Apple: oh, how you failed me

Apple failed me today. The AppleTV upgrade is not what it should have been. I am not saying that having movie rentals is bad — the more features the merrier. But movie rentals on this device is like you are one step from having a stroke, and all you want to do is put a lipstick on, so you look good to the ambulance driver. What kind of shit is that?

The AppleTV needed the following updates to be relevant:

* 1080/30p support. Because this would require a hardware upgrade, I guess I would be happy with 720/30p support (it currently only does 720/24p). My camera shoots in 1080/60i (and most newer cameras do so in 1080/30p), so 720/30p is a must-have option. To achieve that on the same AppleTV 1.6Ghz Celeron hardware, the Apple engineers would need to sit their ass down and optimize, optimize, optimize. But they obviously didn’t do that. When mpeg2 DVD playback was optimized to playback in 450Mhz Mac/PCs back in the day, there’s no reason why 720/30p wouldn’t work on a modern 1.6 Ghz PC. And yet, no implementation today, closed or open source, is as well optimized. I guess all these kids coming out of college these days only know how to develop in Java. Well then, outsource in Ukraine. I don’t fucking care.

* And while we are talking about h.264 and 720/30p support: Main Profile at 4.1 level with CABAC is a must-have.

* WMV and DivX/XViD support. Here’s my argument: while it’s not a big deal having iTunes re-encoding your movies/footage for your iPod at the QVGA resolution, it IS A BIG deal re-encoding in HD. It takes much, much longer re-encoding in HD than to re-encode in QVGA. So even if Apple has their own strategy about h.264 and .mov, the reality is, that practical uses will require users to re-encode these formats to Apple’s blessed ones. And these re-encodings take so long, that will aggravate people. I know it would piss me off. Apple should get over the “we don’t support competition’s formats” and give people what they need. These are popular formats we are talking about!

Update: So I get replies over at Engadget that “it’s ok to have DivX/XViD support, but I don’t see why we need WMV“. How much more single-minded people can get? They write that just because WMV was created by Microsoft! Well, here’s why: Windows video editors mostly EXPORT in the fucking WMV format, so that’s why you need it. Ulead, Movie Maker and Vegas Movie Studio only support WMV for “delivery”-grade user format (not counting intermediate formats). That’s why! Why do people only think of PIRATED MOVIES (that usually come in XViD format) when it comes to their format preferences?!? Am I the only person on the net who wants to view LEGAL user-created content? Or is this just a case of “video format racism”?

* While they are at it, they should also try some DV .avi, HDV .m2t and AVCHD .m2ts/mts support. Mpeg2 at 1080/60i is easier to decode than h.264 in HD btw. I am a videographer, I need support for these formats too, although I would be kinda ok if they are missed.

Until these features are built into AppleTV, the deal is OFF for me. The Sony PS3 is a MUCH more convenient device for video-watching because it does not force me to re-encode everything (even if itself needs to fix some compatibility issues with some formats like .mov, and h.264 that comes out of Adobe Premiere). No, the PS3 is not as nice to use as the AppleTV with its well-targeted UI, but heck, it plays lots and lots of video formats, and it can go up to 1080/30p. So why would I shell out for the AppleTV when the PS3 does it better? Sure, it costs a few bucks more, but it’s also a gaming machine, so it it’s worth these extra bucks.

31 Comments »

Adam Williamson wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 11:24 AM PST:

I gotta say I agree with the thrust of comment #1. It bugs me that my Athlon 2500+ can’t decode 1080p video files. That *should* be enough processing power. There’s gotta be someone out there can write a decent enough implementation of MPEG-4 that I don’t have to go out and buy a new motherboard, RAM and CPU…


bry wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 11:42 AM PST:

sorry to say, get an xbox 360 if you want streaming WMV, xvid, divx or any other format that can be transcoded.


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Eugenia wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 11:45 AM PST:

It’s funny how you say that I should get an xbox if I want WMV support. It’s like saying “if you are sold to M$, buy M$ products”. This is exactly the WRONG approach, because I don’t give a f*ck who created WMV. I only know that it’s a POPULAR codec, and for that reason ALONE, I need support for it. The AppleTV is a *video playback machine*. It’s like saying that you don’t mind if your new Toyota car came with 2 wheels instead of 4. It’s stupid.

Besides, you are telling me that if I want more video format support, I need to buy a “gaming console” instead of a “video playback machine”. See the fallacy? It doesn’t make any sense!


Ronaldst wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 11:51 AM PST:

“sorry to say, get an xbox 360 if you want streaming WMV, xvid, divx or any other format that can be transcoded.”

Get with the times. Missing WMV/DiVX formats is a pretty big deal. MOV is old and obsolete. Nobody uses it anymore.


Howard Hesseman wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 12:01 PM PST:

We all realize that many windows compatible movie editing software exports exclusively in the WMV format. However you yourself have to take a step bake and look beyond the software you chose to buy into and realize that WMV just isn’t a fan favorite and will never garnish much sympathy with it’s exclusion in the outside world of content distribution. I’ve been a professional video editor for eleven years now and have found the format to be used exclusively en mass by novices, grandparents and questionable adult entertainment.


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Eugenia wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 12:05 PM PST:

Erm, I don’t get it. You are talking about content distribution and WMV. You are obviously talking about commercial (or pirated) stuff, while I am not. But yourself, you recognize the fact that Windows editing apps export in WMV. That’s enough of a reason to support the format. It’s the format that many users will export their home movies to. I don’t need it because “Die Hard” is going to get published in that format. I don’t care about commercial stuff. H.264 is good for the commercial stuff. I need WMV for Windows-exported home movies support!


Howard Hesseman wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 12:05 PM PST:

BTW, I fully agree with your proposed inclusion of xvid/divx as these formats can be found in almost any distribution channel currently available, both legally and non.


Howard Hesseman wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 12:13 PM PST:

I Guess “popular format” is a relative term. Simply because I see no one using it doesn’t make it a fact, just as saying many people use it is relative to a point of view also.


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Eugenia wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 12:16 PM PST:

Howard, just go to Vimeo.com. Vimeo does not condone piracy, everything it’s user generated there, from people’s own camcorders. Many of these videographers there are amateur artists (check my recent posts on videography to check them out, like Remyyy and Charlie McCarthy). Most of the Windows users of Vimeo export in WMV, end of story. That’s the user-generated content I need supported. Vimeo allows for the original uploaded file to be downloaded, so I usually end up with a WMV file. So yes, this IS proof that lots of Windows users DO export in WMV for their home movies. That DOES make the format *popular*. It’s just a different kind of popular: not the pirated movie kind of popular, like XViD is. I don’t pirate movies.


simplisticton wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 12:20 PM PST:

Take a pill. No one’s forcing you to buy it. Sheesh.


Howard Hesseman wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 12:29 PM PST:

All this format jazz aside, I don’t think anyone was that bowled over by the new Apple TV anyway. Maybe Vimeo.com will release a set top box we can all stand behind.


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Eugenia wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 12:32 PM PST:

Howard, you refuse to see the truth. You even get sarcastic that Vimeo should be the one who supports the popular formats, instead of the established playback device that needs to support these popular formats. This is just a fallacy, and not very nice sarcasm either. You are just either a WMV hater, or you just don’t want to see the truth: many Windows home movie users do export in WMV. You just want to shut down a whole market.


jeff wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 12:33 PM PST:

The way I see it is if people are dumb enough or lack the imagination to use their main HDTV as their computer monitor than they deserve to get screwed by the apple TV’s poor performance.


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Eugenia wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 12:37 PM PST:

Jeff, this will work nicely if you are a college student living in 1-bedroom apt and you need the home space so you resort to something like this. But if you have a living room, you don’t want to be messing out with whole computers hiding on a closet. It’s just too messy. Too many cables, too much of knowledge required to set it up. The AppleTV is a good idea, it’s simple to setup and it has a nice UI. It’s just that it doesn’t go the extra mile. It ain’t as useful for me as it should have been. Apple seems to think that buying or renting Hollywood movies it’s all what constitutes “video”. Well, that’s not true.


Collin wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 12:45 PM PST:

You know with a little effort you can make your Apple TV play almost all the formats you are complaining about lacking right? And Apple has even said they really don’t care if you do it or not. They cannot legally support xvid as it is a user made codec based off divx. Divx support is fairly useless as most people encode to xvid since it is free. WMV support would require licensing that probably just isn’t worth it seeing as how little it would likely be used.

There is no way to make every user happy due to licensing, legal or logistic reasons. This is why the homebrew plugin community is so great. It is not hard to mod the apple TV anymore, a USB thumb drive and a little time to read some directions is all you need.

As for the upgrade to resolution that would have been nice but would have required hardware upgrades that would have brought the price up thus causin more people to complain. They are lowering the price and adding new features in hopes of getting more of the boxes into peoples homes. That is their business after all.

So just sit back, take stock of the situation, avoid flame wars with comment trolls and appreciate what your ATV can do and what it is really meant to do. If you need more then look into building an HTPC.

Luck Kanthatham: You are far from the ONLY Apple TV info site out there. Try a little thing called google sometime.


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Eugenia wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 12:48 PM PST:

> You know with a little effort you can make your Apple TV play almost all the formats you are complaining about lacking right?

Not with the new firmware. The AppleTV was ‘hacked’ the first time around, but don’t be so sure that this is possible with the new firmware. Besides, Flip4Mac that’s used for WMV on the AppleTV, can’t do HD.

> Divx support is fairly useless

Yeah. Tell that to both PS3 and XBoX who just added support for it, and fans rejoiced.

> just isn’t worth it seeing as how little it would likely be used.

Sorry, but this is just not true. This is where we truly disagree.


Adam S wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 12:58 PM PST:

Ih. I still want one. Not everyone wants what you want, this is plenty of device for most people, and frankly, the I would bet that 95% of the world doesn’t even understand what you are talking about.

This will sync beautifully with our macs and will allow us rentals with no physical media. Count me in.


Collin wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 1:01 PM PST:

The plugins survived the last minor update. If they break this time they will be fixed. Apple has said they don’t care what users do with their boxes so why would they try to put in a block this time? Makes little sense.

Honestly not to be rude but I could care less what PS3 and 360 owners rejoice about. Divx is a lame proprietary codec and there are way too many better options out there to even bother with it.

I truly understand YOUR need for wmv support. And other users of Vimeos need, even other Windows users that choose to export to wmv. But there are other export options for Windows Movie Maker so it is by choice they use wmv. You choose to use Sony Vegas. Other choose other programs. Do you see the problem? There are too many people choosing so many various things to make everyone happy. You need to realize that the ATV does not suit your particular needs. Does that mean it sucks? To you yes, but not to everyone. Take it for what it is and move on.


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Eugenia wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 1:01 PM PST:

Adam: Yup, because you are using a Mac/iMovie for your home movies. If you had a PC instead (with Vegas or Movie Maker), you will be cursing like I am right now.


Corey wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 1:01 PM PST:

The studios largely work with Apple products to make and edit movies with linux and xserves handing the bigger tasks.

The studios decided to distribute with iTunes and distribute iTunes formats for cross compatibility. WMV Does not work on Apple products unless you’re using flip4mac and all those studio employees who use Mac’s are not going to sit there and create content they can not play on their home computers.


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Eugenia wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 1:05 PM PST:

> But there are other export options for Windows Movie Maker so it is by choice they use wmv.

This is NOT true. Movie Maker ONLY supports WMV as a “delivery” format! Nothing else! And Vegas Movie Studio also only supports WMV (with full “customization”) as far as delivery formats go. Vegas supports many intermediate formats, but none is “delivery” grade except WMV. So, NO, it is NOT choice. It is all these users have! This is what people don’t understand around here. Yes, the situation is as dire.

> Honestly not to be rude but I could care less what PS3 and 360 owners rejoice about. Divx is a lame proprietary codec

So you are telling me that you acknowledge that xbox/ps3 users got really-really happy about DivX support (maybe because it’s popular?), but you prefer to snob it because it’s proprietary. Right. This is very logical. NOT.


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Eugenia wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 1:05 PM PST:

Corey, please read the discussion before you reply here. I explained that the WMV problem is not a commercial distribution problem: it’s a user-oriented content instead.


Collin wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 1:11 PM PST:

Movie Maker will publish to DV-AVI. ot at HD resolution mind you but if you are using Windows Movie Maker for HD work you have bigger problems then ATV not supporting wmv. And seriously if the ATV doesn’t do what you want then move on. It is not for you obviously. Again you want a system that does what you want and has little cabling? Build a headless HTPC that is mangaged wirelessly. The number of cables would be about the same and you would have full control over what it does and does not do. And you state you have a PS3 doing what you need currently? So why do you care about the ATVs misgivings so much?


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Eugenia wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 1:18 PM PST:

>Movie Maker will publish to DV-AVI.

Did you even read my reply above about “delivery” and “intermediate” codecs???? Do you understand the difference?

As I explained, DV-AVI is NOT, I repeat, NOT, a delivery codec. It’s an intermediate codec. It’s 25 to 50mbps! This is simply unrealistic and NOT what users want. It’s an editing/archiving format, not a viewing format.

And besides, the AppleTV does not support DV-AVI anyway. And don’t talk about re-encodings, because that would constitute TWO encodings, which is again, not what the user wants.

>So why do you care about the ATVs misgivings so much?

Because I WANTED ONE. I was ready to shell out cash, as I blogged about it a few days ago. But I needed it to work as you would expect from a “video playback device”.


l3v1 wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 1:28 PM PST:

“created WMV. I only know that it’s a POPULAR __codec__” [emph added]

Ahem.


Collin wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 1:29 PM PST:

Wow. Are you an only child? You are so self focused it is unreal. I just got off the phone with Steve and told him his plan to make fun of Eugenia’s needs was a rousing success. He seemed pleased. I am done trying to make you realize that not everything can be exactly as you want it all the time and to accept things are they are. You obviously only care about your needs and your perception of what others want. I have been quite happy with my ATV since I got it. It does everything I need it to do. Sure it required a little “upgrading” but there is little out there that will perform as you want it right out of the box. Blame the industry and lawyers for that.

Sorry that the ATV isn’t for you. Maybe something will come along that is. Until then I don’t think your world is going to collapse.


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Eugenia wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 1:30 PM PST:

What’s your point l3v1? Are you gonna bore us with such puny details instead of actually contributing to the discussion with any real meaning? Codec or not, WMV or not, the point is, it’s popular with home movie exports. That’s all that matters.


Collin wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 1:31 PM PST:

I see you edited you last comment so my reply will not make much sense to other readers. Go job covering up your ride in the waaaaambulance.


l3v1 wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 1:31 PM PST:

“Apple seems to think that buying or renting Hollywood movies it’s all what constitutes “video”.”

Not really. They just made a product that is intended [by them] to be used that way. And the sentence has just ended there at the dot.


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Eugenia wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 1:31 PM PST:

>You are so self focused it is unreal.

Yes. I guess because I am not a format racist. Because I ask for a product that makes sense. Because I have the GUTS to call on his holiness Steve.


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Eugenia wrote on January 15th, 2008 at 1:34 PM PST:

>I see you edited you last comment so my reply

COLIN: I NEVER EDITED ANYTHING of what you wrote. I only edited my own comment to add the information about the difference between intermediate and delivery codecs. Get real! If you don’t understand the difference between the intermediate and delivery codecs, then you should not even be replying to this video-related blog.

> They just made a product that is intended [by them] to be used that way.

Well, they can have it then. If the sentence truly ends on that dot, then there is absolutely nothing else to discuss then! You made it absolutely clear that the AppleTV is NOT a general purpose video playback device, but a Hollywood-endorsed device made by them, for their own commercial purposes alone.

This discussion is closed then! We agree then that this is not the video product I am looking for or thought I was! Thanks for clearing this out, this settles it.


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