Apple TV: End of an error?

Apple TV: End of an error?

Summary: Rumors are swirling that Apple's "hobby," also known as Apple TV, is about to get deep sixed for something else. Is this a case of Apple fans projecting rumors to make up for a so-so Nano launch?

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TOPICS: Apple, Hardware, Mobility
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Rumors are swirling that Apple's "hobby," also known as Apple TV, is about to get deep sixed for something else. Is this a case of Apple fans projecting rumors to make up for a so-so Nano launch?

Apple TV has a few fans--our own Sam Diaz is one of them--but for the most part the product just hasn't gained much traction. Apple TV is a hobby for Steve Jobs--not a world conquest.

Now TUAW is reporting rumors that Apple is telling resellers to remove Apple TV displays and literature by Sept. 30. TUAW added to its post and noted that it's possible that just the licensing is expiring--not Apple TV's life as a product. MacRumors adds that new Mac part numbers are appearing. Certainly it must be some Apple TV/Mini hybrid living room must have thingamajig. Or not. MacRumors downplays its original report.

GigaOm cooks up what the ultimate Apple TV replacement would do.

No matter what Apple cooks up it's going to have a tough slog. Why? The fundamental premise of YASTB (yet another set-top box) is all wrong. Let's add it up: The cable box, DVD player and video game machine add up for one crowded entertainment center. Any other set-top box requires thought--too much for a consumer like me. Apple would be better off allowing you to plug your iPod into the TV and use it as a conduit from your living room to iTunes.

The dirty little secret here is that your cable box works pretty well. Sure, gadgets like Apple TV and the Netflix player by Roku have a role, but the market may be limited. Both devices appeal to their respective bases, but it's not like folks are lining up around the block for them. At least Netflix has a core base of subscribers that will fork over $99 for its player.

And digital convergence? I already have that. I watch TV with a laptop on the couch--especially when watching football. I suppose I could use some widget on my TV or stream videos. But really I just want to know how my fantasy team is doing while my Eagles are about to lose to the Bears. Unless a set-top box can ease my pain I'm not terribly interested (at least the Phillies serve as a balm).

Also see: Apple Core blog

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Mobility

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28 comments
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  • Microsoft crushed Apple in the living room.

    First off, AppleTV was only called a hobby by Jobs AFTER it was clear that it was going to be an unmitigated disaster. Has he EVER released any sales figures on this thing?

    Second, the combination of Windows Media Centre and XBox as an extender totally crushes anything Apple could hope to offer. Much in the same way that Apple fans think MS should give up with the Zune and not even try to compete any more (even though it consistently gets higher critical ratings than the iPod) Apple should give up in the living room. Apple is clearly in over its head.
    NonZealot
    • Yeah and I've heard the same about the

      computer/OS thing and how MS crushed Apple. And yet
      Apple has been around for a very long time and makes
      tons of money on it's computers and OS. So what gives
      did MS crush Apple or not? Maybe we don't have the same
      understanding of the term crushedj. To me when I see
      crushed visually it mean the person or company is DEAD.
      No longer breathing crushed beyond recognition. So I
      don't see that in Apple. Can't say about the Apple TV but
      since it is a famous MS history of trying something a new
      product and taking like 3 to 5 attempts to get it right or
      right by MS standards I think Apple has a few more tries to
      get it right.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
      • The problem with AppleTV

        isn't bad hardware design, it's content. Instead of being able to
        record TV through your cable or satellite STB or directly from cable
        or over-the-air, and instead of having a solution that would either
        rip or download movies you already own on DVD from iTMS.

        While the client/server design of AppleTV and iTunes is also a lot
        easier to set up than XBMC, Windows Media Extender, and WMC,
        WMC has the advantage of DVR functions so you can record content
        from TV, including digital cable with certain versions of Windows
        Vista.
        nix_hed
    • I too have MCE and an Xbox but...

      I have seen appleTV at a friends. It is a much better interface IMHO. I really feal if Apple had a DVR/Media Center it would blow away MS.

      Now I say all this with a grain of salt, becuase I still run XP MCE, I may upgrade to Vista if they ever figure out DirecTV.

      BUT if they suprise the world with AppleTV 2.0 that the HDPC-20 DirecTV Receiver can record too. Enable it to connect to a network server for storage, and allow me to connect any AppleTV device to the network storage server for viewing recorded programming... Call me Switched. I know it's a dream but hey!
      brittonv
    • Dream on! Content is king and Apple rules for now

      Sorry, but AppleTV has the advantage here because ITMS
      rules the content roost. The installed base of iPods, and
      growing installation of iPhones, and iTunes users in
      general continue to make the AppleTV a viable option. Buy
      once, watch or listen anywhere. The AppleTV completes
      the picture and all that has to happen is one more price
      drop because Apple realizes that they will make it up in TV
      and Movie purchases. AppleTV at $129, kills of the DVD
      player and becomes a threat to cable. A double threat if
      Apple makes a hulu widget so you can have your choice to
      ether watch lower quality video and ad's or high quality
      video without.

      Also, whit the new found excitement around the iPhone as
      a game platform, it would be easy for apple to open up the
      AppleTV as well. It would not go head to head with
      Xbox360 but it could hold it's own against the Wii.
      puggsly
    • Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!

      So let's see...buy a PC, buy an additional priced Windows
      OS to provide the software, buy a XBxo 360, buy the
      proper cables/cords, and then go through the technical
      savvy to know-how to set up the hardware and software
      properly and finally start your circus going. All this crap
      sitting around your television, whirring and wizzing, as you
      try to watch your precious programs.

      Yeah, that's a helluva a combination their, chief!!! So the
      Kool-Aid flavor here is Microsoft selling 200 million units
      like Apple did with the iPod? Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!

      /
      pairof9s
  • That was actually the line after it failed to gain

    any traction
    [i]Apple TV is a hobby for Steve Jobs?not a world conquest[/i].

    I am quite sure that Apple intended it to be every bit as large as the iPod/iTunes combination, but having fallen far short of that goal, it suddendly became "just a hobby".
    GuidingLight
    • That is your guess but lets remember that it is only

      an assumption. I don't recall Apple doing the whole
      advertising thing so I can say I have some evidence that
      Apple did not do it's now famous "MARKETING" thing to push
      the Apple TV our like the iPod and iPhones so there might be
      some proof that it was and still but a trial balloon or hobby.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
      • True, it is an assumption

        however more specificlly, it should be considered a logical assumption, or an accurate guess.

        With Apple's profit margin on products (eighty dollars for the iPod) And with all of their endeavours continually tweaked to ensure profit over function, it is a very safe assumption that Apple does not do anything unless they feel it will add profit to the bottom line.

        Apple hasn't done any marketing on their Line of Airport products: just a hobby?

        Plus I do remember they held one of their large roll outs, complete with Steve Jobs talking up the product, with the focus on the AppleTV.

        Or are we to forget that it was launched with all the ado and fanfair reserved for "real" products like the MBA, iPhone, iPod?

        Yes, an assumption, but one based in logic and fact.
        GuidingLight
        • Apple TV Event?

          Hmmm...I don't recall exactly, but wasn't the Apple TV one of those 'oh...and one more thing's? Everyone had been clamoring for Apple to release a TV/Computer multimedia device, and Apple obliged saying something along the lines of 'this isn't the ultimate solution, but it's pretty cool'. I paraphrase, of course.
          macspirit
        • Ah but the iPod started slow at first but still

          Apple flooded the market with commercials and eventually
          it caught on in a big way. Now I remember seeing an
          Apple TV add and I remember the introduction but to tell
          the truth that was probably more about keeping Apple's
          name in the press and public eye than the Apple TV itself.
          The plain fact of the matter was that the Apple TV has not
          gotten anywhere near the marketing campain of either the
          iPod or the iPhone and the roll out while big might have
          had an alternative reason ie to keep people focused on
          Apple the brand.

          Pagan jim
          James Quinn
  • RE: Apple TV: End of an error?

    All they need to do is include the ability to run Elgato's EyeTV
    and maybe add a web browser.

    That plus the existing features and you have a winner.

    I'd buy one immediately.
    U53r
  • I don't think anybody has crushed anybody else yet...

    Maybe in the geek world, Microsoft has crushed Apple in the
    living room, but I know in my own personal circle of non-
    nerd friends and family members, not a single one has a
    computer connected to their television. Heck - even I don't!

    I think this is more of an untapped market that has yet to
    show compelling product from anybody.
    Dan Palka
  • The first one...

    The first one to offer me true high-def (1080, and no rediculously high compression, thank you), on-demand downloads of a very large catalog of shows and movies wins in my book. Realtime streaming would be ideal but buffering for now would be OK until bandwidth catches on. I don't mind waiting 30 minutes or so before strting to watch a movie.

    Xbox has had high-def (but only 720) downloads for a long time now (even before Apple-TV existed), but they have a ridiculously limited selection of movies. The ones I did download looked pretty good though, much better than DVDs, but not quote as good as Blu-Ray, HD-DVD or HD cable). Maybe with the Netflix deal this will improve, but even the 10,000 promised movies with the Netflix/Xbox combo is not enough. That is only 10% of what Netflix offers on DVD.

    Blu-Ray is just a stop-gap until all movies are delivered via the internet. The two main problems to overcome are available bandwith (which is improving relatively quickly) and movie studios scared of losing control (piracy) when they allow movies to be available via some sort of download service (which is why only the 10,000 oldest, least requested movies are made available for download right now).
    Qbt
    • bandwidth, selection, DVR capability

      I agree with your assessment. With 1080P being the highest quality format currently available, and most HDTVs now being offered touting that capability, an ultimately successful Apple settop box is going to have to offer content in that format.

      Bandwidth and licensing are significant hurdles, which must be cleared. Until very high speed broadband is available and affordable for the vast majority of households, internet delivery of high bit-rate, low compression 1080P content isn't going to reach the critical mass necessary for this method to achieve widespread acceptance among the general populace.

      I think the ability to record HD content off the air (via RF, internet, etc.) is another feature that has to be included in this future device. It doesn't make sense to omit it.

      Once the delivery methodology and licensing issues are resolved, the variety of available content will increase rapidly.

      I'm quite sure that Apple and lots of other folks are looking at all of these issues and working to develop the right product at the right time.
      macspirit
  • Apple TV is an "also ran"

    It's unfortunate that Apple TV is an "also ran". I have one, and I use it a lot, so it's the voice of experience that says Apple TV is adequate, but not amazing in any way. And that's where Apple TV fails: While it is arguably better than Windows media extenders in one way or another, it fails at "wow factor", the thing Apple allegedly does best.

    Here are some ideas that would make Apple TV truly noteworthy by matching or besting the competition:

    * Display digital photos in true high definition (1920 x 1080 pixels).

    * Play movies in true high definition (1080). Currently, you can convert video to Apple TV format, which is lower resolution than the 720p "enhanced definition". Apple has taken a lot of heat for this.

    * Let users rip Super Audio CDs (SACD) and DVD Audio (DVD-A) to Apple TV (hopefully using a lossless codec). The audio quality is better than CDs, and they're in 5.1 surround! While you're at it, let people download SACD content directly from the Apple Store.

    * Enhance the user-interface by letting users hide items they don't use (de-clutter), and let them organize their photo albums into hierarchical folders (Windows media extenders let you) rather than a single, long, "flat" list of folders.

    * Make Apple TV into a media *server*, rather than just being a media extender. Once you load up Apple TV with your entire music collection, CD artwork, digital pictures, and maybe even movies, let any connected iTunes user accesss AppleTV and its content, and play it on a computer. And let them use iTunes' Cover Flow view to access the AppleTV music library.

    With the features listed above, Apple TV would turn some heads! Now imagine making this all available as a software upgrade -- That would give current Apple TV owners a compelling reason to upgrade to an Apple TV with a 500 GB or 1 TB hard disk. It would also give people a lot of reasons to get Apple TV.
    SteveMak
    • Re: "also ran"

      I have a 32-inch, 720p Sony HD set and I'm happy as a clam with the quality of the existing ATV output. Use it to view photos a lot. I guess a larger screen would make the lower res more noticeable. And dowloading 1080p video would sure be more time-consuming than 720p.
      Userama
      • Good Enough

        Yes, "good enough" is good enough for some folks, but it is not enough to wow them. And "Wow!" is what's missing from Apple TV. In my opinion, an Apple product without "Wow!" has missed the mark.

        iPhone wows. Apple TV does not. And I have Apple TV on a 72" 1080p HD TV. My original post is based on that experience.
        SteveMak
  • RE: Apple TV: End of an error?

    Apple is just way too late with way too little with multimedia boxes. Microsoft pretty much ate theif lunch for them but multimedia is not something that the FreeBSD that powers Apple does very well at all. Linux is a much better multimedia system than FreeBSD ever was but Windows crushes Linux on multimedia even today.
    progon
  • RE: Apple TV: End of an error?

    Jeepers...uh, I think maybe someone wants to prove that Apple screwed up...that they failed at something. My recollection is that Apple was reluctant to go into this market, because it was still too much in a state of flux, and because...at the time...they had not yet ironed out agreements with content providers via the iTunes store.

    IMHO, this market is still in a state of flux. Look at HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. Blu-Ray won, but now they're already predicting the demise of disc. So now what? Everyone is vying for that market...via a variety of solutions, and my bet is that Apple is waiting, watching and developing. And when 'they' (and not their detractors)are ready, they will release a product that exceeds the capabilities of the fledgling Apple TV on all fronts.
    macspirit