A neat new feature is coming to Apple TV, Apple’s (AAPL) set-top box, without Apple’s help. No, it’s not a DVD drive, which we suggested yesterday. But clever coders have devised an easier way to add more software to your Apple TV — including the geek-popular Xbox Media centre, and if you’re signed for the alpha test, similar set-top software from NYC-based Boxee.
How does it work? The instructions aren’t exactly made for normal people, but if you have some technical experience, you should be OK: Just download some free software to your Mac, which will install some files onto a USB flash drive. Then plug that into the USB port on the back of your Apple TV. Reboot, and the media centre software installs itself.
What’s the point? The new tools let you play different types of media — not just iTunes-compatible stuff — that Apple TV doesn’t support out of the box, like Divx AVI files, Xvids, etc. And Boxee also adds hooks into social media services, like Last.fm, etc.
None of this is supported by Apple, of course, so a software update could break it at any point. And because the installation process is still a bit dense — and the benefits a bit fringe — it’s not something we expect mainstream people to do. But it’s not like mainstream people are buying Apple TVs in any meaningful quantity anyway! Meanwhile, for nerd-types or movie pirates, it could be a handy add-on — and one more reason to buy an Apple TV.
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