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Friday, July 25, 2008

Jailbreak Apple TV

Often what happens when consumer technology doesn't live up to its potential is hackers, open communities, and hobby enthusiasts jump into the void and began writing personal solutions to their hardware/software needs.

We saw it with the iPhone when an instant community of programmers and open source developers jumped forward and jailbroke the iPhone and iPod Touch so they could load their own applications and break free from ATT contracts. Then, last month Apple opened the platform and the iPhone coupled with the Apps Store is a revolutionary new device in the world of mobile computing.

Now, let's hope this same process occurs with Apple TV. As it is the Apple TV is a woefully inadequate device as a closed system. In the world of set-top boxes and digital media devices, it is non-finisher even after its upgrade to include movie rentals and purchased downloads.

Apple enthusiasts will say that Apple is hamstrung by a film and entertainment industry that restricts its ability to innovate and provide the solutions its users are asking for and even demanding. If so, it is time for the hackers to step up.

For instance, Apple has a USB port in the back of the Apple TV that is terribly under-utilized. Why can't this port be used to connect a backup hard drive or accept a flash drive for load your home movies directly into Apple TV? What can't this same USB port be used to connect 3rd party hardware like EyeTV? or a $99 DVD player like the one Apple makes for MacBook Air?

Why can't the Apple TV communicate with the web directly using a Apple TV specific redesigned version of the Safari browser just like your iPhone? (Actually, it can with an easy fix.) Why can't I run iTunes direcly on Apple TV and purchase music I don't want filling the hard drive on my Mac? Why can't Apple create a platform for developers to write entertainment, news and information, health and fitness apps as well as games for the Apple TV?

There are so many kludgy things broken with Apple TV that Apple programmers refuse to fix (just try typing URLs or word searches on Apple TV) that the hacker community must now step forward and change the terms of the game and improve the concept.

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