I bought my Dad an AppleTV for Christmas. An avid travel photographer, the intent was to use it to replace the Windows-based HP Media Smart “appliance” that he used for viewing streamed photos on the TV. (The HP worked great for a long while, but eventually stopped being able to index and display new photos – probably because there were so many.) Something else was needed, and perhaps the AppleTV would fit the bill?

Setup of the AppleTV was a breeze, only slightly easier than my experience last year with GoogleTV. His first reaction called to mind the quote about new technology being “sufficiently indistinguishable from magic”. Sitting next to the comparatively large AT&T U-Verse settop box and part-time heater, he was amazed that this tiny little black puck was capable of “so much”. And yet he barely had an inkling of the full capabilities.

Whereas my first thought was to the oft-repeated Steve Jobs quote in the Isaacson autobiography. I was wondering if by “finally cracked it”, he meant that he had figured out a way to make huge wads of cash from the TV market. Not by creating an easy-to-use Apple-designed TV, but by grabbing that 30% off-the-top cut for every iTunes transaction. With the exception YouTube/Vimeo and the streaming photos, nearly every AppleTV app involved a cash transaction somehow. Netflix, MLB, Hulu Plus. Even the Music app required an iTunes Match subscription. Very little free content, especially compared to Roku, Boxee, or GoogleTV. Even syndicated shows that are on 20 different channels at any given time of day are $0.99 or more on iTunes. Is death by a thousand cuts what “TV on demand” is all about? I had dollar signs in my head. As an Apple stockholder reading the revenue reports, I suppose that is fantastic. But as a consumer, not exactly thrilling; I can’t see Dad going far beyond the photo streaming.

PS: Apple, seriously? Only supporting one level of nested directories for the photos?!? Not fun with over 10,000 images. Please fix.