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Apple reveals plans for joining PC to TV

Apple TV, formerly known as iTV, doubles as both a storage device and a networking connection between a computer and TV.

Apple thinks it's come up with the missing link between the PC and the television.

CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple TV product, formerly known by its iTV code name, during his keynote address at Macworld on Tuesday. Apple TV, as discussed in September, is a small white box that plugs into a flat-panel TV and wirelessly connects to a Mac or PC over an 802.11n network, allowing content stored on the computer to play on the television.

At Macworld in San Francisco, Apple CEO Steve Jobs demos Apple TV, a new home networking device.

Jobs revealed a few more details about the $299 device on Tuesday. Apple started taking orders for the device Tuesday, though it won't start shipping until February.

It supports 720p high-definition TV, rather than the 1080p standard used by many HDTVs unveiled this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It comes with a 40GB hard drive, so movies, TV shows and music can be stored directly on the device. But the Apple TV box can also access files stored on a Mac or PC over the 802.11n wireless standard, a newly emerging standard that's much faster than 802.11g and has better range.

When connected to a Mac or PC, the Apple TV will show up in iTunes just like an iPod, allowing users to sync television shows to its hard drive just like transferring songs to an iPod, Jobs said. Apple TV can only sync with one computer, but can play content streamed from up to five other computers. For example, if a friend comes over with a notebook, the friend could stream the latest episode of Lost to the Apple TV, but it doesn't appear that he could transfer the file to the Apple TV's hard drive.

The PC industry has been searching for something that connects the PC to the television for years. Early attempts based around Microsoft's Windows Media Center Extender program have received tepid support, due in part to how complicated it can be to set up.

However, Apple has a chance to change that with a more friendly user interface, said Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies.

"It has to be ridiculously simple, and this is the simplest design I've seen," he said. The Apple TV interface is controlled by a small white remote control with few buttons and resembles the iPod navigation tree.