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Apple and TV: a happy marriage?

The launch of Apple TV this month raises interesting questions for owners of video-capable iPods and home entertainment enthusiasts.

Apple TV

commentary The launch of Apple TV this month raises interesting questions for owners of video-capable iPods and home entertainment enthusiasts.

Will the mid-March release coincide with the addition of movies and TV episodes to the Australian iTunes Store?

Although Apple won't answer the question -- nothing new here -- the latest version of iTunes released last week hints movie downloads are on their way, with OFLC ratings (G, PG, M, MA15+, R18+) being added to the parental controls in iTunes. (They've also been added for New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and the UK.) For those not familiar with iTunes, it's the jukebox software from which you decide the music, photos, videos and podcasts to sync with your iPod and Apple TV.

Parental controls in iTunes 7.1 has ratings for Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, UK and US

Parental controls in iTunes 7.1 features ratings for Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, UK and US

Still, it's unclear when Apple will make movie downloads available locally, how much they will cost, and how much of a strain it will be on bandwidth -- iTunes feature-length films are currently only VGA resolution in the US, but still clock in at around 1.5GB. Who knows what the bandwidth implications will be if the resolution is increased to something more befitting of the 720p/1080i-capable Apple TV.


Comparison of common video resolutions (scaled)

We're also pondering if Apple TV can do for video what iPod did for music. Both are managed through iTunes, both feature easy-to-use, elegant interfaces. The iPod, however, was natively compatible with the world's most Internet-distributed music format, MP3, when it was released. Apple TV, on the other hand, doesn't support what is arguably the world's most distributed video format, DivX.

Naturally Apple prefers users to purchase movies through its iTunes Store than download them through BitTorrent, but the Web is rife with software that can convert DivX movies into a format that can be imported into iTunes, and therefore played via Apple TV (MPEG-4, H.264). Even so, the iPod had a leg-up in that it could play the music-equivalent of DivX -- MP3 -- out of the box.

DivX to MPEG-4

Apple own iMovie HD software, which comes free with new Macs, can be used to convert DivX into an Apple TV-friendly format, provided you have the codec installed.

Now that the iTunes Store is the fourth-biggest music retailer in the US -- and selling five million songs per day worldwide -- perhaps it's not such a gamble introducing a device that doesn't cater for the average joe. (Another barrier is that Apple TV will only work if you've upgraded to a widescreen television, too).

We hope to be getting a first-generation Apple TV localised for Australia in the next couple of weeks so stay tuned to CNET.com.au for our full review of its design, features and performance.

Do you currently look at photos, videos and music stored on your PC on your TV? Do you think Apple will impact how we get our movie and TV fix? Leave your comments below.