New Apple TV sized doorstop

My Apple-powered home continues to grow – to go with the medley of Apple powered computers, screens and wireless kit, I’ve just added an Apple TV. I previously had no interest in them since as I really only use iTunes for music, and still haven’t bought in to the whole downloading and renting TV over the wires.

But when I learned that AirPlay – a feature of iOS 4.2 – would support streaming video over the air, it instantly had new appeal – I have an old TV that has no digital box so is essentially useless but AirPlay in theory meant that I could stream iPlayer from my iPad to the AppleTV and watch it on the TV.

Any H.264 content from the web can be broadcast over Airplay to your HDTV.

I’ve used AirPlay extensively in the house (with three Airport Express…) so figured this was a good solution, and reason enough to invest in an AppleTV. Apple’s marketing confirms this:

If it’s on iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, it’s on Apple TV. Coming Soon.

You can already stream music and video from your computer to Apple TV. With AirPlay, you can stream music and video from your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch too. So if you feel like watching a film you have on one of your devices, you don’t need to rent or buy it again. Just tap to start playing content on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, then tap again to instantly stream whatever you’re watching — or listening to — directly to Apple TV. AirPlay is coming soon to an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch near you.

Simple right? Except, it doesn’t work like that. Now that it’s hooked up, the only video that can be streamed to AppleTV from my iPad is from Apple apps, like the Video app. But since the video needs to be synced to the iPad (via iTunes) and then streamed, this is of little value. Embedded videos (e.g., YouTube) can stream their audio to the TV, but that’s of no value. Most pertinently, I can’t watch iPlayer off the iPad on the AppleTV. It’s unclear whether this is something the BBC could fix by creating a dedicated iPlayer App.

So for the first time in a long while, I’m left disappointed by a piece of Apple kit and the promises I’d heard. Maybe things will improve in time, but until then, it’s just going to be an albeit good looking but nevertheless very expensive dust catcher.

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