March 30, 2007

One thing that is happening in the world of tech without many noticing is convergence. Recently, Apple launched the AppleTV, which is a very quiet way of doing something pretty significant. iTunes was a previous example of convergence, putting music, television, movies, podcasts, etc. in one place on your computer and putting all of those things that previously had their own domain into one place. AppleTV is doing a similar thing, but it will take a bit of time to see if anyone notices or cares. This new appliance connects your computer conveniently to your TV, and allows you to move your files from the iTunes store to your television screen wirelessly and seamlessly. A lot of people can’t possibly imagine at this point why such a thing matters, but there’s something important underlying all of this. The AppleTV allows network TV, movies, and independently created things like podcasts and videocasts to all live together in one place. Previously, while I might have all of my stuff living on my computer (we watch a lot of our TV and movies on my iMac as well as listening to music etc), it was necessary to switch between functions to go from TV to something else … the machine has to be changed into “something else” in order to use it for a new purpose. It would seem that AppleTV puts it all in one place and lists your favourite podcasts right next to your favourite million-dollar-per-episode TV show. There is a slow but steady move away from podcasts etc being considered “fringe” media and this device makes the narrowing gap more real. (it is a fact that many podcasts of the video and audio variety are becoming quite popular … diggnation, twit.tv … etc. , but they are still on something other than your most glamorous of entertainment devices (i.e. – Lost is on TV, diggnation is just on your little computer)). It’s not that I plan to buy one of these things, but the concept is interesting.

By the way, Apple has done the usual on this new device. Officially, the AppleTV could not deal with all of those files that you downloaded on your own from less than respectable places. Well, it turns out that within days of the AppleTV release someone had hacked the thing to make it capable of downloading and playing anything … this reminds me of the Apple digital rights management system on iTunes, which is most definitely in place and working, but is ridiculously easy to hack. I wouldn’t want to claim that these things are made intentionally easy for hackers, but it sure does make the devices a lot more fun.


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