I met with HP this morning to hear how its new MediaSmart TVs work with your Media Center PC ecosystem. (Takeaway: the TVs will play your PC-stored digital media, but you have to use Windows Media Player 11, and FairPlay-protected media from the iTunes Store won't work. Also, the built-in 802.11n wireless networking is a much-needed high-bandwidth touch.) The highlight of the meeting, though, was when a member of HP's PR team stepped in to hand the PR manager giving the presentation a write-up of the just-announced Apple TV device.
In a heretofore-unseen display of marketing agility, and before he was even halfway done reading the memo, the flack jumped into a point-for-point breakdown of why the external Apple TV is inferior to the value and functionality of HP's MediaSmart TVs. With MediaSmart you get the PC connectivity functionality built into a 1080p display, but with Apple TV, he cited, you still need the screen, and it will support output up to only 720p. He also pointed to out that while Apple TV will, naturally, play iTunes Store content, the movie selection is limited to about 300 titles, and all from one studio. With HP partnering with CinemaNow, you can download more than 4,000 titles from multiple movie houses directly to a MediaSmart television.
For myself, I like the idea of both, at least based on what I've heard. AppleTV has the benefit of letting you hook it up to any screen you want to, while 1080p output gives the MediaSmart TV the quality edge. I can even see a situation in which you'd connect the Apple TV to a MediaSmart TV, or a similar home network-aware TV. In that scenario, everyone's a winner.