The Mac and PC are coming to a big screen near you
Apple wants you to see its Macintosh as the control center of all your media or to use the phrase of its CEO, the "Digital Hub" of everything you see and hear. Put all your music, videos and pictures you've taken on your computer for easy viewing. Take all of the DVD movies in your library, and play those TV shows you've downloaded and watch them all on the computer's screen. Display and play all of it on the computer. That's Apple's vision. But just a moment please.
My PC only has a 19-inch screen and the speakers are adequate for day to day computer functions, and even my Mac's 30-inch display hardly compares to my 50-inch plasma screen that has an incredible Dolby Digital Surround Sound speaker setup over there in the den. And besides, the computer is way over on the other side of the house in that little room I call my home office. Also, sitting at my computer's desk is certainly tolerable for while I'm working but it certainly doesn't begin to compare with my recliner or the sectional I have in the TV room.
OK so if I could somehow get all of my computer's content to be displayed and played on my big screen TV system that's in that way over there other part of my house, then maybe Apple would be onto something. Then again, I would think my wife would have something to say about all those wires I'd have to string between the computer room and the TV setup. But don't worry about all of that because Apple's got you covered with something new, they call it Apple TV and it's about time they came up with something like this.
The Apple TV has a slightly larger footprint (7.7 by 7.7 inches) as the Mac Mini (6.5 by 6.5 inches) but it's only 1.1 inches tall. Included in the box is the same 6-button Apple Remote control that you find with the iMac. All the necessary software is on the Apple TV's built-in 40-gigabyte hard drive which can store up to 50 hours of video, 9,000 songs and 25,000 photos. You connect the Apple TV to your TV set using component or DVI video cables or ideally, an HDMI cable, which comes in real handy if your TV is High Definition.
Once connected, your Mac or Windows PC needs a WiFi connection. Content is almost immediately displayed thanks to the built-in hard drive. Even with the slower 802.11b, you'll be amazed how fast the media content appears on the TV. Of course, having the faster 802.11n draft really lets things move along nicely with it's larger, virtual pipe.
You navigate the Apple TV in much the same way as you navigate via Apple's Front Row interface that's found on the iMac. But in this case, everything is centralized via iTunes. If you can play it on iTunes, you can now play it on your mega TV system in the other room and you can do it without wires. However, Apple does provide the Apple TV with a high-speed Ethernet connection just in case. But however you choose to make the connection between your computer and the Apple TV, you'll be pleased with the smooth playing results.
Apple TV does a good job in letting you play and display your computer's content on hardware that was designed to play it. Let's face it. Even with a 30-inch screen on your computer, it's still more than likely no match for your entertainment setup. The Apple TV is a really great way for you to take your digital content and present it in the best possible manner. Now, where's the popcorn? $299. Available at Apple stores and on the Apple website at www.apple.com.
(Craig Crossman is a national newspaper columnist writing about computers and technology. He also hosts the No. 1 daily national computer radio talk show, Computer America, heard on the Business TalkRadio Network and the Lifestyle TalkRadio Network - Monday through Friday, 10 p.m.-midnight ET. For more information, visit his web site at www.computeramerica.com.)