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. Right there with ya Realista. I love my Apple TV, and the content is just growing for it. I recently had an issue when my Tivo’s drive went south and didn’t get to record the “sweeps” season finalies while I was out of town. Apple TV and iTunes to the rescue.

    Also, I have noticed that the encoding or something about the content is gettting less and less “fuzzy”. The shows I got this week are pretty much as sharp as any 480i Tivo’ed show.

  2. MDN is apparently blinded to AppleTV’s many faults.

    It is Zune-like in how it underdelivers on capability.

    No Blu-Ray, No ATSC tuner, No 1080i/p, No DVR, Small HDD

    –> Airport Express with Video.

    No much of a home media center which is what Apple ought to deliver. This thing is too iTunes specific for anyone but the Apple fanatic to purchase.

  3. We have two TVs – one in our lounge room (living room) connected to a 52 inch HDTV and one in the sitting room in our bedroom connected to a 42 inch HDTV – hard wire via ethernet (not braodcast – even tho we could because we have a new Airport Extreme) and it is amazing to be able to watch movies, play music and listen/watch PodCasts. My only complaint (besides resolution – which will change) is that we can’t play our music videos one after the other or shuffle them like other “music” like you can on your iPod. That would be nice for a dinner party or party that rocks the neighbourhood for that matter! Tha’s it! I would have to say that bugalugs (Brent Schlender) has not been home much nor used the TV too much to make the comments he has made. They look like a check list that he received from Ballmer!

    I am sure he will rue the day and eat the words he has written about the iPhone and TV – comparing it to a pile of brown Zune – all stinky and all.

    @TV Fan – do you own an TV? And how do you count Zune sales? the ones forced into the channels by M$ but not sold or actual on the street playing muzac. You need to reread the article about the Zune sales, too. It was an estimate based upon projections. NOT REAL NUMBERS.

    How many TVs have been sold – don’t know – no fake numbers have been released!

    mdn = written

  4. While I won’t claim that the Apple TV is a dud, I don’t have a use for it. I have a Mac in the living room hooked up to my A/V system already, so the Apple TV doesn’t add anything to my environment.

    That said, if Apple updates the Apple TV and adds DVR capabilities, the ability to pull content from multiple computers, and the ability to purchase content from the iTMS, I can definitely see a use for it.

  5. Be fair MDN, in my country the Apple TV has been reviewed by the national Mac periodic and they also said it is to iTunes restricted to be the general TV solution. But, we all know Apple learns fast …

  6. The analogies with Zune are just stupid. In the Zune analogy, where is the equivalent “ipod”?

    Zune would be damned impressive if it were coming out at the time the first ipod did. (Well if its software worked reliably anyway.)

    Apple TV is an extension of a brand new market Apple is establishing in digital media. At best, Zune has added a feature or two. For all our criticism of the Zune, it’s real issue is timing. Apple built the market and MS wants it’s piece.

    This is a fundajmentally new thing. It has limitations. Fine, criticize. Don’t be an early adopter. The Zune is a fundamentally derivative thing. Comparing Apples to Chevys.

  7. This guys smokes Redmond crack.

    iPhone, in its’ currently demoed form (from MWSF) is killer. Only a retard would think otherwise. It’s why ever cell manufacturer and service provider are scrambling to catch up. It’s why there have been a zillion offerings to unload smart phones at less than cost. They all know the iPhone has raised the bar in a huge way.

    Now take into account that obviously Apple will be increasing specs and apps by the June launch. Such things as:

    1) Increased Flash Drives (up from 4gb/8gb)
    2) Wireless N (hmmm could the iPhone work with the Airport Extreme? Could it work with AppleTV directly. You bet.)
    3) Ability to order iTunes content from the iPhone directly. Of course. (and this means that the AppleTV will be able to do the same – as it functions like a bigger iPhone/iPod like device)
    4) User-replaceable battery? Most likely but I am not sure I believe this hype as much as other items.
    5) iWork compatibility? As I said back in January, this would be a given. It will also allow MS Office (Word/PPT, and with the new iWork spreadsheet program set to be released, Excel) files to be viewed on the iPhone.
    6) Couple #5 with TV out capabilities, and the Yahoo Push email and this slick little gizmo becomes a business powerhouse. If they can integrate with Outlook, it would help dramatically further in the conversion from MSFT.
    7) Java/Flash/Quicktime capabilities in the Safari browser. True multimedia internet content in the palm of your hand.
    8) Hints that a firmware upgrade may make the iPhone usable on Cingular AT&T’s 3G network. It would be interesting if this was a user-selected option depending on the area in which they live. EDGE/3G? Think of the BUZZ if Apple announces the iPhone is now 3G compatible at launch? Obviously coming but whether it will be at launch or not remains to be seen. Keep in mind that unless Apple can switch to 3G easily, it would be strange that they went the EDGE route. Apple likes to embrace new tech much faster than other companies: integrated wireless N, dropping the floppy drive from all computers, AppleTV requiring HDTVs, etc.. To not have forward compatibility to 3G, when Cingular has a 3G network, seems crazy. They obviously have a strategy in place here.
    9) GPS – coming, only a matter of when.
    10) Lots of Google apps coming. Crazy to think there are not more apps coming from other companies.

    This launch will be bigger than most people have predicted.

  8. So, dude says, “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.”

    Um, duh?

    How the HELL is it that analysts can essentially write, “…if the product does not live up to expectations, it could disappoint customers…” and get FREAKIN PAID FOR IT??!?! Could that statement not be any more self evident? I wish to God that my job was that easy.

  9. I agree with the criticism’s but not the conclusions. I love my AppleTV and see two features as needed to make it live up to it’s potential:

    1. Movie rentals (preferably a subscription) – I rent more movies than I buy, but Apple has the perfect setup to kill Blockbuster and netflicks and become the media rental king.

    2. DVD ripping capability. This is a legal issue not a technical one, you can use handbrake to RIP your DVD’s but then you find yourself in the grey area between DMCA and fair use. I like most people buy DVD’s because I can carry them anywhere – and I feel more comfortable they will last forever (I don’t have to back them up).


    The “Studios” won’t sell HD content because, DUH!! the ACSS has been throughly CRACKED!!

    And DRM of the Future will be installed in EFI on Intel based Mac’s.



    Apple is placing hardware in the marketplace because certain domino’s are going to fall and everything will fall.

  11. ATV is not a runway hit nor is the boom brick ( our name for the hifi). I work at an AppleStore and we can’t move them like the rest of the products. Daily we get questions such as the ones listed here and there is really no answer, nobody knows if it will be upgraded, it is wishful thinking. the product is very handicaped in performance with no Apple solution in sigth, it might not be similar to Zune but we can safely call it a dud when comparing it to other apple products

  12. AppleTV rocks. For those of us that have a ton of home movie content, listen to our music through our home theatre stereos, etc. get great value. The fact that more features and items will be continually added to it, makes it an investment that will keep on giving. It’s the price of an iPod for pete’s sake.

    Plus, it works slick with my Slingbox. Wait to see if Miglia is either bought by Apple or comes out with a killer add-on.

    Plus, until Leopard is launched, we won’t even know from the WWDC what the final apps are going to be. I expect some exciting stuff in the areas of AppleTV and the iPhone.

    Once live streaming is available via iTunes for news and sportsm the broadcast TV network days will begin the inevitable decline.

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