What’s wrong with Apple TV?

“This has been quite a year for Apple, but Steve Jobs’ magic wand doesn’t always work,” Tom Krazit writes for CNET. “In March, Apple unveiled Apple TV, the company’s attempt at tackling a question that has eluded the PC industry for years: how can we get people to watch content delivered over the Internet in their living rooms on their big-screen TVs?”

“Apple has been a pretty good judge of consumer taste of late, but few companies get a hit every time they step up to the plate. ‘That category of devices is so nonexistent,’ said Ross Rubin, an analyst with The NPD Group, which tracks almost every imaginable retail segment. ‘It hasn’t really evolved to the point where we’ve been tracking it as a category.’ As a result, it’s difficult to get a sense of how many Apple TVs have been sold,” Krazit writes.

“Apple doesn’t report shipment totals for Apple TV like it does for Macs, iPods, and iPhones. Revenue from Apple TV is lumped in with a number of other segments on Apple’s financial statements, and it’s also recognized on a subscription basis over a period of two years. But it’s clear that Apple TV is quite a bit lower on the company’s priority list behind the Mac, iPod, and iPhone divisions: Jobs even called it a ‘hobby’ during the D: All Things Digital conference,” Krazit writes.

“There are a lot of popular shows and movies on the iTunes Store, but there are also lots of other sources of video on the Internet. Apple TV doesn’t come with a browser, and high-definition shows aren’t offered at the iTunes Store,” Krazit writes. “There are signs, however, that the long-awaited promise of Internet-delivered movies and television shows is starting to come together as the networks experiment with delivering their shows through their own Web sites. If that takes off, a crippled Apple TV is going to prevent owners from watching a wealth of free content that’s becoming available on the Internet.”

“Until this new model shakes out, cable and satellite companies remain in firm control of the living room,” Krazit writes. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean Apple TV can’t be a success in its current form; it’s not going to replace a set-top box anytime soon, but could it replace a DVD player?”

“The issue here, though, is that the rental/subscription model for movies and TV shows is very much entrenched in the consumer’s mind,” Krazit writes.

Full article here.

As we repeatedly say: Business models that fly in the face of human nature are doomed to failure. It’s not so much, as Kratzit writes, that the rental/subscription model for movies and TV shows is “entrenched” in consumers’ minds as if it were simply a habit needing to be broken. The rental/subscription model for movies and TV shows makes sense. It works best with how human beings interact with such media. People listen to certain songs over and over again; not so with TV shows or movies – such repeat viewings are very rare. We want to buy and own or music and rent our TV shows/movies because we consume each type of media differently.

Apple TV (and iTunes Store, for that matter) – at least when it comes to TV shows and movies – currently fly in the face of human nature. We watch TV shows and movies once; it make more sense for most people to pay a monthly fee and watch what they want. No matter how cheap storage becomes, we don’t want to store episodes of “The Amazing Race” forever. It’s disposable, one-time-only viewing.

Let us subscribe/rent with the option to buy the comparatively few titles we actually want to own via iTunes Store directly from Apple TV, add Safari with wireless keyboard support via software update (so we can go to the network sites to watch shows with ads, if we want), convince the content providers to let you upgrade the video quality, advertise the thing properly, and Apple TV will go from a “hobby” to a real business in no time.

There’s nothing wrong with the Apple TV hardware that a few updates can’t fix.

(Apple TV is already great for sharing photos, home movies, and music with friends and family. It amazed all visitors during the Thanksgiving holiday.)


  1. I want AppleTV to work out for Apple.

    I want Apple to invest more thought into AppleTV.

    I am waiting for AppleTV 2.0 before I buy one.

    I hope Apple doesn’t let it die a slow death like that have with other products they just choose to ignore.

  2. Update the Mac MIni to 802.11n, patch some software, and then the real Apple TV will be fixed. For me, at least….


    offer an add on with DVD, more hard drive, and a cable card reader for the TV.

    And don’t forget the rentals.

  3. My only 2 complaints with Apple TV are the slow response time from when I click the remote till the Apple TV reacts can some times be more than a minute. I think what is happening is Apple has set the HD to power down when not in use. The other is when I go to watch Music Videos I would like an option to play through all the videos not have to select and play each. These could be fixed with an update.

  4. Apple, please make the AppleTV software/OS available for the Mac Mini.

    I could hook a Mac Mini to my big screen now, but I want some of the cool graphic UI the AppleTV has on it.

    Plus, I want some of the new cool Leopard screen savers on the Apple TV too.

  5. also it should stream a DVD playing in your computer. Heck, it could even work as a remote desk top, hook a bluetooth keyboard and mouse up to it, and have full access to your computer from the comfort of your living room

  6. Never fear, I believe that Apple is simply staking its early claim to this rich new land of video distribution. They simply need to patiently wait for the ‘others’ to catch up with the prevailing point of view as elucidated by MDN.

    Apple is ready at the gate, just waiting to pull the trigger on this flood of video for your hungry eyes.

    Hobby, indeed!

  7. Apple TV is really fantastic for music. A great way to sit with friends, view your music library, and get into the groove. Too bad there’s no ‘on-the-go’ playlist from the living room. But if the demand is there, a software update would easily create that functionality.

  8. I know my parents would love to have youtube on their living room TV, however, they don’t have an HDTV and won’t for god knows how many years. I think that’s one of the biggest problems with AppleTV; it requires an HDTV and still only a minority of people with televisions have one of those.

    The fact that the AppleTV is the only box that can bring youtube onto your living room television should be its biggest selling point. Apple needs to advertise this aspect more. This is a huge deal, as youtube (especially with the writers strike going on) is set to murder television.

  9. I’m buying one either for Christmas or perhaps after MacWorld Expo. Just incase Uncle Steve announces a new version of it. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

  10. MegaMe: The AppleTV software HAS been released for the Mac Mini. It’s what’s called “Front Row 2.0” in Leopard. It’s exactly the same software that ships in the Apple TV product…exactly. In the Leopard build versions it was even still called “Apple TV” in some places

  11. Four things to fix AppleTV:

    1. subscription downloads or rentals for movies and tv, things that you generally only view once

    2. HD downloads in 720p24 format for movies and tv

    3. Built iTunes into AppleTV, as per iPhone and iPod Touch

    4. Rip DVDs to iTunes, to create library, and play via AppleTV

  12. What would really make me interested is a feature that would allow my Mac to be the interface with my cable company menu in terms of scheduling, recording, renting of movies, buy individual shows if I want, etc.

    Make my Mac the focal point.

  13. MDN’s take is spot on.
    I don’t want to see a Jackie Chan movie more than once.

    I think Apple hubris assumes their customers consume media only through them via iTunes. But they don’t, as their own ‘iPods sold vs songs downloaded’ numbers suggest.

    We have NetFlix, Blockbuster, PPV etc etc. With so many options and so many companies vying for our attention, it is perhaps too much to expect one company to pull it all together.

  14. Just another example of how Apple only produces products that make them a lot of money. Since Apple can’t get the content for the device, they will let it die and will offer no explanation. All of us who bought into this device seeing what it could become are a few hundred dollars poorer.

    Of course what Apple should do is offer an SDK for developing applications and interfaces for the AppleTV, but they won’t. Very disappointing.

  15. I would have got an Apple TV the day it came out, but I don’t have a good television. In fact I don’t watch much TV, but I do subscribe to a few shows on iTunes.

    I then bought a 24 inch iMac and I now use it as my TV (I live in a small studio apt), so I guess I am not going to get one anytime soon.

    If I ever move into a bigger place and get a TV I would get an Apple TV in a heart beat.


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