We know, we know...Every few months some new (or just new on the scene) product, application or service comes along and everyone starts talking about how it will change the media center for good. They talk about how TVs won't exist anymore and how we'll all have hard drives attached to our screens and get our TV shows, music and movies over the internet. Apple TV does an OK job of putting that future on the horizon, but when you combine an Apple TV unit with free online application Boxee...
What is Boxee? Think of Boxee as an open source, cross platform Swiss Army knife solution for media streaming and content, most notably opening doors normally closed for Apple TV users: Hulu, Netflix, ABC, CBS, Comedy Central, Youtube.com, Last.fm, and Flickr integration all within a user friendly interface. It's what Apple TV should have been from the get go.
By adding Boxee Apple TV users or any TV-connected computer also apply the aditional layer of social networking feature that ties your media device to FriendFeed, Twitter, and Tumblr, while also integrating Boxee specific user/friends recommendations and playlists. We're already Boxee users ourselves, complimenting our XBMC media center software; both were installed after we followed this pretty darn easy step by step tutorial. All you need is time and a flash drive.
The Apple TV makes for an excellent cable or satellite replacement (though we admit we've kept our own DishNetwork subscription for now, thanks to NBA season). Starting at $200, the fairly affordable Apple TV unit complimented by Boxee solution offers users a plethora of media options, including movie purchase, rentals, Flickr integration, Airtune broadcasting from your computer, weather reports (via XBMC), direct file transfer via GUI file transfer (we use Fugu and it's simplified the wait between transferring media from our laptop to the Apple TV tenfold) and playback of just about any video or music file anywhere on your network not normally available to Apple TV software itself.
So what's stopped us from cutting ourselves off from digital satellite service completely. Two things: Apple TV's limited selection of back catalog films. We've been supplementing our movie choices via Boxee, XBMC and The Auteurs, skipping actual broadcast times for our favourite shows like LOST and just watching them in large commercial free increments (without the need for TIVO or their ilk) after downloading them via the iTunes Store. But it's specifically sporting events that's kept us tethered to the monthly obligation; sports events in full HD, in real time is still one of the missing links in an Apple TV-only existence. Just food for thought for those of your considering the Apple TV/Boxee route. For now, Apple TV remains the Robin to our DSS's Batman...but we look forward to the day we can ditch cable altogether and just download/purchase content a la carte to our heart's content.
Additional edits: gregory