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Apple Computer, a maker of consumer electronics and personal computers (PCs), unveiled at the 40th annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, its set-top-box that allows streaming and movies wirelessly from PCs to TV sets as well as store them locally. The device will allow users to stream different kinds of content, still, currently the highest quality video will still be lower than that on DVD.

“Apple TV is like a DVD player for the 21st century – you connect it to your entertainment system just like a DVD player, but it plays digital content you get from the Internet rather than DVDs you get from a physical store. Apple TV plays the same iTunes content that users enjoy on their computers and iPods, so now they can even watch part of a movie in their living room, and watch the rest later on their iPod,” explained Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple.

Apple TV has a 40GB hard drive to store content, including movies, videos or photos locally and is compatible with Wi-Fi 802.11 b, g and draft-n standards. The set-top-box comes with HDMI, component video, analog and optical audio ports, but despite of the fact that HDMI supports up to 1080p (1920x1080 progressive scan) resolutions, Apple declares only up to 720p (1280x720 progressive scan) resolution for its Apple TV device.

Videos purchased from the iTunes 7 Store are downloaded in near-DVD quality at a resolution of 640x480 (up to 480, depending on the aspect ratio) and currently can be played on computers and iPods. With the Apple TV device consumers will be able to watch the movies on their TV-sets as well. The question is whether end-users would like to watch movies in lower quality than even conventional DVDs offer (720x480 [NTSC] or 720x576 [PAL] resolution with Dolby Digital audio). Consumer electronics companies, such as Sony, Panasonic or Toshiba, are now pushing high definition videos with crisp 1920x1080 pixels resolution and DTS or Dolby Digital Plus audio very hard and unless Apple increases resolution of movies sold through iTunes, the destiny of the Apple TV will remain uncertain.

Apple TV, which includes the Apple Remote, will be shipping in February through the Apple Store, Apple’s retail stores and Apple authorized resellers for a suggested retail price of $299. Apple TV requires iTunes 7 as well as wireless network.

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