If it starts with "A," you know it's from Apple. This year, the computer hardware maker launched a pair of hot devices, the iPad, and its far less sexy Apple TV. Let's start with sexy:
The Apple iPad (Price: $499-$829) makes watching even the old movies from Netflix cool. People will look over your shoulder, ask to see your iPad and be mesmerized. (Seriously, you'll have to ask for it back.) The device sold three million units in the first 80 days after its April 3 launch, and it's still going strong. A WiFi and 3G version makes it as portable as a smartphone, and the 10-inch screen is far easier on the eyes than any other mobile device (Caveat: I haven't had time to get my hands on the Android-powered Galaxy tablet). With a battery that lasts forever (or 10 hours, whichever comes first), there's plenty of time to watch even the 1968 release of War and Peace, which clocks in at an even eight hours.
Obviously, if you want to watch Netflix, there's an app for that. You can also watch content from PBS, ABC, and even CBS's 60 Minutes (if anything proves OTT video has arrived, it's the fact that CBS saw enough of an audience in the, well, let's just say Baby Boomer age demo, to put 60 Minutes out there).
You can watch basic Hulu, or pay $7.99 a month and watch Hulu Plus content. YouTube, of course, is a given. Want more movies than are available on Netflix? You can get them and TV episodes from Amazon.com, Vudu, and, of course, iTunes.
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Apple also launched--or re-launched, depending on your POV--Apple TV (Price: $99). The lead up to its roll out was loaded with speculation that it would be as much of a game changer as was the iPad, bringing massive amounts of high-quality, premium content to TVs everywhere. There were rumors--wishful thinking--that Apple TV would be just that, a TV with all of user-interface elegance that Apple is known for.
But concerns surfaced in some blogs that the device was, well, something less.
It arrived a 4-by-4 inch square, basic black and with the ability to stream video up to 720p, a major blow to Apple aficionados. It also arrived without a hard drive.
But, there's still plenty there. Apple TV streams H.264, MPEG-4 and M-JPEG and is compatible with an array of HD TV sets from more than a dozen manufacturers. Content, including movies and TV episodes, is available from the iTunes store to rent, and from Netflix. You can also get YouTube, some content from ABC, Fox and Disney, and other content from any networked computer. At $99, it's one of those devices you can try, decide if you like it, and if not, wrap it back up and give it to a friend... you'll be a star.
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Next up... the Boxee Box >>