Tue 22 Jan
Time was, you’d buy a TV, bring it home and plant it in your living room. Then you’d watch it. For like a decade. And when the picture started failing, you’d go and buy another and do it all over again.
Nowadays, television is more than a piece of furniture, it’s an experience. It’s multi-sourced, time-shifted, narrow-casted, and/or delivered on-demand. Digital, in short. Like all experiences in the digital age, television now requires the support of a full complement of systems — a peripheral army of boxes, wires and software — to make it happen. You can’t experience digital television, really, with just one of anything.
This is why, I think, I’m an unlikely customer for Apple TV, Steve Jobs’ set-top contender in the living room war. To be honest, the couch potato in me is intrigued by its ability to access Internet video, which I’m sure I’d watch more of were it made as convenient as Apple TV promises. And last week’s announcement that Apple will rent movies on demand through the device, too, is intriguing.
But I just can’t imagine myself buying one anytime soon. It’s not only that I would be adding another box to my living room (though I’m certainly not eager to take on that added complexity), it’s also how much the digital television experience demands of us.
To begin with, Apple TV would require me to replace my aging cathode ray tube television with a new HD-TV. There’s a million reasons why I should own a high-definition television, I’m sure. But to be honest, I feel very little motivation to do so. Even if it’s a forgone conclusion that one day I’ll bring one home from Circuit City, for the time being I’m not entirely convinced that I really need to create a ‘home theater’ experience in my home. That’s what the theater is for, right?
What’s more, a newfangled television is expensive. I’m just not willing to spend over a thousand dollars on a new screen, sorry. For me, that’s insane, especially when all evidence points to prices continuing to nose-dive this year. I can wait.
The expenses don’t end there, though. I’d also certainly need to upgrade my wireless router to a new AirPort Extreme or, ideally, a Time Capsule. Either one would satisfy the requirement of moving my home network up to the 802.11n standard that Apple TV requires. At two to three hundred dollars, they wouldn’t be exorbitant, but they’d effectively negate the investment I already made into my older model AirPort Extreme wireless router some years ago.
Even worse, an upgrade to 802.11n would obsolesce the AirPort Express that I use constantly to stream music from my iMac to my living room stereo. That incredibly handy bit of hardware is a holdover from the now-archaic era of 802.11g. To be sure, it will run on the new network, but doing so will also have the effect of slowing down the faster traffic — exactly the opposite effect I’d be looking for.
There’s the easily underestimated task of wiring this all together, too. It’s wireless technology we’re talking about, but that’s more of a euphemism than a fact. I’d still have to deal with video and audio jacks, power cables, and the increasingly difficult challenge of finding yet more electrical outlets to plug all of this new stuff into.
Let’s just say that I pony up the few thousand dollars that it would take to bring Apple TV into my life. What then? The next step would be to actually watch it. And I’ve already demonstrated to myself that, with the television current available to me already, I have a hard time keeping up with the ’watching it’ part of the bargain.
I’m already subscribing to digital cable television (no, I could never work up the will power to cancel) and Netflix, and I have a backlog of DVDs that I actually own but that I never seem to have the opportunity to watch. Adding the infinite additional variety that an Apple TV promises wouldn’t help alleviate that problem at all. What’s available at my fingertips today is already way more television than a healthy person really needs access to.
What I’d prefer, I think, is to get out of my house more often or, failing that, I’d like to actually get through more of these books piling up on my coffee table that I can’t seem to find time for. Say what you will, but yes, I do intend to waste my life away on reading and experiencing things in the real world. Having an Apple TV doesn’t fit into that plan. I’ll be able to confirm that fact positively, one hundred percent for sure when, eventually and inevitably, I own one. Sigh.