Let's start with the new Airport Extreme, which didn't get much love in the MacWorld keynote, but is a key component to easily enabling AppleTV. The now old Airport Extreme had some things missing that are fixed in the new Airport Extreme, notably:
- Built-in security. Finally a hardware firewall without having to use a separate device. For wireless there is WPA/WPA2 natively built-in and 128-bit WEP if you still need to use that. An additional benefit is very detailed MAC address screening with rules definition that looks pretty easy to use.
- Sharing. Still only one built-in USB port, but you can add a USB hub to split the port into more functions. As with the last Airport Extreme, the USB port allows printer sharing, but now also allows disk sharing through the Extreme rather than needing a computer to share a disk, which is really cool. I'm interested to see more information about the Airport Disk Utility to see if it allows RAID configurations of attached disks, which would be a very useful feature.
- Form factor. The shape of the Extreme has changed dramatically, making it look much more like a Mac Mini -- perhaps it's even the same size as a Mini to allow stacking.
- 3 built-in ethernet ports. The last Extreme had only one port that you had to put into a hub in order to provide wired network connections, but the new Extreme has a 3-port hub built-in, which is very nice.
- Mac or PC. It use to be that you had to have a Mac to properly configure the Airport Extreme, though once it was configured, it worked with any wireless device. The new Airport Extreme will apparently be configurable from either platform.
- Speed. The new Extreme is 802.11 draft-n, which is a much faster wireless networking speed. In addition, the Extreme supposedly ships with an activation CD that allows you to turn on the 802.11 draft-n networking capabilities in your Intel Core2Duo machine (i.e., my MacBook Pro). This feature is also very important is it relates to AppleTV
AppleTV is the little box that will sit right next to your television set that will allow you to dump music and video from your computer. Inside the box is an Intel processor and a 40gb hard drive that will presumably buffer items sent from your Mac in order to ensure that you have uninterrupted clarity of video on your computer. Although the resolution coming out of the box is only 720P, which has some in the blogosphere up in arms, I am perfectly happy with 720P as a resolution especially as the AppleTV will include a HDMI connection to transmit both hi-def audio and video. Obviously AppleTV will work most effectively if you are streaming to it with 802.11 draft-n, which would presumably cause the purchase of an Airport Extreme.
Both AppleTV and the Airport Extreme are slated to ship in February and if you order them now, they each qualify for free shipping. I added both an AppleTV and an Airport Extreme to my shopping cart and came up with a total cost of $478 for both items with no AppleCare protection for either item -- AppleCare protection is available for both items at an additional cost.