If you have an apple TV plugged into your TV and hifi, all of a sudden you have the absolutely best integrated home entertainment system in the world.
I actually have 2 apple TV’s, one in the lounge and one in the bedroom, and this lets me watch movies and listen to music pretty much everywhere in my house. It’s incredibly easy. Now add Airplay and you can bounce music and videos from your macs, iPads and iPhones directly to your TV’s. It just works.
Now with Mountain Lion (the latest version of the Macs operating system), I can even show my laptops screen on the TV. Perfect for working at home, or presenting.
Even in a rented a house in the south of France, that just so happens they have an apple TV on their TV. I was able to watch movies from my ipad directly. No setup, no cables, it just worked.
This stuff is brilliant, and very simple. So how comes no other company or consortium has been able to get this very elegant and working idea in their devices.
There are many solutions out there from companies ranging from Roku to Sony that offer little bits of the apple solution, but in comparison they are terrible.
There is no excuse! I know windows 8 promises some of the features apple has today, but unless they seriously fix the X-box’s user interface and limited media compatibility this will be a non-starter. Sony talk about doing something similar with the PS3 as a home hub, but it is nowhere near as simple as Apple today. Again Sony’s pre-occupation with digital media rights and horrible to use user interfaces means they have a very high hill to climb.
Come on consumer tech companies, get out of your own way and bring out something that gives Apple a challenge.