So Apple went ahead and reworked that little "hobby" as I had anticipated they would. The new Apple TV is shipping now and I think I'm going to be passing on it for a while. As a current ATV owner, there's really no good reason for me to get the new one at this point.
I'm not going to sit and rehash all of the changes/differences between the old one and the new one, but rather just make mention of a couple of key issues.
I think the biggest miss for Apple and the one that has me bothered the most is the failure to include apps for the platform. As we know, the new box is running hardware very similar to some of Apple's portable devices and is running a variant of iOS- it's essentially an iPod Touch without a screen. With the marketshare and mindshare that Apple has with its portables and the iPad, it's inconceivable as to why they wouldn't build in the ability to have apps on the Apple TV. I just can't understand why they wouldn't do it now. I can understand why they didn't have them initially, as the idea of "apps" was something that was not a part of the lexicon of the average user (which is now clearly Apple's intended market.) But now when every device is focused on having "apps" and as something that my Mom gets, it makes no sense why Apple wouldn't have them in this device.
The possibilities for having apps on the ATV are incredible. There are just so many apps that I use on my iPhone that would be perfect on the ATV in a living room setting. Besides a number of the native Apple apps, I can think of a number of apps that would greatly benefit from being on this platform- Pandora, LastFM, NFL Sunday Ticket, MLB- virtually any media, music, or photo app, not to mention the possibility for having games on the big screen! Imagine playing the popular Angry Birds game on your TV with your iPhone/iPod/iPad as the remote. There are a ton of other situations that would be great here and I just can't understand why they wouldn't make them available immediately.
Since the restriction is essentially a software issue, we could very likely see Apple just decide to allow devs the opportunity to develop for the ATV in the not too distant future. There's also the additional feature that Apple announced called AirPlay, which allows you to play media on your portable device on your Apple TV. If you have a movie that's on your iPad but not on your Apple TV, you can simply send it to the ATV and watch it on the big screen. Potentially, Apple could build in a way so that devs could add the ability to output to the ATV via AirPlay in the iPhone/iPod/iPad app. This would eliminate the need to develop ATV-specific apps. Although, I think ATV-specific apps would work well too.
The change from storing media on the device to streaming is also an interesting decision. It definitely points towards the idea that Apple will eventually offer a total streaming service, especially with their recent purchase of land in North Carolina that's allegedly for a new data center. But I still would have included a hard drive. As it stands, you have to have one of your computers on in order to stream content from your hard drive to the new ATV. So all the movies, photos, music you have on your computer need to be connected in order to be played on the ATV. That's a real pain, considering you don't have to do that now. There are times I just want to turn on my ATV and play the things I own. Granted, my computer is turned on 99% of the time, but that's not the point. What would be great is if Apple would just let you connect to a NAS drive so you wouldn't necessarily have to have the computer itself on. I'm planning to move some of my media to the drive that's attached to my Airport base station, but since my MBP is my primary machine, there are library issues I have to work out first. (If anyone has any tips/recommendations on how to have media on a NAS drive when running off a laptop, please, please, please let me know. I'd love to hear your setup/workflow. I hope to have a post up about this specific issue sometime soon.)
I think the ATV certainly has potential, but in its current state, I just can't see why I would get one since I already own an ATV. When the issues around apps are resolved, then I may be inclined to pick one up, especially since it's so much cheaper than the previous one. But for now, I'll stick with my current one.