BOTTOM LINE Compared with a number of other media receivers you can buy today that let you stream a wide variety of video formats from your computer - as well as access the Internet for listening to thousands of Internet radio stations (and maybe even watching YouTube videos, too) - Apple TV is a walled garden. If you can live within the Apple iTunes ecosystem - and many people do - there is great simplicity and elegance to using Apple TV. Who am I to argue? It's this very philosophy that has made Apple so successful with the iPod, despite numerous competitors who came before and after. And if you're willing to convert unprotected videos from non-iTunes sources using another program before importing them into iTunes, or use iMovie to bring in footage from your standard- or high-def camcorder, you can always do the advance work on the computer.
But in a world defined by an ever-expanding selection of Internet-based content, Apple TV is really Apple's rather narrow solution for iTunes customers encumbered by a purchased library of Apple's DRM-handcuffed songs, movies, and TV shows - content that won't run on most other media receivers. These users may not mind that Apple TV isn't able to stream or sync content wrapped by either of Microsoft's two DRM schemes, or even play unprotected WMA or WMV files. Still, there's no denying the millions of songs and hundreds of TV shows and movies at the iTunes Music Store, or the Apple TV's engaging, well-designed interface. I suppose there's something reassuring about staying put in a manicured garden, as long as you're happy ignoring the much larger world of media swirling around just outside.
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