I still haven’t decided whether I will buy an Apple TV or not. The only thing that is holding me back is the fact that in order to stream video to that device, the files have to be added to an iTunes library. Since my main machine is a laptop, my HD is relatively small and I cannot afford to keep all my videos on it. Instead I have to rely on an external disk that is seldom connected to my MacBook Pro. Therefore, I do not feel that iTunes is the best tool to manage my video files. Obviously, another problem is the fact that many of these files are encoded in formats not compatible with the AppleTV, although they can be played fine using quicktime with additional codecs.
I know that I am not alone, many share this very same problem. Right now everyone seems to be either re-encoding all their video library or trying to solve the problem by hacking the Apple TV. One solution requires to open the device, extract the HD, mount it on a Mac and add additional quicktime codecs. Even though there are still some remaining problems with this solution, I am confident that, in time, it will work. However, no matter how clever the solution, it will still require users to open the AppleTV and void the warranty.
I think there is better way. Why not write an application that pretends to be iTunes (by advertising as such using Bonjour) in order to communicate with the AppleTV. This would allow to stream any video file to the AppleTV, since iTunes and the Apple TV most probably exchange video frames, no matter what format the file is encoded in on the remote Mac.
I know, this is not a trivial project, otherwise I would try to do it myself over a week-end. However, I am confident that it can be done. Airfoil did something similar for AirTunes by allowing any sound produced on the Mac to be streamed to an Airport Express, not just iTunes songs. The nice thing about such an application is that it would make it easy to play any file stored in a designated folder without requiring to hack the AppleTV. So, what do you think, is anyone up to the challenge? I pledge US$100 to the project. Is anyone else interested?