Apple TV: You're a Glorified Roku

Apple TV: You're a Glorified Roku

Summary: Apple's updated Apple TV, while more streamlined and less expensive than the original, offers little more than what Roku already offers today.

TOPICS: Apple, Hardware, Mobility

Apple's updated Apple TV, while more streamlined and less expensive than the original, offers little more than what Roku already offers today.

Steve Jobs: "One more thing..."

Me: Wait... they're really going to do it! They're gonna launch the new iTV! It's gonna have apps and all the shows and movies I want to watch, and they're gonna be cheap! And it's gonna be integrated with all my social media services and all that good stuff! Ooooh! Look how small it is! Wait... no storage? Wait... It doesn't have apps? Only two TV networks? But it can stream Netflix! And I can rent movies!

Oh wait, I already own one of those. It's called a Roku.

Also See: Roku issues major Netflix channel feature upgrades

Don't get me wrong, I think the device will probably sell a lot of units, especially at $99. But this is not the "iTV" many analysts were thinking that was going to be the cable and satellite TV and video game console killer.

Indeed, they got the $1 per show, with no commercials part right -- but with only two networks to choose from, ABC and FOX, that's not that much of a selection. I'm not betting on the rest of the big players on "Seeing the light", as Jobs so eloquently put it.

Indeed, and what my colleague Matt Miller has already noticed, most of what the Apple TV 2.0 already does I can already do with my Roku.

In fact, with the Roku, besides the Netflix, I can rent the very same first run movies from Amazon Video which iTunes has at competitive pricing ($3.99) plus a large amount of TV content that won't be available with Apple TV at launch. I also can play free streaming music with Pandora or radio stations with RadioTime piped right into my Hi-Fi system, and play my Flickr and even FaceBook photo albums and YouTube content. As a company, Roku isn't at all standing still in terms of its hardware development, and I expect Amazon to have a lot up its sleeves when it comes to expanding its content pantry to combat Apple's offering.

So is the Apple TV really then a Roku-Killer? I asked Roku's Director of Corporate Communications Brian Jaquet what he thought about Apple's new entry into the streaming video market, and his response was thus:

Roku created the category for streaming players over two years ago with the original Netflix player for $99. Since then the category has continued to grow rapidly with large hardware entrants like Xbox, PS3, Wii, blu-ray players, and now AppleTV adding streaming capabilities. At the same time, content is becoming more readily available thanks to Netflix’s increasing popularity, but also from Amazon, MLB.TV and most recently Hulu Plus. During this time Roku sales have continued to accelerate as the overall streaming market grows, and customers enjoy our simple interface, low cost and large selection of services. Our customers are using the box more and more. Two years ago the average Roku customer used our product 11 hours a month, but now it’s 43 hours a month.

Beyond Netflix we have introduced over 50 additional content partners on our open platform that offer customers access to over 100,000 movies and TV shows, live sports, music, photo and video sharing, and more — all while continuing to reduce the cost of our products. Today, a customer can get a Roku player for as low as $59.99 and an HD-capable model for as low as $69.99, plus a 1080p model for $99.99. By selling direct to customers (on we can offer more while maintaining lower prices.

Roku is completely confident that our strategy of offering more features and lower cost than competitors continues to be the right plan."

However, unlike the Roku, the Apple device will have seamless integration with Macs and other iOS devices, such as the iPad. As a iPhone or iPad peripheral the new Apple TV makes sense. At 99 bucks I can see a lot of folks beaming movies they've already amassed on their Macs with iTunes (I haven't seen any evidence this works with iTunes 10 on a PC yet, but it would be nice if it did) with AirPlay directly to their TVs.

What Steve Jobs did with the iPad on stage using AirPlay to the new Apple TV was pretty nifty, but in real world application, I don't see that scenario happening too often. More likely, I see the AirPlay feature of the new iTunes being used by DMCA scofflaws to strip DVDs and to play pirated video content on their TV sets, much like it is done with iPads and iPhones today.

Also Read: Apple, Google TV: Does Pay as You Go Make Dollars and Sense?

Murky and most likely applications of the new device aside, both Roku and the Apple TV are at best supplementary content devices, not total replacements for Cable and Satellite TV packages and your DVR. The rental pricing (and content availability) just doesn't make sense yet. And without Apps, and extremely limited prime time TV content selection, I just don't see what the value play of the new Apple TV is yet.

Will you buy the new Apple TV? Talk Back and Let me Know.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Mobility


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • RE: Apple TV: You're a Glorified Roku

    You're right. Chrysler, Honda, Chevrolet, Porsche etc. should all have given up, Ford already had a car out.
    • Funny you should say that

      @colin@... <br>All you Apple zealots say that MS should give up whenever MS releases something you feel (usually incorrectly) that Apple released first.<br><br>Cue the double standards...
      • RE: Apple TV: You're a Glorified Roku

        @NonZealot anyone can release anything, I happen to think apple do it well, I don't think they were first with much, maybe more with concepts than devices. The way they did the iPad, or the move to the touchscreen phone, but they were decades late to mobile phones, and I had about 8 different mp3 players before I had an iPod. I happen to think the iPhone is great, and that Apple tend to get things pretty right for what I want now, I just want things to work and stay out of my way.

        I don't even know what a Roku is, but maybe it is more an American thing. Microsoft can do whatever they want, I just wish they would do it better like they used to, they've kind of gone off the boil a bit, maybe IE9 will bring them back, and their smartphone, (personally I think ASP.NET MVC is amazing) but they seem to be just letting Apple and Google get a lot of the press and plaudits recently. Maybe it worked better when they could do things bigger and better, but now with the speed of development they don't have the time to wait and see how markets play out.
      • No, only when MS releases a sub standard product


        As they usually do.
      • RE: Apple TV: You're a Glorified Roku

        The point was made at the 'i don't even know what a roku is'. Without full information, you cannot make an unbiased opinion. Roku is an amazing device, without the iTunes stranglehold. And, I'm sorry, the partnership that they have with Amazon makes it the goto player.
      • RE: Apple TV: You're a Glorified Roku

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      • RE: Apple TV: You're a Glorified Roku

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  • Apple is pulling a Zune

    From what I read on CBC, none of these services are even available anywhere but in the US.

    [i]The television rentals will only be available in the United States, Apple said in a follow-up press release.[/i]

    So we could buy Apple TV and have it sit there... doing nothing... at all. Where can I sign up for this?!?!
    • RE: Apple TV: You're a Glorified Roku

      @NonZealot in the UK, it says you can wireless stream TV, and rent movies, but not sure about paying for TV programs.
      • RE: Apple TV: You're a Glorified Roku

        This is such a great thing to know " I also can play free streaming music with Pandora or radio stations with RadioTime piped right into my Hi-Fi system, and play my Flickr and even FaceBook photo albums and YouTube content. As a company, Roku isn???t at all standing still in terms of its hardware development, and I expect Amazon to have a lot up its sleeves when it comes to expanding its content pantry to combat Apple???s offering." Surely more developments are coming....

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    • you can do HD TV rentals today in Canada on the existing AppleTV...

      @NonZealot .. they might not have negotiated the 99 cent (likely $1.29 CAD) movies in canada yet though.. that's likely what they are referring to.
      • RE: Apple TV: You're a Glorified Roku

        @doctorspoc - the pricing is very similar to Amazon. $0.99 for TV and $3.99 to $5.99 for movies.
    • not up to your usual standards

      I'd expect you to know the answer which is
      Keep your money, don't buy the damn thing, and stop wasting your time
  • any word though on if movie purchases are gone from iTunes as well?

    that wasn't really clear...
  • Roku is a crippled Apple TV....

    you can see how biased the bloggers (I refuse to call them 'journalist's') are on ZDNET. Apple reinvents their iPod lineup today, instead of resting on their laurels, they showed some neat stuff with Apple TV, being able to with the touch on an iPad or iPhone send the video or pictures seamlessly to Apple TV, and these bloggers crucify Apple on ZDNET.

    Meanwhile, Microsoft is 3 years late with any semblance of a mobile strategy, they announce their WinMo 7 is finished, which is just playing catchup to iOS and Android, and the bloggers here write about it like its the second coming.

    I think all bloggers on ZDNET, and every other website should state what companies they hold stock in (they'll never admit to who is paying them under the table)

    Of course, it would great if the posters on these forums would also admit when they really work for a public relations company and are spewing biased, paid propaganda, but that'll never happen!!
    • RE: Apple TV: You're a Glorified Roku

      @ShazAmerica maybe it is just me, but it seems like all ZDNet opinions are as extreme as possible, and they flip a coin as to which direction they go... one day they are all buying Macs and loving them, next they hate Apple, next day Windows mobile will save the world, next day Windows mobile is dead in the water... to be honest, the more controversial, the more clicks, the more adverts, the more money... I don't think it is anything to do with holding stock in the companies.
      • They gotta make a living

        @colin@...Apple is really good to these guys lately and the more contentious the Apple headline the more hits they get. Can't really blame them I guess. Most of the time it's just results in a big flame war with very little useful debate...
    • LOL at your concept of reinvented!!

      What did they reinvent today?

      iPod Shuffle - went back to what they had year before last.

      iPod Nano - removed half the features they added last year and gave you a 1.5" touch screen interface.

      Apple TV - removed half the features it used to have, implemented 1 / 100 of what everyone expected them to implement (iOS on AppleTV was the expectation), and added a feature that everyone else has had for years now.

      You are right, they didn't rest on their laurels. Resting on their laurels would imply that they didn't change anything. They changed a lot. Too bad most of the changes involved taking away abilities that you used to have.
      • it very likely is running iOS..

        @NonZealot - it has an A4 chip inside.. why do people think that an OS it the GUI/human interface.. a human interface and an OS are two completely different thing.. it's obviously iOS with the appleTV GUI running on top of that.. the A4 chip is the biggest clue of this..

        someone likely leaked that it was running iOS and who ever they leaked it to, like you probably read into that it will be an iPod Touch with out the screen.. again an OS is an OS and a human interface/GUI to work with that OS are two different things..
      • You have a good point

        I agree with you on the OS vs UI deal. It is why I always laughed at all the iDiots who say that Windows 7 can't work on a slate because it is a point and click based OS. Wouldn't you agree that this is an iDiotic thing to say about an OS or do I need to bring out my double standards line?

        Regardless, the excitement was around being able to use your iOS apps on your AppleTV. That was missing today. You can't do it, regardless of what OS they shoehorned into this thing.