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Hands-on with the underwhelming Apple TV 3.0 update

Regardless of some of the breathless comments coming out about the Apple TV 3.0 update, it appears that Apple TV is still a "hobby" to Apple. That is my impression after updating my Apple TV this afternoon and giving it a short run around the block.

To start with, I need to qualify this post with a quick reminder that I rarely use my Apple TV. But the gyrations I went through to get it updated are an indication that it still needs a real update, not just a facelift.

I began the update by turning on my Panasonic Viera Plasma TV and flipping the various switches to get the Apple TV on the display. Shortly after, the Apple TV woke up from a few months of sleep and I began flipping screens to find the Update button. I saw something that said "Downloads," and decided that was where I needed to go.

It asked for my Apple ID and password, and then told me I had the password wrong or it couldn't find the Apple ID. All of this was done not by typing on a keyboard, but by using the old white plastic Apple remote to pick one letter at a time off of a grid of letters and numbers. So much for Apple's vaunted skills in user interface design...
I had to do this a few times before suddenly realizing that I had never updated the Wi-Fi WPA2 security password on the Apple TV after I installed an AirPort Extreme earlier this year. That irritated me in two ways -- first, I had wasted ten minutes re-entering the password and Apple ID several times, and second, the Apple TV never told me that it was having network problems.

Finally I had a nice link to the AirPort Extreme, and I looked around again, finally finding the Update button under the Settings menu. The update took about 7 minutes altogether between the download and installation, and at the end of that time the usual Apple TV startup movie appeared.

The interface is different, I'll grant you that. It seems that the menus load a lot faster than they used to, they look better, and navigation with the Apple Remote seems to be more fluid than before. But there are no new real sources of content. You have your same choice of iTunes on a local Mac or two, the iTunes Store, or YouTube. There's no Hulu, and no Netflix. Just the same old stuff.

The big changes, which I had to read the official press release to figure out, are the addition of iTunes Extras and iTunes LP, as well as the ability to listen to Genius Mixes through your home theater system if it's attached to the Apple TV. As an official member of the old guy club, I'm not sure I'm all that thrilled about Extras and LP, although I'm sure many of our readers probably are. Wake me up when they do a virtual box collection of Steely Dan tunes with HD video clips from the current concert tour.

I took a few "screen shots" off of the TV while the update was in progress. Be sure to check out the gallery below to see them. If there are any other Apple TV owners out there who were more impressed by the update than I was, leave a comment with your views below.


Regardless of some of the breathless comments coming out about the Apple TV 3.0 update, it appears that Apple TV is still a "hobby" to...