Can Apple teach us a thing or two about convenience, convergence and customer service?

I finally bit the bullet and bought a new Apple iMac at the weekend, writes Andy Clough. My trusty old G4 had done sterling service for the last five years, but was too slow and struggling to cope with all the video streaming the web requires.

So I popped along to my local Apple store on Saturday morning and was given an appointment with one of the technical team at the 'Genius Bar'. Within half an hour I had my new Mac specced, ordered and they even offered to transfer all the data from my old one to the new. And yes, they did have one in stock.

Exactly 24 hours later they called me to say the new iMac was ready for collection. By Sunday lunchtime, after a quick update of iTunes and iPhoto, I was up and running. Result? One very, very happy customer.

Which got me thinking: why can't setting up a hi-fi or home cinema system be so simple?

The last time I installed a multichannel receiver in my AV system, it took me several hours of laying cables, connecting wires, coping with HDMI (for video) and coaxial and optical digital cables (for audio), several attempts to get all the components to talk to each other and then a trawl through the manual to sort out all the settings.

It was a tedious, frustrating and downright irritating process. And then there's the issue of mixing and matching different components to get the best results from your system. That's either part of the fun, or a monumental pain in the backside, depending on your point of view. Just take a quick look at our Forums to see what I mean.

And more often than not, you won't find all the different components you want to try out available at one dealer. So you have to go trawling around different stores.

Now call me lazy, but I want my electronics to be easy to set up and install. I want to take them home, open the box and be up and running in the time it takes to make a cup of tea and have a chocolate Hob Nob.

Which is what Apple does. Brilliantly. The mini manual that came with my iMac was a model of clarity, there's online help if you get stuck, and everything is, well, so damn logical. Which is not what you can say about a lot of AV components.

And since I'm in full-on Victor Meldrew mode, here's another thing. My new iMac is equipped with Front Row. Just press the menu button on the mini remote control, and the Front Row interface (exactly the same one as on Apple TV) pops up on the screen.

So I can access all my digital media – TV, video, photos, iTunes – from the comfort of my chair by using the remote. The brilliant Cover Flow system on iTunes means I can browse through all my albums as I decide what to listen to, watch a TV show or pop in a DVD to view on the 24in widescreen.

Which is a lot simpler then trawling through all the CDs and DVDs on the shelves above my desk, trying to find the one I want.

Now I know the system of hi-fi separates I have in the same room as my iMac will sound far, far better. And yes, of course my dedicated home cinema system does the whole big picture/surround sound thing to a much higher standard.

But here's the thing: I'll probably end up using my iMac and iPod Touch far more during a typical day than either my hi-fi or home cinema system.

And if I do want to access my music and movies on the big-screen TV downstairs, then all I need is an Apple TV box to connect into my wireless home network. Guess what my next upgrade will be?

Technorati Tags: Apple iMac, Apple TV, AV receiver, Front Row, HDMI, HDTV, hi-fi, High-def TV, home networking, internet, iPod Touch, iTunes, LCD TV, MP3, Multiroom, surround sound, television, TV, wi-fi

Andy Clough

Andy is Global Brand Director of What Hi-Fi? and has been a technology journalist for 30 years. During that time he has covered everything from VHS and Betamax, MiniDisc and DCC to CDi, Laserdisc and 3D TV, and any number of other formats that have come and gone. He loves nothing better than a good old format war. Andy edited several hi-fi and home cinema magazines before relaunching in 2008 and helping turn it into the global success it is today. When not listening to music or watching TV, he spends far too much of his time reading about cars he can't afford to buy.