Apple made its biggest move yet into the living room on Wednesday by starting shipments of the Apple TV box, a gizmo that lets people take music, photos and video stored on a computer and play them on a television screen.
The small silver box with a white Apple logo costs $299 and can store up to 50 hours of video, 9,000 songs, 25,000 photos or a combination thereof. It is available this week at Apple's online store, retail stores, and also from resellers.
A remote control lets user watch movies or TV shows bought from Apple's iTunes store, view photo slide shows, or listen to music.
One of the chief complaints is that the Apple TV does not -- at least for now -- record TV shows, which means it cannot replace digital video recorders like the TiVo.
Apple TV works with the iTunes digital jukebox that runs on either Macintosh or Windows computers, and with the integration of the two, gives users access to more than 400 movies, 350 TV shows in near-DVD quality, more than 4 million songs, 5,000 music videos and myriad podcasts and audio books.
The company hopes the burgeoning amount of content sold on iTunes, which has fueled sales of the Apple's leading iPod digital music player, can also spur sales of Apple TV, Macs and other Apple products.
Apple TV synchronizes with one computer and content downloaded from iTunes is transferred to the 40-gigabyte hard drive in the device for direct playback on high-definition TVs. Users can link the box, about 8 inches square and an inch tall, to as many as five other computers.
While iTunes is by far the largest online store for digital content, Apple TV also offers a limited ability to stream other content from the Web, such as film trailers and song previews.
Over the past year, TV networks and movie studios have increasingly made their shows available online. That spurred a flurry of gadgets and services that connect the PC to the TV -- including those from Microsoft, Sony and TiVo -- but none has emerged as a clear winner.