Dreaming About An Apple HDTV? Try These Alternatives Right Now

People clearly want Apple to make an HDTV. Read the comments in my Apple HDTV debunking post. There are lot of readers dreaming of the day when their whole entertainment ecosystem is made by Apple. Personally, that thought scares the hell out of me but I kind of get it. Assembling a working AV rack, complete with a DVR, DVD player, and a media streamer connected to network-attached storage is a lot of work and is something not everyone can do. People dream of an HDTV they can take home, hook up to their network and have instant access to apps, games, and TV content.

But you know what? Many of these dream features are already available in many TV models from multiple brands. We brainstormed a list of likely Apple HDTV features and then compared it against the features found on some of the most popular HDTVs and set-top boxes. You might be surprised at the results. VOD and Internet apps are alive and well on many HDTVs right now. The list after the jump is no where near comprehensive. Sony, for instance, has 20 current models capable of streaming internet video from a ton of sources, along with hooking up with social networks and accessing local network content. Here are your Apple HDTVs.

Of course there’s one thing that Apple can do better than almost everyone else: the user interface. Currently, the expensive and complex Window Media Center offers the best UI and feature set, with TiVo and Moxi running closely behind; although the Boxee Box might give all three true competition when it launches this fall.

But Apple knows how to make killer user experiences and that might be the company’s one inroad to the HDTV market. Chances are the upcoming iTV — or whatever it will be called — will use a similar interface, but one would think that the more expensive Apple HDTV would use a more robust system to justify the higher price.

What scares me, however, is that since Apple isn’t a fan of open systems, my vision of an Apple HDTV is an iMac-looking display with three ports on the back — coax for OTA HD, some sort of digital/analog audio output and some sort of interface for an Apple A/V switch for, you know, just in case you want to use older, non-Apple equipment through HDMI, component or composite. It would be a throwaway device that you would get rid of when you’re ready to move on to something else.

The beauty of today’s TV is that it can slowly die while maintaining its usefulness. If the tuner goes out, connect a cable box. If that cable box dies, get another one. If there’s a new Blu-ray player, it’s compatible no matter the brand. If Apple attempts to overthrow the TV industry, I can see these liberties dying in the first battle.

It’s easy to see how one would think an Apple HDTV would start a revolution because, well, the whole TV market is sort of stale. It’s boring and Apple fixes boring. But that’s TVs in general and it’s a slower market than Apple is used to. Consumers expect to use their HDTVs and AV equipment for years, if not a whole generation. There simply isn’t the same type of market churn like in computers and cell phones.

But I digress. I’ve already said my piece on the subject (now twice) and you can dream whatever you want — or you can stop dreaming and use one of the products currently on the market that offers nearly the same feature set as the fabled Apple HDTV.