Friday, October 30, 2015

A new Apple TV is available for purchase, and Apple’s fourth generation set top box is a significant advancement to their television platform, but they’re just now catching up to the rest of industry.  Roku has had channel apps and games on their platform for years, Amazon Fire TV has had Alexa, a cloud-based voice service, and each of these set-top manufacturers offered a device that used a non-infrared remote control. 

The most exciting advancements to Apple TV is third-party apps, Siri, and the Siri Remote.  All accounts I’ve heard of the Siri Remote have been enthusiastic; the granularity of control afforded by the Touch surface is impeccable.  The demonstration of Siri at Apple’s special event is compelling.  With iOS 9, Siri can do so much, so reliably, and this bodes well for Apple TV.  However Apple will need to swallow their pride and allow searching across as many video streaming services as possible, like Amazon Prime, if they intend to revolutionize the movie and television industry.  (So far Amazon has not been on the Apple TV, likely because it is a direct competitor to the iTunes Store.  I do expect to see them in the App Store, just as they are on iOS.)

I am a geek when it comes to movies and television shows, so I’ve ripped my entire Blu-Ray and DVD catalog (more than once) to use with Plex Media Server.  And for the first time, I can entertain the notion of using an Apple TV (Plex is developing an app for Apple TV).  I predict third-party apps are going to allow Apple to dominate this market, but I don’t think games will be the reason why.  Apple’s requirement for tvOS games is restrictive.  I don’t believe games will be a game-changer because developers cannot require a specific controller; the game has to be playable with the remote.  That isn’t to say there won’t be fun, addictive games on the platform, but don’t wait for Call of Duty, Halo, Wolfenstein 3D, or other more complex games.  (Monument Valley might be awesome on a big television.)

  • If you’ve got an Apple TV, and you’re ready for a new Apple TV, go for it.
  • If you don’t have any set-top box, and you’re wanting one, get the fourth generation Apple TV.
  • If you have a 4K TV and you have 4K content, don’t get the new Apple TV, it only supports 1080p.
  • If you use video container formats other than H.264/MPEG-4, don’t get the Apple TV.

Now that you’ve decided whether to get an Apple TV, storage is the next criteria for consideration.  The new Apple TV comes with two different storage capacities: 32 GB for $149 and 64 GB for $199.  The problem here is that Apple hasn't described our outlined why the higher storage capacity may be advantageous.  The best we can tell is for storing more cached data.

Cached data is the information that the Apple TV will download that will periodically be cleared from the device.  For example, an app for the Apple TV can be up to 200 MB (0.2 GB), and an app can have “in use on-demand resources” that can be up to 2 GB.  When it’s time clear some cached data, the 200 MB app isn’t going anywhere, but the in use on-demand resources will be erased as needed.  (A good developer wouldn’t store important information like game progress or user account here, as that information needs to persist.)

If you want to future-proof yourself, go with the 64 GB version for $50 more.

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