Fortune: Apple TV is a Zune-like dud; Jobs promising more than he can deliver with iPhone?

Apple Store“Let’s pause for a moment amid the worshipful buzz before the launch of Apple’s iPhone in June to consider the heretical notion that Steve Jobs might be promising more than he can deliver,” Brent Schlender writes for Fortune.

“Take Apple TV, the $300 set-top box that Jobs unveiled last October and that finally started shipping in at the end of February, several weeks late. You don’t see many ads for it on TV, even though Apple is blitzing the airwaves with iPod and iMac spots, and after living with one for the past few weeks, I think I see why. It’s just not very good. It’s about as uninspired as another prominent dud, the Zune, the MP3 player Microsoft launched last year. In fact, the Apple TV is so Zune-like, you’d think Jobs was so busy with the iPhone that he outsourced the Apple TV project to the folks up in Redmond,” Schlender writes.

To wit:
• Apple TV’s most highly touted feature is its weakest one: It requires an HDTV, but the video you download is so low-res that it looks as fuzzy as plain old broadcast TV.

MacDailyNews Take: Schlender is misplacing his criticism. Criticize the TV and film studios and/or Apple for not selling HD content for the Apple TV which is perfectly capable of delivering crisp, high-definition 720p output. Related: How Apple’s iTunes Store could deliver High Definition for Apple TV – May 01, 2007

Apple TV’s coolest feature is one that wasn’t even intended: the screensaver, which plays an ethereal slide show of your digital photos.

MacDailyNews Take: Why is this in Schlender’s list of reasons why Apple TV is “Zune-like?”

There’s no way to order a movie directly from the iTunes store via your TV, even though Apple TV has its own connection to the Internet.
Apple TV lets you show photos only from a single computer.

MacDailyNews Take: Valid criticisms – currently. Patience, Padawan. Related: Apple reinvents consumer electronics; iPhone and Apple TV to get better over time with free updates – April 26, 2007, Apple to continually develop new software features for Apple TV, iPhone; offer free updates– April 26, 2007

Schlender writes, “So it really makes you wonder whether the iPhone, when it finally arrives next month, will be clunky and misguided despite its gorgeousness and slick user interface. Apple could turn off customers if the pricey device can’t really do what it promises because of little gotchas like insufficient bandwidth or short battery life or an unusable virtual keyboard.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Charles” for the heads up.]

MacDailyNews Take: It’s quite a leap to look at Apple TV in its current form and think it presages how iPhone will perform. Apple TV is much better than Schlender makes it out to be. Furthermore, someone who has actually tried the iPhone, Andy Ihnatko, for the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote back in January, “I think the iPhone’s virtual keyboard is a huge improvement over the mechanical thumbpads found on the Treo and any other smart phones of its size.”


  1. Call me crazy, but I bought an Apple TV last month and I like it quite a bit. Just having my entire library of 2,000+ digital music tracks available to play on my home theater system was worth it to me. The ability to also view videos and photos is just a bonus. Plus we all know that Apple will be adding more features with future software updates.

  2. Awww … the non-HD content doesn’t look any better on an HD screen and the screen-saver (why?) looks better than the non-HD shows. It’s a Mac mini – Get Over It! Jobs never claimed it would make non-HD content look any better, just more available.

    DLMeyer – the Voice of G.L.Horton’s Stage Page Pod Cast

    MW “soon” – as in … Wait For It!

  3. The Apple TV is nothing like the iPhone, it’s essentially a remote version of FrontRow, whose biggest limitations are based upon the limitations of content – things that can only improve. The iPhone has a far more advanced and defined set of features – which are also expandable. The Apple TV’s perceived success or failure is totally unrelated to the iPhone.

    Not every product is launched as the figurehead one.

  4. The iPod didn’t break sales records in its first several years of existence. It took time and effort from Apple to get it to the product it is today. Plus, the content owners/creators are going to have to get off their behinds and actually let Apple sell some HD content via iTunes.

  5. The MDN take is a bit defensive. Who cares if it can be be updated over time. The review is correct at this time. It can’t do much right now, and you can’t easily get HD content.

    Apple should have held off on this product for another year or two until the other peices were in place.

    I do agree, however, that making a connection between the Apple TV and the iPhone is retarded

  6. Amazing… I use my Apple TV every day. Have movies (ripped and purchased), pictures, music, podcasts… All of it. Even have my own HD camcorder movies on it. And the library’s growing. Not shrinking.

    As a matter of fact, just yesterday, I realized that I’m actually spending more time on Apple TV than on network TV. And I’m sure I’m not the only one getting the hang of Apple TV.

    So, who is this guy kidding?

  7. In the UK there is no legal movie content on iTunes and this is a problem, add to this that items like the xbox 360 can be used a a streaming option with a mac for the otherwise self encoded and or illegally downloaded and whilst no where near as sexy it does let you play games as well.

  8. MDN, do you even own Apple TV?

    AppleTV is a dud. Question: Zune reached 1 million in sales in 6+ months; when will AppleTV reach this mark?

    iPhone success? Too much hype now, let´s wait for it to come out first.

  9. Like MDN stated, it’s clear that content producers have kept HD video off of iTunes until now. I wonder how long they can keep that up. They’re in a catch-22– miss out on sales or help feed the iTunes behemoth and lose more power.

  10. I like my AppleTV. It serves a purpose. However, having said that, I would really like to be able to purchase content from my couch, if I feel the need. It would be great if they put a huge harddrive in it and you could sync your iPod from it and buy all of your content from it. This would be a great solution for those without computers.

  11. TV Fan, no-one owns “Apple TV”. However, a person may own “an” Apple TV. Get thee back to elementary school.

    Now with as much supporting evidence, you claim that Apple TV is a dud. Well, I claim that my shoes are black. Prove that they’re not!

    Comparing Apple TV and the Zune is the classic comparing apples and oranges tactic. It’s a meaningless comparison.

    iPhone success? No-one is claiming that the iPhone has succeeded!

    Geez, TV Fan, is your day job working for the Associated Press doctoring photographs or something?

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