I spent most of Sunday afternoon installing a new LCD TV and receiver in our living room, with the help of two home theater installation guys. It's a moderately complex setup: an HDTV cable box, a DVD player, AirTunes streaming audio, and an XBOX360. (I could have done all the cable-connecting and remote programming myself, but I'm completely useless with anything that involves drills and brackets, hence the installation guys.) I ended up staying up until about 12:30 tinkering with the system, just to get it performing correctly. (The XBOX wasn't playing in pure surround sound; the TV was defaulting to a weird "smart stretch" mode while playing DVDs, which made everything look like it was shot in wide-angle, etc.) The world of home theater technology is ridiculously complicated right now, and the manuals and interfaces are a complete joke. I suppose it's gotten so complicated that they've just given up on ordinary consumers trying to set up the system, and they're exclusively printing them for the professional installers or the serious AV buffs.
It occurred to me last night that we've hit an interesting turning point over the past few years. It is now far easier to get a relatively high-end computing and browsing system up and running than it is to get a comparably high-end TV and movie-watching system working. Even the DELL PC I bought a little while ago (for the games, of course) had a lovely, idiot-proof 10-step chart that explained where everything needed to be plugged in, and of course the Mac experience is even better. The most complicated thing about getting online these days is getting your high-speed connection running, and even that's relatively simple. By contrast, plugging in all the various AV component video/DVI/coax/optical cables, and then using the remote to get all the signals to the right place, and then making the whole system work so that you don't have to use five remotes -- you practically need a degree in this stuff to make it work.
Fifteen years ago, of course, the situation was exactly the reverse: setting up a new computer to connect to the Internet or some other online service was much more complicated than hooking up a TV/VCR/Laser Disc system.
All of which is to say something that has been obvious to a lot of people for a while now: Apple has a huge opportunity in the Home AV space. They could probably get some serious market share just by redesigning the manuals. But I suspect they'll end up doing much more than that.