Apple’s underwhelming Apple TV 3.0 (and, should Apple buy TiVo?)

Apple Online Store“Yesterday Apple released an update to the Apple TV software, toying with owners as if they actually cared about the product,” Mike Schuster writes for Minyanville. “The underwhelming 3.0 upgrade rearranges the menu screen interface and adds features like iTunes Extras, iTunes LP, and Genius Mixes.”

“It’s still a mystery as to why Steve Jobs and company continually ignore Apple TV, referring to it as ‘a hobby.’ Being one of the biggest names in tech and unstoppable in the field of portable media players, Apple is in the position to become the leading name in the future of media centers,” Schuster writes. “If it could do half of what the iPhone did for the cell phone market, we’d all be ditching our DVD players in favor of terabytes of video files on a heavy-duty Apple TV. Instead, dozens of cheaper and more capable devices trounce Apple’s abomination in benchmarks and performance. Even Microsoft’s Xbox 360 loaded with XBMC — formerly known as Xbox Media Center — allows for better video management.”

Schuster writes, “However, since none of these devices carry the coveted Apple brand, they’re unable to sway the public from relying on physical media to watch their shows and movies. Jobs’ hesitance to include Blu-ray drives on Apple laptops seems like he’s open to ditching physical media, but there’s yet to be a follow-through. The company only needs to put their spin on existing technology — as well as actually advertise the thing — and they’ve found a brand new billion-dollar seller.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Steve Jobs doesn’t strike us as much of a TV watcher, so don’t underestimate the fact that he just might not know exactly what to do with Apple TV.

“You watch television to turn your brain off and you work on your computer when you want to turn your brain on.” – Steve Jobs

Jobs might have to suck it up and give up some control to someone who consumes and therefore understands television the way Jobs seems to consume and understand music. Or, maybe, Jobs has some grand plan for which all the pieces are not yet ready. If so, it’s taking quite a long time. Really long.

That said, we’ve had Apple TV units since they debuted, of course. We use our Apple TVs for various functions, not the least of which are renting movies and purchasing TV shows that our horrible TimeWarner-provided DVRs miss or cannot record (most especially during NFL football season in the U.S. when schedules get pushed back, but TimeWarner’s stupid DVR’s can’t handle such, or any, changes. Half-recorded “Amazing Race” episodes — don’t judge us — just have to be the leading cause of iTunes Store sales of “Amazing Race” season pass sales. And, yup, we’re tired of seeing Andy Rooney pissing and moaning about the loss of typewriters, mimeographs, and bottled milk delivery instead of teams frantically screaming at taxi cab drivers and each other while racing around the world when we click “play” on our shiteous DVRs). Yes, we need to get TiVos, we know, we know, we know!

So, we do heartily recommend Apple TVs with the caveat that Hollywood seems intent on restricting its usefulness by limiting the feature film catalog and, especially, what can be rented, when, and for how long. For all other functions: music streaming, photo viewing, etc. the Apple TV is a wonderful device and, bottom line, well worth the price Apple is charging.

An aside: Most people don’t have TiVos because of the price (upfront cost and subscription fees) and/or they don’t understand the benefits that TiVo offers over the absolute junk DVRs that their cable providers offer. We have the money to cover TiVo’s costs and the understanding of the product’s benefits and we still haven’t gotten up off our asses to get our TiVOs. Beyond suggesting that we’re lazy (or very busy, we add hopefully), this also suggests that TiVo’s business model is broken or at least not working as well as it should be. Perhaps TiVO would be better utilized by more people if Apple bought the company or licensed the technology and integrated TiVo into Apple TVs. Imagine being able to push the stuff you’ve recorded via your Apple TV’s TiVo out to your Apple iPods and iPhones (even if only via WiFi to start; AT&T’s network might not be up to it, you know)? Maybe Apple getting TiVo or offering their take on the DVR is what we’ve been waiting for, subconsciously? TiVo Inc.’s market cap is $1.19 billion. While a nice chunk of change, that’s nothing that debt-free Apple, with over $34B in the bank and a market value over $170B, couldn’t swing with total ease, if they’d even notice that they spent it. The TiVo brand name alone has to be worth something significant and its inclusion could refocus people’s attention on Apple’s poor little red-headed stepchild, Apple TV.

What do you think, should Apple buy or license TiVo? And, if they did, would the content producers, of TV shows especially, have conniption fits (the threat of which is maybe why it hasn’t happened already)?

59 Comments

  1. It’s the 1984 all over again. Apple has a superior product but is going to lose the market. It great to innovate, but the winner is the one who builds on and improves the products. Microsoft with Windows 7 and Google droid/web services are going to each apples lunch. It was fun while it lasted.

  2. Typically, the author wants a solution in search of a problem.

    He won’t get off his fat lazy ass for Tivo and expects Apple to do it for him.

    Bag 0 hurt, it is.

  3. A great idea to purchase Tivo. I had heard people rave and rave about Tivo and never really understood it until I got one. It’s an amazing device. To integrate that with Apple TV would be a natural fit, except for Blockbuster…

  4. Tivo is amazing. I really miss it compared to what I am using now from the cable company.

    Should Apple buy it? Only on the cheap and only if they have some IP they want.

    Otherwise, no.

  5. Apart from over the air HD content from the local providers the only other thing I have connected to my plasma is my Apple TV. Pictures, Music, Home movies and ripped DVD’s are enough content for me and my family to consumes. I do buy movies in HD and full surround sound from the iTunes store. The only wish I have was that the content providers give iTunes the same treatment as everyone else.

  6. The fundamental problem with Apple TV and any similar device is content or the lack there of.

    Most movies are not available on any device or reduced to a limited selection of devices. Also, the movies are pulled from these device/services.

    Television shows have a better showing, but the price is now the problem. $20-40 per show is too high when compared the a $50-$150 cable/sat bill per month.

    If content problem was gone, this market would be something.

  7. It all boils down to content. It the content is there, the folks will come. But I could not find Slum-Dog Millionaire on iTunes to rent. WTF. I know this is not Apple’s doing, it is the greed of the movie studios. I went to Block Buster, rented the movie, a Handbraked it in to my Mac to later move to the Apple TV to watch. When I could have simply purchased the rental from iTunes, the studio would have gotten exactly the same amount of money from Apple then they did from Block Buster and I could have not kept a copy of there precious media. Short sighted.

  8. And why does Apple have to buy Tivo? They’re quite capable of developing their own recording software for television.

    TiVo is puny because their growth is staunched by the monopolists who own the IP rights to the gravy.

    Does anyone expect any difference just because Apple were to throw two-billion away by grabbing up Tivo?

  9. Everyone knows how to run Apple better than the folks at Apple do. Thank goodness Apple have mostly ignored their unwanted advice!

    That being said, Apple TV could clearly use some help, though it’s doubtful that any of those same online founts of “wisdom” have a real handle on what would truly make a difference.

    Apple does their best when they can introduce truly something truly game-changing to the market. As MDN alludes to in their take, I believe that the content owners are at least partially holding back Apple’s more game-changing ideas for Apple TV – perhaps they’re leery of the power iTunes already has over today’s music industry, and don’t wish to become “trapped” in an “Apple TV” world?

    Regardless, Apple TV is still Apple’s product, and they do need to do something make it more compelling, in spite of whatever limitations the content owners have imposed upon their original ideas.

  10. My hope is there’s a master plan somewhere. That they’re waiting for studios to accept reasonable download prices (film/television). Waiting for LCD prices to stabilize so they can add value directly to the TV. Lining up live streaming content providers (sports/news). Etc.

  11. MDN Take,

    I think you paint his steveness as a non-colaborator, out of touch, and ignorant maestro.

    Like he couldn’t ask his ATV unit what to do, where to go, and discuss concepts?

    I don’t see Steven P. as a TV watcher myself, but please draw a line between the needing to be an advid tv watcher and producing great software.

    No one on the ATV team watches TV either?

    Please.

  12. I updated to 3.0 and didn’t find it underwhelming. It was actually rather refreshing. The previous system was too sluggish and felt disjointed. I was most excited to get internet radio actually. I’ve been missing it since I dropped my DirecTv. The Apple TV is in use at my house almost all the time. I don’t miss having normal TV in the least. While I agree Apple needs to get off their butts and promote it and do some physical updates to it, it’s hardly a hobby.

  13. I don’t get why many blame Apple for the obvious fact that the studios won’t license the content for AppleTV. Apple is right to view this as a “hobby” until such time as the content becomes available. As far as TiVo, the studios hate it, so going that route would mean giving up on ever offering expansive video content through AppleTV. AppleTV is blocked in every direction at this time. Given that, Apple should only make minor refinements to it, which is exactly what they are doing!

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