Home Apple Followup on IPTV; plus I bought a Mac Mini

Followup on IPTV; plus I bought a Mac Mini

by Philip Sellers

Ok, strike another thing off of my wishlist.  As a followup to my IPTV thoughts post, I have purchased one of the new Mac Mini’s with an HDMI port over the weekend.  I even got the pleasure of buying it, atwhat I believe is the original Apple Store,  in Tysons Corner,Virginia while visiting my in-laws.

Jen and I have been toying with the idea of downgrading our cable at home (since we tend to only watch stuff we DVR after it has already aired) and many of these things are already on Hulu, ABC.com and other sources for free.  We would be joining a couple of our friends who have cut the cable, so to speak.  That said, I work for a cable TV provider (as well as Telephone, Cellular and Internet), so I get a decent discount on service — so the jury is out of what exactly we will decide to do.  For now, this is an experiment and if nothing else, perhaps I can report my findings back to work about new cable alternatives.

First, let me say, hooking up the Mac Mini was a breeze.  The HDMI interface makes it a snap to have it up and running on the TV.  I also purchased a bluetooth keyboard and Magic Trackpad.  While the keyboard paired with the new Mini out of the box, the Magic Trackpad was more troublesome.  I had to add a USB mouse initially to get the Mini up to the needed patch level and then I had to manually install the Magic Trackpad software from the Apple website.  It was not a big deal, I was hoping for a zero problem bluetooth installation.  I will say, however, that a future OS release will likely solve that problem by bundling the software.  Magic Trackpad is a brand new device and its software will eventually make it into the OS X images used in the factories.

My next discovery wass Plex – http://www.plexapp.com – which is an alternative and I dare say superior media competitor to Boxee, Hulu Desktop and Apple’s Front Row.  Plex is a great interface and offers a extensible plugin architecture for to access other online resources.  Currently it allows for access to Apple’s Movie Trailers, CNet, FoxNews, MSNBC and even Hulu from within its application.  It also offers full integration with the Apple iTunes libraries of media for viewing.    I am still in my first few days of testing this, but I have set it to autostart with the Mac Mini making it almost seamless to use the Mini as a media center.  This software seems light years ahead of Microsoft and even edges Boxee, by offering a fluid interface for all these other resources that works the same regardless of what internet library you are attaching to.  The Plex team is clearly paying attention to human interfacing with their software.

I have also tested Hulu Desktop and Front Row on the TV connected Mac Mini.  Both work just as well here as they do on a desktop or laptop – no real surprises, nothing exciting.

I will likely install the latest Boxee on here and test it to, though I have not done this to date.  Unfortunately, since purchasing the Mini, I have only set it up and used it a few short hours, due to a family emergency which has had me out of town.

Also since my first post on IPTV, the Steve (as in Jobs) presented a new Apple TV at the keynote last week.  I was under-impressed with the new device.  I think for the mass market, streaming make perfect sense and adding Netflix is an absolute necessity for Apple.  But I think that the rent-only market won’t be appealing  to many users who still like to own their media (myself included).  The Steve mentioned that most users don’t want a full blown computer running on their TV sets, and I agree with that.  For mass adoption, I think Apple may be tracking towards the right path.  But their offering of online media libraries is still very anemic and due to this, I think the new incarnation of the Apple TV will still see “hobby” success.  The price point is right for the device and revelation that it too based on the custom A4 processor hopefully signals that Apple may open the platform to third party developers (like Hulu) and others to deliver their content.

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