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appleTVCorrect me if I’m wrong, but every Apple product I’ve ever seen can be turned OFF (except for the iPod shuffle).  In the storied annals of consumer electronics, I am betting there’s generally a good reason for this.  In my naive experience, things that are OFF can rarely experience problems when in that mode.

Now, I was an early adopter of the Apple TV.  Since then I have had a love/hate relationship with the device, which I think is rather something Steve wishes he had not hit the launch button for.

There is an obscure feature (Steve has an aversion to buttons) wherein if you hold down the “PLAY” button for five seconds, the Apple TV appears to turn off.  But here’s the rub:  It doesn’t, really.  To perform its magic, the AppleTV needs to be able to sync with or stream from a remote PC/Mac.  However, this doesn’t mean it needs to be on all the time.  But it is.   

Strangely, Apple TVs cannot, under any circumstance, be turned off.  This is kind of a pain when you sleep in the same room as an Apple TV, or when it’s summertime.  Or worse:  both.  The tiny little fan desperately struggling to keep your Apple TV’s processor, hard drive and logic board from melting works pretty hard.  As a result, it spins .. well .. all the time.  The only way to give your Apple TV a break is to unplug it.

An OFF function that actually turns the Apple TV OFF (from a user’s perspective .. this would probably actually hibernate) would be a novel and downright sensible function, don’t you think Steve?

In the Apple TV’s world, the “standby” functions merely disable video output.  Otherwise the Apple TV functions as normal — chewing up power, creating heat, and making noise.  Most of this time it’s doing nothing … just waiting to sync.  How boring life as an Apple TV must be!

Myriad problems are created by Apple’s aversion to this simple function:

  1. Frequent overheating of the device (this past August you could cook with it)
  2. Unwelcome fan/drive noise (my ATV is in the bedroom) … which leads to
  3. Media corruptions when users shut off the ATV the only way they can, by unplugging it or kicking the OFF button on a power bar

I admit that last problem afflicts me frequently, and I am on my second hard drive.. with such small hard drives (40GB or 160GB?  come ON) syncing a large library fills up the drive on the ATV pretty fast, and leads inevitably to various corruptions.. all made worse when power is roughly disconnected by sleepless owners like me.

There is nothing whatsoever to prevent the Apple TV from implementing a soft-power-off and waking the device sporadically to see if there’s new content on the iTunes library or store and then deep-sleeping again after a sync is done.  Nothing to inhibit a simple click of the all-powerful PLAY button on the remote from waking the Apple TV from its slumber within a few seconds, rising to the challenge of trying to render HD video — as it so often struggles to do.

The frustrating thing about the Apple TV is that it’s so very close to being the best product in the category — but inattention to detail and downright boneheadedness in its software implementation, combined with very poor hardware performance, make it almost useless as a mainstream consumer device.

I have hundreds of consumer electronics products in my home. The only other device that doesn’t turn OFF is my fridge.  Get with the program, guys.  Now that Apple is trying to “go green” and appease board member Al Gore, among others, the always-on AppleTV is a black eye.

You’ll notice the Apple TV is conspicuously lacking an EnergySTAR compliance logo.  Wonder why?