AMITIAE - Friday 19 July 2013

Apple TV in Thailand: At Last; Again

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

Apple TV

Back in June 2007, I attended an Apple press conference for the arrival of the Apple TV here. The event was well-attended and as usual with the events as they were held then, some useful information was passed on, although it was clear then that not all features of the device were to be made available here.

Over the next couple of years, the Apple TV sold reasonable numbers, and a few hotels installed them. Users were, in general quite happy. Then the Apple TV disappeared and the only new ones being installed were owned by those coming in from abroad, such as expatriate workers and Thais returning home from external postings.

Earlier this week, a message from a user on Twitter alerted me to the new availability of the Apple TV in the online Apple Store for Thailand. Another helpful user also tweeted the information the next morning. Some might not know without such messages. At its price of 3,800 baht it compared reasonably with the US $99 tag. At today's currency rates converting that US figure to baht, then adding 7% to take account of VAT, gives 3,288 baht: a 512 baht or $16.50 difference.

I ordered mine right away on Monday evening and it was on its way the next morning, arriving (as scheduled) by UPS on Friday afternoon. I unboxed it at my office and had a look at the contents.

Of particular interest to me was that, while the device has not been available here for a number of years, the exterior packaging indicated a Thai-specific serial number, also with technical information in Thai.

AppleTV label AppleTV manual

Thai Language Labels and Scanned Manual

Inside, the small manual was also in Thai. The quality suggested there was no hastiness here: the contents inferred a full preparation for the Thai market. I had recently found that the new Airport Express Router that I bought also had a Thai language manual. Although the new router can use the new 802.11 ac Wi-Fi standard, the Apple TV only has the ability to use 802.11n networks. There is also Ethernet of course.

Although the ports and connections at the rear of the Apple TV box are self-explanatory, I took the time to download a manual for the device in English.

Once powered up and connected to the TV I was surprised by the voice assistance and pressed the wrong button on the remote, having the over-helpful commentary assist me at every point until I returned to the menu and found the settings to turn the good lady off.

Setting up the Wi-Fi was not wholly convenient. The device found the available networks right away and it was a one click operation to select the right one, but then I had to enter a password. The information in the manual tells us

Use the Apple Remote to:

  1. Select your network from the list, or enter your network name if the network is hidden.
  2. Enter your network password (if you use one).

. . . but we are not told that entering a password, needs each character to be selected from the box on the screen. This is in three sections: abc (lower case), ABC (upper case), and other characters (such as *&#$][) as I use such characters, this meant a tedious selection process and a single character error meant I had to start over. A keyboard option might have made this much easier, but there is no mention of this in the manual.

Once done, I set up the Home Sharing on the Mac and began to explore the menus on the TV screen. I also set up my iTunes account on the Apple TV so - if I ever want - I can purchase or rent movies directly without having to use the computer. This did of course need another two lengthy character-entering processes for the account and the password. Annoyingly some of the movie trailers in the iTunes Store were in Thai. I would have liked an option for English as well.

I did run a couple of movies that are on the MacBook Pro. I also tried one from the iPhone once I had set up Air Sharing on that device. In my search round the new interface - new to me, that is - I found that on the main menu screen as well as movies, music, computers and settings were links to two services available here: Qello and Crunchyroll.

Qello bills itself as the largest library of HD concerts and music documentaries on-demand. There is a 7-day free trial. The service costs $4.99 a month.

Crunchyroll is a service that streams anime videos. There were four sample movies to try and the one I had a look at did have English subtitles. Like Qello there is a 1 week free trial, but the cost differs, with Anime membership at $6.99 per month, and All-access Membership at $11.99 per month.

The services on the Apple TV here are not the same as those available in other markets.

Using the Apple TV I was able to play music that is on the Mac or the iPhone, although the quality of the TV speakers was not really up to Hi-Fi standards. This will do for background music.

As well as the Apple TV and the power cord, the box that the device came in contains an Apple Remote. I found that when I used this for the Apple TV, it was controlling some functions on the Mac. I followed the instructions for pairing (hold down the Menu and Right buttons), but the Mac was still affected. As I have an unpaired remote for the Mac, I went through pairing for that device and now both behave themselves.

The arrival of the Apple TV in this market after several years of absence may suggest one or two motives that Apple has in mind. The uncharitable might think that this is a clearing out of stock before a new Apple TV is released.

Others may see this as part of a wider strategy: now that there is better access to music and movies via the iTunes store (rather than just apps and podcasts as before), it makes more sense for users in these expanded markets to be able to access content using the device. It may also be part of Apple's strategy to increase the sharing of content between devices within the home.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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