What Will it take for Apple TV to be Successful?
If the success of a technology company is measured by creating products emulated by their competitors then Apple is the most successful technology company in the past decade. Even though Apple’s market share for their computers hasn’t gone past the single digit percentage, they have forced PC manufacturers to abandon the boring beige boxes that they made before Apple introduced the original iMac in 1998.
In 2001 Apple started on their way to dominating the digital music player market when they introduced the iPod. Back when the iPod was first introduced most competing MP3 players were expensive and had limited in capacity because they were flash based. There were a couple of other hard drive based MP3 players on the market which were larger than a portable than a portable CD player and had very limited battery life.
Even in the past year the introduction of the iPhone revolutionized the cell phone market even though it’s only available on one carrier in the United States. Competing carriers are having trouble attracting new subscribers and losing existing customers to AT&T because of the iPhone
One product from Apple that is languishing is the Apple TV. The device designed to play shows downloaded from the iTunes store. The Apple TV has been suffering with very poor sales since it’s introduction. The problem with the Apple TV is that it does very little and only works with HDTV sets.
While HDTV is the future, the market penetration of HDTV’s are still less than 30 percent of homes. It’s not that Apple or any other tech company wants to go back and support an old technology, they have to design devices that the majority of potential customers can use.
While there is very little that Apple can do to the current Apple TV with a firmware update to make it appeal to more consumers but there’s so much that Apple can do with a future edition of the Apple TV that will give the device more appeal among TV junkies. Apple TV as it is today can only retrieve TV programs purchased on iTunes, one feature that was missing and reviewers hit Apple hard on is that the Apple TV doesn’t record TV shows on it’s own. A second edition has to be able to do this. This would require putting a TV tuner in which can also provide additional functionality to viewers.
An Apple TV version 2.0 could also be a transitional device for the switch to all digital over the air transmission, by incorporating a digital TV tuner to allow older TV’s to receive digital signals. Even though it may be Steve Jobs’ intention for the Apple TV to be connected to the LCD or Plasma TV in the family room and not spare TV in the den.
As nice as having a digital over the air tuner may be, a digital cable tuner will be the killer app for the next version of the Apple TV. Is there nobody better to revolutionize the user interface on cable boxes than Apple? While cable companies are luke warm to cablecard in the United States and collectively overwhelmingly opposed to it in Canada, Comcast the largest provider of Cable TV in the United States has proposed a new open standard for cable boxes, which given the fact that no other cable provider has pledged support for the new standard, it will allow cheap boxes to be sold that only support service from Comcast.
A device like the Apple TV is designed to be a digital media hub and as such not being able to play DVD’s and Blu-Ray discs is a great liability. Apple TV version 2.0 needs a Blu-Ray player. Having a drive that will burn Blu-Ray discs and DVD’s would be a bonus that would make Apple the leader in home media hub devices.
For the most part the current Apple TV is a just a downgraded Intel based Mac computer, which runs a special version of the OS X Operating system. Just another thing that would make the Apple TV more appealing is making a web browser for viewing on a TV that is actually usable. The WebTV browser was somewhat usable about ten years ago but with rich media on just about every web page the Internet requires a computer. Apple made a cell phone web browser that people actually use on the iPhone. Unlike previously mentioned potential upgrades to Apple TV, this one can be installed through a firmware update even though Apple’s remote for the Apple TV wouldn’t be up to par.
One thing that has to go is that mini remote. They are easy to lose and take expensive mini batteries. For all the features mentioned like recording TV shows, playing DVD’s and Blu Ray disks and surfing the web a more full featured remote control is going to be badly needed.
In bringing the Apple TV to the market, Apple attempted to bring audio and video content from the computer on to the living room TV, and it does just that, where the Apple TV falls far, far short is bringing media together. Windows based Media Center PC’s do this better but they too have short comings. The vast majority of media center PC’s are still designed like PC’s. Tower case machines that look more at home in an office and not like a piece of consumer electronics. Media center is just a PC with a TV tuner card, a remote control and a user interface that can be read from the couch and navigated with the remote control. The next generation of Apple TV has the potential to be so much more than what it is and blow away every competing product on the market.