Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Apple TV: The Last Ten Feet, the Unification

The last 10 feet has become the mythical love object of all tech companies seeking a path to your living room and it would appear that Apple is uniquely poised to provide a product that could seize the imaginations of America as they bring about the Unification...

Apple TV has been thru two generations.  After extensive research and a month in the himalayas meditating  it has become clear what SOME of the issues have been that have kept Apple TV in the "Hobby" Category and some of the hurdles that must be jumped in order for the product to reach wider acceptance.

What we have now.
The Cable co. Gives you a set top box for free.  It has limited rental capabilities and perhaps a PVR (For which you pay a subscription).  We tolerate it because it is free.
DVD player, either we use NetFlix or make weekly trips to Blockbuster but this is the way we rent movies.
We watch TV for free when we want and tolerate commercials because thats the way it has always been.  It works, and we need a compelling reason to change to something new.

Possible or claimed unifiers
XBOX (read jetplane in your living room)
PS3 (cool but ew)
VUDU (like Apple TV without Apple)
Apple TV
None have taken off in any significant way.  

What Apple TV has not been  (but maybe possibly in the future)
Cheap or subsidized by Cable co.
Universal acceptance by content providers for rental and or purchase
PVR.  (With a fee)

Think about the things that "We" (geeks, who else reads this?) want Apple TV to be and think about the things Apple can actually do or has control over and add in the thing that JQ Public will actually buy and you can begin to see that expectations are impossibly high. In the end there are few reasons to replace what you already have in place.

To sell broadly Apple TV must Replace some or all of the products and services that it currently competes against.  It must be a Set Top Box Replacement.  It must be an effective replacement for Blockbuster/Netflix and it must have a working PVR.  It must do all that AND sell for like 30 bucks apiece (not really but close, Because thats what Moto sells theirs for).

Content providers have a healthy distrust of Apple and of digital distribution. Many new releases are not available for Apple TV.  There are currently 2,700 (vs 6000 Netflix) movies available on iTunes and many current releases are only available on DVD.

Apple TV is expensive to make.  There is a lot of tech in there and early reports upon the release of V2. were that the margins were among the narrowest of all of Apples products.

Apple Also knows Apple TV has the potential to cannibalize home PC Sales because if you can do email and internet on it, some people could use it as a home PC and forgo the PC purchase.

It is embarrassing that in 2008 we cannot easily (BY EASILY I MEAN EASY FOR MY MOM) get content from our computers to our televisions.  I think that there will be a time that we will be able to seamlessly watch what we want where we want how we want but that day is not today.

Top five things Apple TV need to succeed

1, Content.  

2, Content. 

3. Content.

4. Something a little less important than content COST

5.  Something irrelevant except that it takes up space in order to keep the list FIVE.  EASY to understand and use.


Anonymous said...

Before I buy an AppleTV (and I would like to try it) it needs to replace an existing box. I don't think cable cos will cooperate. If it could play DVDs (I know Apple doesn't like that but come on most of us have quite an investment in DVDs), and surf the web, I would buy one. If it could also act as a cable tv tuner, I buy one tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Gus summed it up! It HAS to replace an existing box. Up here in Canada the set-top-boxes are far from free. A basic box might be $100, but HDTV + PVR can run about $500!!! Alternately it can be $10-20 a month to 'rent-to-own over a 2-3 year period!! If Apple can put a TV Tuner & PVR in AppleTV I'd buy it without hesitation. Access to the iTunes store and connectivity with my computer are icing on the cake and not a compelling reason to purchase one... yet.

Anonymous said...

I have always been confused by AppleTV. As someone who is not your mom, but not a hardware hobbyist, why would I want an AppleTV instead of a Mac mini, el Gato eyeTV, a wireles keyboard and mouse, and a set of speakers to hook to my brand new big screen HD TV? Except for VHS, cassettes, and records, what else do I need?

BnVested said...


Your right YOU would not. "Mom" does not even know what an Eye TV is and never will, but she does want much of the same ability that you have if there is a one box easy to use solution mom will be happy to buy it.