Large capability in a small box
At just $99.00 (USD) and measuring only 3.9" square by less than an inch tall, expectations may not be great. But the device's compact size and shape proves misleading and even advantageous.
The device's small size makes it easy to mount to the back of a large-screen TV using only inexpensive zip ties. Add a simple HDMI cable for connecting to the display, and you're in business.
Once linked to a large-screen TV, the device makes it easy to connect Macs and iOS devices, including iPhones and iPads. Thanks to AirPlay, web pages, photos, documents, spreadsheets, videos, presentations, and other content are all easily displayed on the conference or meeting room display. A few clicks are all that are required.
Thanks to the teaming of AirPlay and HDMI, both audio and video information is forwarded from the connected Apple device -- be it a laptop, smartphone, or tablet -- without the need for additional cables. Bulky audio and video cables don't need to be run awkwardly from the wall- or desk-mounted display to a conference room table or dedicated PC, and you don't need to route cables neatly within the walls, which proves expensive, disruptive, and unnecessary. Apple TV leverages wireless connectivity to make it all happen.
Under the hood, the Apple TV's specifications are impressive. The device supports H.264 video up to 1080p at 30 frames per second, MPEG-4 video up to 2.5 Mbps, and M-JPEG up to 35 Mbps. Supported audio formats include HE-AAC, AAC, MP3 VBR and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. Ultimately, Apple promises the set-top box is compatible with high-definition televisions boasting HDMI connectivity capable of 1080p HD.
Assuming the organization already possesses an 802.11a, b, g, or n Wi-Fi network, the set-top box is easily connected to the Internet. The box also possesses a wired Ethernet port, making it possible to connect directly to wired networks if a standard Ethernet connection is readily available.
Thus, in addition to providing businesses with the ability to leverage conference and meeting room displays for presentations powered by Macs, iPhones and iPads, organizations can also feature content available from iTunes, Netflix, Flickr, YouTube, The Weather Channel, Sky News, WSJ Live, and Vimeo, among other services.
All told, that's a lot of audio, video, and presentation power packed within one small device. The cost doesn't bust the budget. Operation doesn't require re-architecting meeting spaces. Cheap, simple, and effective, the marriage is a compelling combination for any business.
Does your organization take advantage of Apple TV? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.