AppleTV: Xbox without the “X?”

Phil Waligora, who works at Microsoft, is watching Steve Jobs’ keynote (I’m not, but am trying to check in here and there) and calls me out, wondering if I’ll say the just announced AppleTV is innovative.

Oh, Phil, haven’t you gotten the memo? Everything Apple does is innovative. Even if Microsoft’s stuff is better (and three years earlier). Sorry to break the news to you.
But, seriously, I’m not throwing away my Xbox 360. It does that and lets me play games and look at the photos stored on the box upstairs.

Now, I am gonna take a look at iPhone and seriously consider upgrading to that. Gizmodo and Engadget are going nuts with coverage.

Is Engadget right? Is the Apple TV only 720p HD? That really, really, really sucks. If that’s true this thing is dead on arrival. Apple, the entire industry is ahead of you if that’s true.

The iPhone looks really cool, though.

319 thoughts on “AppleTV: Xbox without the “X?”

  1. Since Apple TV is 720p, we can all agree that it should be the standard resolution for HDTV. After all it is Apple Inc., they can’t miss anything.They are always ahead.

    On the other note, iphone’s ui is slap on user’s face. How come those icons are so huge? Apple users are still breastfed babies I guess.

  2. Since Apple TV is 720p, we can all agree that it should be the standard resolution for HDTV. After all it is Apple Inc., they can’t miss anything.They are always ahead.

    On the other note, iphone’s ui is slap on user’s face. How come those icons are so huge? Apple users are still breastfed babies I guess.

  3. “Also remember that 720p is actually higher quality than 1080i. 1080i video looks noticeably worse than 720p — even on an HDTV that actually has 1080 lines of resolution.
    “1080p isn’t supported for broadcast video.
    “720p is a perfectly acceptable choice. Apple TV supports 1080i, but it is inferior to 720p, so Jobs noted the highest quality that Apple TV can output.” –Comment by Mark Jaquith
    -

    No, it’s not. The argument that 720p60 (1280x720x60=55MPps)is somehow superior to 1080i60 (1920x1080x30=62MPps) based on the fact that the total number of unique pixels/second is similar to 1080i60 with fewer interlace-induced motion artifacts. 720p60 also does not look better on a 1080-native device. Anyway, the 720p60 vs. 1080i60 argument becomes academic with respect to the Apple TV device, which is only capable of 720p24.

    1080p24 is also in the ATSC standard for broadcast, but to my knowlege, no one has announced its use.

    You also give Steve Jobs too much credit– he didn’t choose 720p24 because it provides higher quality than 1080i60 (and it doesn’t, not by a longshot), but rather because it has much lower hardware requirements for playback, which was needed to get to the $299 price point while still being able to call the box ‘HD.’

    -

    “For watching movies shot on film, 720p will be superior to 1080i unless you’re a big fan of either interlacing artifacts or reduced resolution due to deinterlacing. 1080p would be superior, it’s a newer standard though and not supported by nearly as much hardware.” –Comment by ZF
    -

    Also not true. For film-based sources, 1080i60 can be deinterlaced to a true (not interpolated) 1080p24 image. And for video-based sources, 1080i60 can be deinterlaced to a true 1080p30 image. Both of these are very much superior to a 720p24 image. And converting 720p60 video to 720p24 requires 3:2 pulldown, which introduces the same motion artifacts as are present in 1080i60, only larger.

  4. “Also remember that 720p is actually higher quality than 1080i. 1080i video looks noticeably worse than 720p — even on an HDTV that actually has 1080 lines of resolution.
    “1080p isn’t supported for broadcast video.
    “720p is a perfectly acceptable choice. Apple TV supports 1080i, but it is inferior to 720p, so Jobs noted the highest quality that Apple TV can output.” –Comment by Mark Jaquith
    -

    No, it’s not. The argument that 720p60 (1280x720x60=55MPps)is somehow superior to 1080i60 (1920x1080x30=62MPps) based on the fact that the total number of unique pixels/second is similar to 1080i60 with fewer interlace-induced motion artifacts. 720p60 also does not look better on a 1080-native device. Anyway, the 720p60 vs. 1080i60 argument becomes academic with respect to the Apple TV device, which is only capable of 720p24.

    1080p24 is also in the ATSC standard for broadcast, but to my knowlege, no one has announced its use.

    You also give Steve Jobs too much credit– he didn’t choose 720p24 because it provides higher quality than 1080i60 (and it doesn’t, not by a longshot), but rather because it has much lower hardware requirements for playback, which was needed to get to the $299 price point while still being able to call the box ‘HD.’

    -

    “For watching movies shot on film, 720p will be superior to 1080i unless you’re a big fan of either interlacing artifacts or reduced resolution due to deinterlacing. 1080p would be superior, it’s a newer standard though and not supported by nearly as much hardware.” –Comment by ZF
    -

    Also not true. For film-based sources, 1080i60 can be deinterlaced to a true (not interpolated) 1080p24 image. And for video-based sources, 1080i60 can be deinterlaced to a true 1080p30 image. Both of these are very much superior to a 720p24 image. And converting 720p60 video to 720p24 requires 3:2 pulldown, which introduces the same motion artifacts as are present in 1080i60, only larger.

  5. Is ESPN lame, Robert?

    Are all the movies that Xbox Live starting selling just a few months ago lame, Robert?

    You should really give up this whole 720p and 1080i game. You clearly don’t know what you’re talking about. The Apple TV has much bigger problems than the 720p “issue”.

  6. Is ESPN lame, Robert?

    Are all the movies that Xbox Live starting selling just a few months ago lame, Robert?

    You should really give up this whole 720p and 1080i game. You clearly don’t know what you’re talking about. The Apple TV has much bigger problems than the 720p “issue”.

  7. You’re right of course. It is a deficiency, especially for people who have or are considering the purchase of 1080i monitors. I was just picking nits by pointing out that for watching movies, I’d choose 720p (esp. 720p24) over 1080i. For this reason I don’t think the lack of 1080 support is a complete disaster, but it is a minor one.

    There are other, bigger deficiencies I see to the unit. The appleTV looks to be designed for a single purpose –to play media purchased in the iTMS on the user’s TV. The fact that it doesn’t do much else is an issue for those of us who have other needs or like our devices flexible and complex. appleTV is just the Airport Express for video.

    Here are some details on the device’s limitations:
    http://arstechnica.com/journals/apple.ars/2007/1/9/6543

    Then again, when the Airport Express launched I was similarly dismissive of its built-in limitations, and after recently seeing and using one at a friend’s have entertained the thought of purchasing one. Even though I know there are devices out there with twice the features, or that I could hack together a linux box out of old parts for free and do all the same things with some scripting at both ends, the simplicity and form factor of the Airport Express wins out (the limiting factor for me on that one is the price).

  8. You’re right of course. It is a deficiency, especially for people who have or are considering the purchase of 1080i monitors. I was just picking nits by pointing out that for watching movies, I’d choose 720p (esp. 720p24) over 1080i. For this reason I don’t think the lack of 1080 support is a complete disaster, but it is a minor one.

    There are other, bigger deficiencies I see to the unit. The appleTV looks to be designed for a single purpose –to play media purchased in the iTMS on the user’s TV. The fact that it doesn’t do much else is an issue for those of us who have other needs or like our devices flexible and complex. appleTV is just the Airport Express for video.

    Here are some details on the device’s limitations:
    http://arstechnica.com/journals/apple.ars/2007/1/9/6543

    Then again, when the Airport Express launched I was similarly dismissive of its built-in limitations, and after recently seeing and using one at a friend’s have entertained the thought of purchasing one. Even though I know there are devices out there with twice the features, or that I could hack together a linux box out of old parts for free and do all the same things with some scripting at both ends, the simplicity and form factor of the Airport Express wins out (the limiting factor for me on that one is the price).

  9. Here’s some decent info on 1080p:
    http://editorials.teamxbox.com/xbox/1544/The-Facts-and-Fiction-of-1080p/p1/

    I think it’s fair to complain that the appleTV doesn’t do 1080p at launch, and it’s also fair to note that the XBox360 also launched without 1080p and gained this ability later in a software update. 1080i is a non-issue for me, as I’d prefer 720p for progressive content, though 1080p would kick ass when paired with a nice 1080p monitor (if you’ve got an older 1080 set, it is 1080i not 1080p). ‘Course, it’s all a non-issue for me right now as I don’t have any HD content to watch at the moment and am living in a country where VCDs are still in circulation :)

    Speaking of 720p, it’d be amazing if the XBox360 supported 720p60. Now that would be fluid motion (anyone ever see a Showscan demo?).

    I’m amused that somehow Al Gore ended up in this discussion. Can someone please try to tie other relevant politicians like Nixon, Zachary Taylor, Hillary, and Hubert Humphrey into this thread?

  10. Here’s some decent info on 1080p:
    http://editorials.teamxbox.com/xbox/1544/The-Facts-and-Fiction-of-1080p/p1/

    I think it’s fair to complain that the appleTV doesn’t do 1080p at launch, and it’s also fair to note that the XBox360 also launched without 1080p and gained this ability later in a software update. 1080i is a non-issue for me, as I’d prefer 720p for progressive content, though 1080p would kick ass when paired with a nice 1080p monitor (if you’ve got an older 1080 set, it is 1080i not 1080p). ‘Course, it’s all a non-issue for me right now as I don’t have any HD content to watch at the moment and am living in a country where VCDs are still in circulation :)

    Speaking of 720p, it’d be amazing if the XBox360 supported 720p60. Now that would be fluid motion (anyone ever see a Showscan demo?).

    I’m amused that somehow Al Gore ended up in this discussion. Can someone please try to tie other relevant politicians like Nixon, Zachary Taylor, Hillary, and Hubert Humphrey into this thread?

  11. I think everyone is missing one big point. Some folks made the big mistake of thinking Steve Job’s Stole the show at CES when the only thing he stole was a Cisco trademark. The partnerships what were made at this CES alone will amount to more installed Microsoft home ecosystems than Apple TV’s sold all next year. If you look at the hotels out there, if you look at the new 1million dollar homes, they are all running Microsoft.

    Steve jobs in his “I love myself more than even my own mom” kind of way forgot one important thing. To think you are too good for the “CEDIA” market is a big mistake. Once these gear heads learn about media center, that’s all they’ll talk about, when the new homeowner looks at his options that the builder gives him, Microsoft will be the only vendor on the sheet. I said it once before and I’ll say it again, Microsoft will remain the leader in the living room for the foreseeable future. Al Gore fanatic types with an Apple logo on their minivan are the target audience for this type of thing, people who need Apple to feel special as far as I can tell. Or I guess that’s the best I can make of it. If you try to tell me the 360 is hard to operate (when working) then we need to get you a VCR.

  12. I think everyone is missing one big point. Some folks made the big mistake of thinking Steve Job’s Stole the show at CES when the only thing he stole was a Cisco trademark. The partnerships what were made at this CES alone will amount to more installed Microsoft home ecosystems than Apple TV’s sold all next year. If you look at the hotels out there, if you look at the new 1million dollar homes, they are all running Microsoft.

    Steve jobs in his “I love myself more than even my own mom” kind of way forgot one important thing. To think you are too good for the “CEDIA” market is a big mistake. Once these gear heads learn about media center, that’s all they’ll talk about, when the new homeowner looks at his options that the builder gives him, Microsoft will be the only vendor on the sheet. I said it once before and I’ll say it again, Microsoft will remain the leader in the living room for the foreseeable future. Al Gore fanatic types with an Apple logo on their minivan are the target audience for this type of thing, people who need Apple to feel special as far as I can tell. Or I guess that’s the best I can make of it. If you try to tell me the 360 is hard to operate (when working) then we need to get you a VCR.

  13. I don’t get the point why 1080i should be better than 720p and also not the point why AppleTV shouldn’t be capable of 1080i when it already does 720p. From a complexity point of view (counting CPU cycles necessary to decode & display a single frame) 720p is more complex than 1080i by about 33%.

    Some people might also claim now that with a good deinterlacer in the TV set you should have higher resolution with 1080i, but that’s only true for still images. Overall image quality should be roughly comparable between 1080i and 720p. 1080i is slightly better with still images, 720p slightly better with motion pictures.

  14. I don’t get the point why 1080i should be better than 720p and also not the point why AppleTV shouldn’t be capable of 1080i when it already does 720p. From a complexity point of view (counting CPU cycles necessary to decode & display a single frame) 720p is more complex than 1080i by about 33%.

    Some people might also claim now that with a good deinterlacer in the TV set you should have higher resolution with 1080i, but that’s only true for still images. Overall image quality should be roughly comparable between 1080i and 720p. 1080i is slightly better with still images, 720p slightly better with motion pictures.

  15. I can’t believe I read through this lengthy thread in its entirety… one thing became obvious though, you’re all hung up about a tech spec. Take a step back and realise that not implementing the absoulte bleeding edge alternative of every feature isn’t the end of the world. The Wii is so technically pwn3d by ps3 and xbox360 but last i read it was selling like hotcakes, just as appleTV isn’t going to be dead in the water cos of 720p. I read through the tech specs of every electronic device I buy. One spec that is not the latest and greatest doesn’t bother the average consumer.

  16. I can’t believe I read through this lengthy thread in its entirety… one thing became obvious though, you’re all hung up about a tech spec. Take a step back and realise that not implementing the absoulte bleeding edge alternative of every feature isn’t the end of the world. The Wii is so technically pwn3d by ps3 and xbox360 but last i read it was selling like hotcakes, just as appleTV isn’t going to be dead in the water cos of 720p. I read through the tech specs of every electronic device I buy. One spec that is not the latest and greatest doesn’t bother the average consumer.

  17. “iPhone has ziltch to do with Zune or any other media player.”

    It has everything to do with it.

    That’s the problem with MS fanboys and geeks: you look at a product and compare it feature for feature and price to price…

    The point is this: Apple has been in the market for 5 years, hits every segment of the handheld market, the livingroom, the phone, its store is the largest and sells music, videos, TV, and films… The iPhone seals the highend cake, it shows innovation. It closes the circle and makes Zune look pathetic.

  18. “iPhone has ziltch to do with Zune or any other media player.”

    It has everything to do with it.

    That’s the problem with MS fanboys and geeks: you look at a product and compare it feature for feature and price to price…

    The point is this: Apple has been in the market for 5 years, hits every segment of the handheld market, the livingroom, the phone, its store is the largest and sells music, videos, TV, and films… The iPhone seals the highend cake, it shows innovation. It closes the circle and makes Zune look pathetic.

  19. iPhone has ziltch to do with Zune or any other media player. A $600 device is not in the same market as a $200 device. Only a complete moron walks into a store looking to by a $200 media player and instead decides on a $600 phone.

  20. iPhone has ziltch to do with Zune or any other media player. A $600 device is not in the same market as a $200 device. Only a complete moron walks into a store looking to by a $200 media player and instead decides on a $600 phone.

  21. I agree that 720 is not cool, just as I agreed with most that 128 bit was not cool for iTunes AAC files.
    But, Im a tech geek, as are most of your readers, so we all try to do a bit of future proofing, or we just get high end stuff because we can or just because we want. Having said that I still think the Apple-TV will be a hit with iTunes store users, or at least the Mac base, therefore it will do ok. So 18 months from now when there is a ton of 1080 content and screens, Im sure we will be at AppleTV V.3.0 With RSS reader, 1080p, Solitaire, : ) , calendar, ect ect…….
    Its good enough for now and if you have a few dollars of purchased iTunes content then its attractive. Even though its physical form factor disappoints as well.

    Did I hope for better out of this version 1.0 product? yes i did, is it DOA? Now thats just silly.

    BK

  22. I agree that 720 is not cool, just as I agreed with most that 128 bit was not cool for iTunes AAC files.
    But, Im a tech geek, as are most of your readers, so we all try to do a bit of future proofing, or we just get high end stuff because we can or just because we want. Having said that I still think the Apple-TV will be a hit with iTunes store users, or at least the Mac base, therefore it will do ok. So 18 months from now when there is a ton of 1080 content and screens, Im sure we will be at AppleTV V.3.0 With RSS reader, 1080p, Solitaire, : ) , calendar, ect ect…….
    Its good enough for now and if you have a few dollars of purchased iTunes content then its attractive. Even though its physical form factor disappoints as well.

    Did I hope for better out of this version 1.0 product? yes i did, is it DOA? Now thats just silly.

    BK

  23. 720 p… I’m an Xbox guy as well, but isn’t the Xbox maxed out at 1080i and don’t a lot of people believe 720p is better than 1080i anyway?

  24. 720 p… I’m an Xbox guy as well, but isn’t the Xbox maxed out at 1080i and don’t a lot of people believe 720p is better than 1080i anyway?

  25. Jeff-

    Oh my. Did you just imply that Apple/iTunes does not have “nasty DRM” AND 720/1080 look identical? I think you need to step away from the tech blogs for a while…or maybe spend more time reading vs posting. Apple’s DRM (and crappy codec) on iTunes is one of the main reason many of us are sticking with devices from Creative (and similar) for now.

  26. Jeff-

    Oh my. Did you just imply that Apple/iTunes does not have “nasty DRM” AND 720/1080 look identical? I think you need to step away from the tech blogs for a while…or maybe spend more time reading vs posting. Apple’s DRM (and crappy codec) on iTunes is one of the main reason many of us are sticking with devices from Creative (and similar) for now.

  27. Hmm, Im afraid the rest of the free world doesn’t agree with you.
    Most people see this and feel sorry for the competition.
    Most people see this and think the Zune is dead meat.

    As for the AppleTV… it’s a home media server. The exact same thing MS trotted out, only it’s about 10% the size. Are you saying the Home Media Server is a waste of time? Interesting…
    ====================================

    God, 1st I didn’t mention zune. And as for appltTV, did you just call appleTV a “server”? Check http://www.winsupersite.com/reviews/whs_preview.asp this out, then you know what is a “server”. Xbox appeared in the market far earlier than appletv and can do far more things (eg games) than appletv.

    And who is “the rest of the world”? That is interesting.

  28. Hmm, Im afraid the rest of the free world doesn’t agree with you.
    Most people see this and feel sorry for the competition.
    Most people see this and think the Zune is dead meat.

    As for the AppleTV… it’s a home media server. The exact same thing MS trotted out, only it’s about 10% the size. Are you saying the Home Media Server is a waste of time? Interesting…
    ====================================

    God, 1st I didn’t mention zune. And as for appltTV, did you just call appleTV a “server”? Check http://www.winsupersite.com/reviews/whs_preview.asp this out, then you know what is a “server”. Xbox appeared in the market far earlier than appletv and can do far more things (eg games) than appletv.

    And who is “the rest of the world”? That is interesting.

  29. A bigger issue than the HD thing is file formats: it only plays H.264 files. Many people have a lot of video files in Divx, WMV, and other formats. In order to play them over the AppleTV, they will have to import them into iTunes and have it convert them into H.264.

    Even on a dual-core processor, video conversion is slow. On a P-III or P-4 machice (which many, many people still run) it would take forever to transcode a decent number of video files. The Xbox streaming has the same problem: it only does WMV as far as I know. The AppleTV does have the advantage of being able to play FairPlay DRM-locked video files from the most popular TV and movie downloading store on the Internet.

    Neither really is ideal, though there apparently are programs that can stream many formats on a modded Xbox. I’ll be interested to see what hackers will do with the AppleTV; maybe something like Rockbox will come around offering more options for those who don’t mind voiding their warranties. Unless a video format becomes ubiquitous like MP3 did for audio, the video streaming battle will be won by someone offering flexibility, not file format lock-in.

  30. A bigger issue than the HD thing is file formats: it only plays H.264 files. Many people have a lot of video files in Divx, WMV, and other formats. In order to play them over the AppleTV, they will have to import them into iTunes and have it convert them into H.264.

    Even on a dual-core processor, video conversion is slow. On a P-III or P-4 machice (which many, many people still run) it would take forever to transcode a decent number of video files. The Xbox streaming has the same problem: it only does WMV as far as I know. The AppleTV does have the advantage of being able to play FairPlay DRM-locked video files from the most popular TV and movie downloading store on the Internet.

    Neither really is ideal, though there apparently are programs that can stream many formats on a modded Xbox. I’ll be interested to see what hackers will do with the AppleTV; maybe something like Rockbox will come around offering more options for those who don’t mind voiding their warranties. Unless a video format becomes ubiquitous like MP3 did for audio, the video streaming battle will be won by someone offering flexibility, not file format lock-in.

  31. Heya

    I could be very wrong, but in terms of impact, I think that the iPhone wipes the floor with iTV. There is more innovation packed into one of the three main functions of the iPhone than in the whole iTV deal put together. I suspect that in a few years time we will be talking as much about the iPhone halo effect as we do about the iPod halo effect now. There are other devices around which compete more on the same level as the iTV, but nothing comes within a thousand years of the iPhone. As Aaron says, the user experience is what will sell the iTV, and I dare say it’ll be pretty cool, but it will struggle much more to compete in the market slot it occupies. People have their TiVo right now and they like it, but there’s not a phone owner who’s seen the iPhone who doesn’t honestly dribble either at the product or the implications on where the phone market is headed.

  32. Heya

    I could be very wrong, but in terms of impact, I think that the iPhone wipes the floor with iTV. There is more innovation packed into one of the three main functions of the iPhone than in the whole iTV deal put together. I suspect that in a few years time we will be talking as much about the iPhone halo effect as we do about the iPod halo effect now. There are other devices around which compete more on the same level as the iTV, but nothing comes within a thousand years of the iPhone. As Aaron says, the user experience is what will sell the iTV, and I dare say it’ll be pretty cool, but it will struggle much more to compete in the market slot it occupies. People have their TiVo right now and they like it, but there’s not a phone owner who’s seen the iPhone who doesn’t honestly dribble either at the product or the implications on where the phone market is headed.

  33. I ordered the ITV yesterday. Why? Because of it’s simplicity and interface. This will do what I wanted to do with my media center pc. The media center pc connected to my Sharp LCD TV is a pain. Slow boot up, and then after boot up check for updates, install updates, update anti virus, restart, and so on.
    And I am guessing that third party hacks and add-ons will appear soon after shipment. Don’t forget that this is really a computer with and OS.

  34. I ordered the ITV yesterday. Why? Because of it’s simplicity and interface. This will do what I wanted to do with my media center pc. The media center pc connected to my Sharp LCD TV is a pain. Slow boot up, and then after boot up check for updates, install updates, update anti virus, restart, and so on.
    And I am guessing that third party hacks and add-ons will appear soon after shipment. Don’t forget that this is really a computer with and OS.

  35. I think a lot of people are missing the point. MS might do it better with Xbox and Media Center, it’s normally technically superior or at least the same. But Mac products are like Tivo, I could use my Time Warner cable box but Tivo makes it easier and friendlier to use. My parents, wife, and non-techie friends want it to be easy. This will make it EASY. Don’t try to say that the Xbox is as easy, it’s not. This is also being sold as an entertainment appliance, not as a game device. Xbox is automatically going to lose out with non-gamers because of that. There is a difference between the geek market and the core market. Robert, and others, seem to forget that. I might not by the Apple TV but I can see why people will. I want the control and huge feature set, the advanced mode, but most people don’t they just want to listen to music or watch a movie.

  36. I think a lot of people are missing the point. MS might do it better with Xbox and Media Center, it’s normally technically superior or at least the same. But Mac products are like Tivo, I could use my Time Warner cable box but Tivo makes it easier and friendlier to use. My parents, wife, and non-techie friends want it to be easy. This will make it EASY. Don’t try to say that the Xbox is as easy, it’s not. This is also being sold as an entertainment appliance, not as a game device. Xbox is automatically going to lose out with non-gamers because of that. There is a difference between the geek market and the core market. Robert, and others, seem to forget that. I might not by the Apple TV but I can see why people will. I want the control and huge feature set, the advanced mode, but most people don’t they just want to listen to music or watch a movie.

  37. I guess Scoble doesnt want anyone to watch his Scoble tv shows on their big screens via apple tv.
    Oh well.

  38. I guess Scoble doesnt want anyone to watch his Scoble tv shows on their big screens via apple tv.
    Oh well.

Comments are closed.