Is The Apple TV Dead?

July 20, 2008

I’ve enjoyed using our Apple TV for the past few months. It’s awesome as a media extender (bringing music, photos, and movies from the desktop computer to the living room) and as an entertainment hub for YouTube videos and movie rentals.

But with recent announcements, the competition is becoming more intense:

Also add video websites like Hulu or, VOD cable, and the ever-present free-for-all of piracy, and the Apple TV becomes an increasingly questionable product.

How could Apple TV be improved? Here’s my wish list:

The New Format War

Video distributed over the Internet to the television is shaping up as next “format” war – beyond the next-generation disc format we just endured, where Blu-Ray dispatched HD-DVD. The winner stands to make a ton of money through bypassing the cable companies. But this war may actually be more pleasant for consumers, what with the wealth of free and ad-supported options and lack of $400+ standalone players.

Still, the ball is clearly in Apple’s court to improve the Apple TV. The device is increasingly a hard sell to many consumers – any current XBOX or PS3 owner isn’t likely to purchase an Apple TV, and with the XBOX price drop to $300, a game console is increasingly a more sensible purchase even if you’re not into gaming.

Apple fan that I am, I fear the Apple TV that I’ve come to love is headed to the hall of shame along with the G4 Cube and the iPod HiFi. Bleah.


  1. Ludo says:

    Enable USB port for external disk
    Allow USB and/or Bluetooth keyboard
    Did I mention SDK?

  2. Mike says:

    I still think the internet's going to win this one. While all eyes are on products like Blu-ray, HD-DVD, AppleTV, etc., the internet beats them all. The price is free, the format is whatever you want it to be, and availability is now.

    Moral issues aside, that's simply superior to your options above. Steve Jobs competed with piracy by offering an incentive: fast, cheap, and guaranteed quality. Why is everyone so focused on taking Apple down, rather than learning from their successes and doing it themselves?

  3. papa says:

    Internet might win long term, but my money is on cable/satellite in the near/mid-term. The latter just has such strong penetration coupled with the fact that people are USED to and comfortable with enjoying TV and movie entertainment in this way. The barrier to entry is low, the hardware is already in the living rooms and the format wars are moot.

    Internet is great too (I'm a big fan of Hulu and Apple's one-off episode solution is neat), but watching TV on a computer is not the norm (I'm talking about mainstream America) and bandwidth remains problematic for high-def content. Convergence of internet and living room will bridge this and may result in some cable/internet hybrid. But is it there yet for most of American? No. I will grant that the internet option may very will win among the youth segment today (and because of this, it's a good long-term bet).

    Solutions that require “extra” hardware (console delivery systems, media devices) are non-starters from a mass market standpoint. Same goes for solutions that require “extra” software (think joost vs. flash based solutions).

  4. DaveD says:

    How exactly can cable “lose” this battle when they hold the biggest trump card of all – bandwidth control? They already have begun instituting download caps.

    No discussion of video distribution over the internet is complete without acknowledging this reality.

  5. webomatica says:

    Yeah, that's fair, the cable companies have all the intertia and the
    user base. If the cable industry is saavy enough to where they start
    incorporating Apple TV like features into their cable boxes that get
    installed anyhow, or taking the Marc Cuban approach, then it's game
    over for all these tech companies. But they could also sit on their
    hands like the music industry, and resist change, assuming this VOD
    thing is just a fad. They don't even get “unbundling” channels (like,
    what if I only want Sci Fi channel and nothing else?).

    I'll say this change in behavior could take a decade or more, and it
    may be a slow motion train wreck just like the music and newspaper
    industries – we'll see.

  6. webomatica says:

    Yeah, I overlooked that one. If the cable companies start getting
    aggressive with caps I'll be pissed. But that is a choice – I would
    rather see the cable companies start incorporating media extender
    features into their boxes (enabling consumers) instead. If they go
    with caps for the purpose of clamping down these new delivery
    technologies, then I consider that an opening salvo in a war I hope
    they ultimately lose.

  7. webomatica says:

    By “internet” I guess you mean piracy and a good old Bit Torrent. Do
    you think the cable companies are basically battling against piracy?
    In that, do you see people cancelling cable because, they can just get
    all their shows through torrents?

  8. Mike says:

    Indeed. I barely watch anything on TV myself, so if I were paying for cable, it would definitely be one of the things I'd cut.

    I'm sure there are many others who only watch a couple of shows, and only turn on the TV when there's something to watch.

  9. Mike says:

    Exactly – that's competing by stifling innovation.

    The music industry took advantage of their monopoly when people couldn't do anything about it – remember when CDs cost no less than $15 each, and contained 99% crap, except for the single?

    They're paying for it now, and nobody can really feel sorry for them. The cable companies are doing the same now, and I won't shed a tear for them when they're made redundant.

  10. Has read with the pleasure, very interesting post, write still, good luck to you!

  11. blake says:

    Great post! It’s funny we were having this exact conversion over at ModMyi and the consensus was exactly what you’ve said here: “A software update with web browsing and games…”. You can read the full post here:

    After todays announcement / enhancement, I still feel that it should do more directly out of the box (that is, without having to mod / hack it, etc). I guess we’ll see how it plays into the DVR / Instant Streaming fight over the next few years..: )