Apple is slated to release their AppleTV box any day now, and I'm curious to know what kind of fanfare this item will receive.
The TiVo has been out for years. Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition has been available for years. The incredibly versatile Cedia has been out for years. What value will Apple bring to the table?
Personally, I don't think this will catch on as much as some media hype outlets want us to believe. Apple is notorious for building closed systems, and not working with existing industry standards to make a truly superior product. When the iPod was first released, it would only work on Macs. A year later a Windows version of iTunes (the application) was released and the other 95% of all computer owners could go and buy a sleek little device for playing their digital music. And then shortly afterwards the iTunes store was brought online, but you must have an iPod in order to make use of these services. Heaven forbid someone owns some other music device and wants to give Apple some business on iTunes, because they won't be able to use any download.
Microsoft and Tivo have had years to get their foot into the living room. Most of the people that have wanted to have some sort of digital device for their television have already picked up media computers and integrated them into the home networks. These machines are customizable and run on standard equipment with easily replacable and upgradable components. Should a video card or hard drive fail after a few years, most people could bring this in to the neighbourhood computer store or repair it themselves. What will Apple offer? More closed hardware that appears to be little more than an over-glorified mATX motherboard?
Apple had a hit with their iPod, I'll certainly admit that. But their MacBook is nothing to write home about. Their iPhone is nothing more than a Treo, CrackBerry or iPaq with a bigger video card, happier graphics and no thumb keyboard (which is the only thing I like about it). AppleTV is just another "blah" product.
If this box is going to stand out from the rest, then it should have something truly powerful and worthwhile. I could see this being far more desirable if it had some sort of home automation program like Lifeware. It's built right into Media Center and can control your house lights, appliances, etc (when configured).
Unfortunately, Apple does not believe in the word "partners". Everything they do, they do alone. This is one of the reasons AppleTV will likely flop, and the iPhone will be exposed as a ridiculously expensive personal accessory that is not worth half it's weight in plastic.