In the technology world, conventional wisdom says that we’ll soon be saying R.I.P. for the DVD. Internet downloads are the future, baby. No driving, no postpaid envelopes. Any movie, any TV show, any time.
Only one problem: once you’ve downloaded the shows to your computer, how do you play them on the TV?
Now, there are people — at least 12, for sure — who actually watch movies right on their computers, or who wire their PCs directly to their TV sets.
The rest of us, however, are overwhelmed by cultural inertia. Computers are for work, TVs are for vegging out, and that’s final.
No wonder, then, that when Apple announced Apple TV, a box that can connect computers and TVs without wires, the hype meter redlined with millions of search-engine citations, a run-up in the Apple stock price and drooling analysts.
After many delays, Apple TV finally went on sale yesterday for $300, but there are plenty of companies trying to solve what you might call the “last 50 feet” problem. A couple of prominent examples: In addition to its game-playing features, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 ($400) performs a similar PC-to-TV bridging function; in fact, it even has its own online movie store. Netgear’s week-old EVA8000 ($350) also joins PC and TV, but adds an Internet connection for viewing YouTube videos and listening to Internet radio.
And so Apple TV has landed. How does it stack up?