In a previous post I gave my initial reviews of the new Apple TV. I bought the new one because it was smaller, supported NetFlix and also had the promise of a new technology called AirPlay. Based on the increasing number of devices in this area it is clear the tv is the next battle ground and will end up being as intense as the current smartphone war. The Google TV in particular was announced at about the same time as I bought the Apple TV and actually gave me pause. The Apple TV seemed to have a much more limited feature set and only had apps for YouTube, Flickr, NetFlix and some internet radio streams. Google TV had many more apps like Hulu, Pandora, YouTube, Flickr and with promise of many more.
In the end the Apple TV fit best with my home's technology eco-system, and I also really loved the first generation. As you know I really enjoyed it and while it was annoying to open up the MacBook to play music, everything else worked like a charm. I was even pleasantly surprised to see that the source photos for the slideshow are actually cached on the device and don't require the MacBook to be open. We originally had done NetFlix streaming on the TiVo, but this was a bit of a pain since you can only access your Instant Queue, and have to add things to it via a computer or other device. Annoying!!! NetFlix on the AppleTV is infinitely better and lets you browse movies and watch them instantly completely bypassing the InstantQueue.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I got my hands on a beta of iOS 4.2 and started playing around with the audio only version of AirPlay. Basically AirPlay lets you output any audio/video from your mobile iOS device to an Apple TV connected television. The only disclaimer being that the app has to use the native iOS media player. When this was first announced it was only demonstrated using the iPod feature for both music and movies, it wasn't clear at the time that this would be included in ANY app using the media player. It is really easy to use AirPlay, basically the media player on the iOS device gets an additional button if it detects an Apple TV on the network. You just tap the AirPlay icon and choose the Apple TV to output to and within seconds the audio/video shows up on the television. You can then put your iOS device away OR using audio multi-tasking you can continue using other apps.
Why is this so important? Combined with an iPhone and AirPlay the Apple TV immediately gains thousands of apps. This means apps like Pandora, Sirius XM, Hulu Plus, and the MLB At Bat apps are all capable of streaming to a television. Of course this only scratches the surface, basically any app you use on your iOS device to listen to music or watch video can be output to an Apple TV with AirPlay. Of course given Apples standard operating procedure of incrementally adding features the possibilities seem endless. I am sure it won't be long before AirPlay lets developers output the display of a game to the AppleTV, while controlling the game from the iOS device. The possibilities are endless.
The other important right move made by Apple is to realize that people don't want/need a web browser, email client or Twitter feed on the television. These types of activities are personal/private and aren't meant to be shared with everybody in the living room. Keep it simple, people just want to be able to put audio or video content on a bigger speaker and screens.