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One should be able to play any iTunes purchases on Apple TV, without iTunes Match. There is no technical reason this cannot be accomplished. Apple wants you to pay to subscribe to iTunes Match. I can overlook this to some extent. After all, if you are playing albums off Apple’s servers, rather than downloading them, it will cost Apple money. Apple TV only has 8GB of storage, which isn’t user-manageable, so you can’t really use it to download and store iTunes albums. If this feature is important to you, just pay the $25/year for iTunes Match. It’s not worth it to me, even at that low price.
It’s also surprising that iTunes on a Mac or PC can’t be used as an AirPlay receiver. Your iOS device should also be able to receive AirPlay content. There are apps that can make up for this shortcoming. It would be nice, however, if AirPlay could work in all directions, out of the box. Apple has implemented the use cases that make the most sense. However, sometimes there are use cases that they didn’t expect. Would someone want to watch Apple TV video on their iPad? Most likely not, but who knows? For all these unexpected use-cases, there’s an app for that — the AirFoil Speakers Touch app can turn your iOS device into an AirPlay receiver. AirPlayer can turn your Mac into an AirPlay receiver. The only restricted case is beaming video content from Apple TV to external receivers. You can only beam the audio track.
Perhaps if Apple opens up Apple TV to third party developers, there will be more options. There is a rumor that a beta version of an Apple TV update will activate the BlueTooth capabilities in Apple TV 2 and 3 models. Some presume this means Apple TV will work with game controllers and become a gaming platform. It’s definitely possible. With its A4 or A5 chip running a different version of iOS, your Apple TV is really just an iOS device. It can do gaming just as well as an iPad or iPhone. While Apple TV’s limited storage is an issue, a purchased video game can be re-uploaded and re-installed as needed. iOS apps are not huge.
The prospect of a more open Apple TV with third party apps is quite exhilarating. One thing I love about Apple products is that the same product you bought two years ago gets upgrades that make it better. I can’t say that for Apple’s competitors, who expect users to shell out for new hardware, without so much as one major update. I’m critical of Apple, but they do have my loyalty — for now.
Apart from Netflix, this Apple TV update is much more stable than it’s predecessor. If Netflix is your main source of entertainment, skip this release. Hulu Plus, however, works like a charm now. Improvements in AirPlay and other features make this new release useful for most people.