When Steve Jobs announced Apple's new lineup of gadgets at Macworld in January (listen on iTunes or stream it), all eyes were focused on the planned release of the iPhone. Relatively lost in the commotion, however, was Apple TV, which started shipping this week. (Check it out in our Amazon store.) Despite the name, Apple TV doesn't come with a TV. But, for $299, you do get a piece of hardware that lets you wirelessly sync your iTunes collection to your widescreen TV. And, with that, you can watch downloaded movies, TV shows, and video podcasts in a much more suitable and pleasurable environment. (Eventually, you'll be able to watch videos via Apple TV in high def.) If given the choice between watching your video downloads on a small iPod screen or a cushy plasma TV in your living room, the decision becomes a no-brainer. The new gadget instantly makes Apple a credible player in the video distribution market, and it clearly furthers along the company's transformation into a more diversified consumer-electronics and media company.
For Open Culture readers, Apple TV has some benefits on the near horizon. Over the past several months, we've noticed more podcasts coming out in a video flavor. (See our podcast library.) And that trend should only pick up over time. (Indeed, Robert X. Cringley, the astute observer of tech trends, foresees a video glut this year that could overwhelm the current capacity of the Net.) Thanks to Apple TV, you might soon be able to use your television as much as your iPod to consume high quality cultural content. And this may become all the more true if the rumors pan out that Apple and Google have been talking about distributing Google Video through iTunes. Just think of the possibilities that lie ahead.