May 31, 2007 Apple TV was launched in February in a whirlwind of potential. The classy-looking set top box promised a 21st century television experience where the web, the PC and the movies could converge in your lounge room - but it has so far failed to live up to expectations. Still, Apple is pressing ahead, today announcing a deal that allows users to browse and watch YouTube's endless supply of content through their Apple TV unit.
The move gives users armchair access to YouTube's countless hours of addictive user-generated (and let's face it, pirated) video content through the Apple TV menu and remote. It's a nice addition, but it compounds on of the biggest consumer complaints about the device - YouTube's video compression makes bad video quality notoriously worse, which is irritating in the extreme considering that the Apple TV unit requires a high definition (HD) TV set.
Also, while Apple TV users can play movie content downloaded from the popular iTunes service, this has to be pre-arraged using the computer; there's no access to the iTunes store through the AppleTV device, despite having its own Internet connection. Additionally, Apple claims downloaded videos are at "near DVD quality," which would be good enough for most standard televisions but again a noticeable step down when viewed on an HD TV.
Apple TV, though, needs to be looked at as a first step towards a greater goal. It's safe to presume that in the next few years we'll see a dramatic rise in online video quality which seems to be the main issue holding a device like the Apple TV back. And with Apple's renowned simplicity of use, stylish exteriors and brilliant interfaces already well under control, the Apple TV is positioning itself well to be a go-to brand once the quality of online content catches up.