03:46 AM

WSJ: Rave reviews for Apple TV

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg and Katherine Boehret ran a review of Apple TV on Friday and it's a rave review.

Bottom line: It rocks.

This silvery little $299 gadget is designed to play and display on a widescreen family-room TV set all the music, video and photos stored on up to six computers around the house -- even if they are far from the TV, and even if they are all Windows PCs rather than Apple's own Macintosh models.

In our tests, it worked great, and we can easily recommend it for people who are yearning for a simple way to show on their big TVs all that stuff trapped on their computers. We tried it with various combinations of Windows and Mac computers, with movies, photos, TV shows, video clips and music. And we didn't even use the fastest wireless network it can handle. It performed flawlessly.

Mossberg and Boehret say Apple's design brilliance is in not trying to do too many things. Apple TV does one thing: It takes content from your computers and it plays them on your TV. So it's not a "mess of complexity." Although it would be nice if it did a bit more, like stream content from the Net.

Apple is hoping that, just as the iPod trumped earlier, but geekier, rivals, Apple TV can do the same by making a complex task really simple.

Compared to the Xbox 360, Apple TV is limited: you can't use it to purchase content directly from the Web or even iTunes (that, no doubt will change.) And of course you can't play games with it. But XBox is 50% more expensive, much larger and stores half the content.

It is of course the only device that can play FairPlay-encoded material bought from iTunes but it can't play stuff encrypted with Microsoft DRM.

Apple TV's most important limitation is that it can't stream much video or audio directly from the Internet -- yet. The capability to go directly to the Internet, bypassing the computers in your home, is built in, but is initially being used only to fetch feature film trailers and short preview clips of popular songs, TV shows and movies sold on the iTunes store. Apple TV also won't allow you to buy media directly from the iTunes store. You must first download content from the Internet or iTunes on a computer, and then Apple TV will grab it from the computer and play it on the TV.

In its usual secretive fashion, Apple refuses to say if or when this direct-to-the-Internet capability will be expanded. But we fully expect Apple to add the capability to stream or download a variety of content directly from the Internet, and that this new capability will be available on current Apple TV boxes through software updates.