Models show the Apple TV, a set-top box that connects multiple PCs to a TV set, at a showcase held in Seoul Monday. Users can watch down-
loaded movies and dramas on a regular TV screen using a remote control. / Courtesy of Apple
By Cho Jin-seo
Apple started selling its Internet TV adapter in South Korea on Monday with the tough mission of competing against a pack of low-cost, higher-quality video platforms.
The new Apple TV is expected to follow the path of the iPod music player in Korea, which has had mediocre sales here in comparison to the huge success it had in the United States and other regions.
The Apple TV, priced at 319,000 won here and $300 in the United States, acts as an intermediary between a TV and PC, enabling users to watch movies they have downloaded on their PCs on the bigger TV screen. But tech-savvy Korean consumers have showed little interest in it, as similar but cheaper services such as IPTV and DIVX movie players have already been abundant here, ruining the video rental industry.
``As well as the expensive price, the Apple isn't really that good,'' a consumer said at danawa.com, the largest Internet electronics shopping mall in Korea, where negative comments ruled. ``With 300,000 won, I'd rather buy a cheap computer and wireless Internet equipment,'' another said.
Apple said that the main idea of the new TV adapter is its wireless connectivity.
``The greatest advantage of Apple TV is that you can enjoy what you have in your PC on a high-definition screen through a wireless connection,'' a public relations official said.
Another hindrance to the Apple TV is the absence of an iTunes Store service in Korea, which sells songs and movies online with a click. Apple sold more than 1 billion songs through the store at around $1 per song, but the California-based firm has been reluctant to launch it in Korea. ``We are not considering opening it in Korea,'' the Apple official said.
Introduced by CEO Steve Jobs in January's Macworld Expo, the Apple TV has received highlights in the United States as the next big thing after the iPod music player. Pundits have said that it marks the beginning of the digital convergence era, where TV broadcasting, PCs and the Internet are merged into a single service.
On the contrary, Koreans' reaction was rather cold. Thanks to the high penetration of broadband Internet and loose government supervision on piracy, young Koreans already enjoy watching downloaded movies, usually illegal copies.
The most promising player in the block has been the so-called DIVX player. Users download pirated DVD-quality movie and drama files on their PCs via peer-to-peer services, and copy them into a flash memory card or a portable hard disk drive. The DIVX player is capable of reading both the memory card and hard disk drive on a full-HD screen, just as a DVD player reads from DVD media.
More than a dozen makers are selling the DIVX players in Korea at affordable prices and made-in-China products are available at less than 50,000 won, a price that Apple is unlikely to match.
Other strong local competitors are IPTV services, such as Hana TV of Hanaro Telecom and Megapass TV from KT. Those Internet TV services play video-on-demand movies through a monthly subscription fee. According to the company, Hana TV has more than 400,000 subscribers as of last month, a big jump from 40,000 last August.