Apple TV: Still not ready for prime time

“The 4th-generation Apple TV seems out of sync with the rest of the market. The competition from Amazon, Google and Roku have already adopted 4K — and the higher resolution TV sets are starting to take over the market — so Apple’s solution seems old fashioned,” Gene Steinberg writes for The Tech Night Owl. “Why didn’t the Apple TV offer 4K support? Did Apple hold off the new model pending the launch of the subscription TV service and, when it failed to gel, rushed out a new Apple TV as a fallback?”

MacDailyNews Take: That might explain why it was so woefully incomplete at launch that customers complained of paying to be Apple’s beta testers.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that Apple’s Eddy Cue “dismissed suggestions… that Apple wanted to compete with cable and satellite companies by bundling a group of video channels and selling subscriptions to its users. ‘We are happy doing the things we are doing today,’ he said.”

MacDailyNews Take: Cue now dismisses skinny bundles, because he couldn’t get the deals done.

What you’re doing today, Eddy, is antiquated, half-baked (and that’s being kind), overpriced, underspec’d crap that’s not worthy of the Apple logo. You’re happy with that, you’re deeply confused.

“I thought it might be updated in 2016 to include 4K and HDR, but no. Is Apple waiting to upgrade iTunes to offer 4K content? Are we waiting for the December 2017 quarter for a product refresh?” Steinberg writes. “Clearly Apple supports it, since recent iPhones can record Ultra HD video, and don’t forget the 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display and the troubled LG UltraFine 5K display.”

“With Siri support and regular tvOS updates, it does seem that Apple is showing some level of commitment to Apple TV. But from what I’ve read and seen about the fourth-generation model, it appears to be an interim solution. It has potential, but Apple needs to do more,” Steinberg writes. “As it stands, Apple’s plans to conquer the living room aren’t really jelling. Apple TV isn’t quite ready. Apple is probably not going to do subscription TV now or ever. Even though there may be some original content, it won’t be near as extensive as Netflix. That doesn’t seem a direction the company wants to take. So we’re just going to see some level of baby steps for a while.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Beyond the pathetic inability to get content deals signed (while Google and others manage to do it), the #1 thing that Apple TV broadcasts to the world today is Apple’s embarrassing lack of vision.

Maybe now, with some new blood, we’ll finally see an end to baby steps, pulling the string, bad design*, aimlessness, and the rest of the incompetence drowning Apple TV.

*With the Siri Remote, users can’t tell which end is up in a darkened room due to uniform rectangular shape. The remote is still too small, so it gets lost easily. All buttons are the same size and similarly smooth. Only the Siri button attempts to be different, but the slightness of its concavity is too subtle to matter; a raised dot on the button would have been much easier for users to feel. The tactile difference between the bottom of the remote vs. the upper Glass Touch surface is too subtle as well; this also leads to not being able to tell which end is up. For an example of how to improve the design: A remote with a simple wedge shape (slightly thicker in depth at the bottom vs. the top), as opposed to a uniform slab, would instantly communicated the proper orientation to the user.

SEE ALSO:
Apple hires Amazon’s Fire TV head to run Apple TV business – February 8, 2017
Apple’s new TV app shows just how painfully behind Apple is – December 14, 2016
Apple’s Eddy Cue: Nope, we don’t want to be Netflix – October 20, 2016
Google signs up CBS for planned web TV service to debut in early 2017; close to deal with 21st Century Fox – October 20, 2016
Apple’s Eddy Cue: Nope, we don’t want to be Netflix – October 20, 2016
Apple’s Eddy Cue alienated cable providers and networks with an assertive negotiating style – report – July 28, 2016
Here comes á la carte programming – without Apple – July 13, 2016
Apple TV 4 is a beta product and, if you bought one, you’re an unpaid beta tester – November 5, 2015

56 Comments

  1. Embarrassing lack of vision or overbearing excess of ego to which the response is a deafening silence from those they wish to do business with. Who needs who more???

    Seems to be more “Can’t do!” than “Can do!” at Apple these days. Eddy Cue seems to be drowsily taking it all seriously.

    1. It would be really easy for Apple to upgrade the ATV4 to use 4K, technically considering all the other boxes that already do it, its just a matter of having one, which they might already have in development for who knows how long and just releasing the darn thing…

      Lower the price of the existing one and release the new one with 4K and the complaining and whining stops. They should probably lower the price on the new one’s 64 for $129 and 32 for $99

      1. There appears to be no rational reason for the 64GB Apple TV to exist, just dump it and keep the smaller one.

        The extra space conceivably would be necessary for really large numbers of large games to be downloaded and played. But for a bunch of television apps and 1080P streaming even 32GB is probably overkill.

  2. 4K is still barely at around 10% of all HD TVs in the US. As for content, there are fewer than 200 (count them!) titles in 4K (compared to tens of thousands in HD). Most mainstream cable operators still aren’t streaming ANYTHING in 4K yet; if you want streamed content, your only choice are services like Netflix, Roku, YouTube or Hulu. And even there, content is still well below 10% of their libraries.

    While this doesn’t justify or defend Apple’s strategy, it does seem quite consistent when Apple waits for technology to gain some market traction before adopting it. Don’t forget; original, first iPhone only supported GPRS (EDGE) speeds, when 3G was already available. Original AppleTV only supported 720p when 1080p was also there. Mind you, when that one came out, independent subjective testing of image quality confirmed that AppleTV’s image was superior at 720p to all other services that were purportedly streaming at 1080p.

    I’m pretty sure next AppleTV will support 4K. By then, there may be enough households in the US with a TV set that can actually support it, and enough streaming content that can actually be viewed on it.

    1. Almost all new cinema releases are available in 4K resolution. Just because you are focused solely on streaming doesn’t mean that 4K BluRay discs aren’t available and very good.

      While we’re making comparisons, how many millions of DVDs are available compared to only thousands of Apple TV downloads?

      Those people here making excuses for Apple being a laggard is getting tiring.

      1. I don’t quite see how a Bluray disc can be played on AppleTV (4K or HD, or 3D).

        The point of my message was that there is extremely little 4K content available to play on any of the streaming channels that are currently available on AppleTV. And right now, there are dozens (perhaps hundreds) of sources for streaming content in AppleTV app store.

        Ever since Jobs died, Apple has been struggling to make content deals, hence small video library (as opposed to the massive music library, courtesy of Jobs’s persuasive abilities). But AppleTV doesn’t only depend on iTunes; content comes from all other apps in the store, and there is plenty of it, but very little in 4K (not on AppleTV, obviously, but on those channels, such as YouTube, Netflix, etc).

          1. I looked at your links and they all reinforced my points.

            Netflix: all of 79 titles in 4K.
            Amazon: a bit stronger showing of some 600 titles.

            Out of how many? Thousands of HD titles. In other words, significantly less than 10% of their libraries are now available in 4K. That is not exactly great.

            Or we could simply say that 4K has the largest share ever, in the history of video market, tremendous market share! (that would be using alternative facts…).

            1. 79 “titles” was one link of three that I provided. The next link had 600 titles. Of the 79 “titles” in my first link, over half are TV SERIES, so get out your calculator. One of the 79 “titles,” Breaking Bad, has 62 episodes. Another of those 79 “titles,” House of Cards, has 52 episodes and counting.

              It’s so easy to debunk your crap, political or otherwise, that I fear you may be mentally retarded. If that is the case, I apologize for consistently highlighting your dimwittedness.

            2. And I quoted that next link (Amazon). You should really read before posting. Or try to comprehend what you’re reading.

              If you get to count each episode of TV series as an individual title (clever!), then I get to count all those as HD titles as well.

              You are still reinforcing my argument; the percentage of 4K content out there is still quite negligible, compared to the rest that’s available in HD.

              Debunking your stuff (political or otherwise) — like shooting fish in a barrel. So easy…

            3. Percentage is as meaningless as touting popular votes. Much of the good content and the new content is available on 4K.

              Changing the argument is another failed Alinsky tactic that’s extremely overused in your case. It’s like talking about popular votes when we all know it’s electoral votes that actually count. Your strawmen are obvious and easily ignored.

              There are thousands of 4K titles available and Apple TV can’t deliver any of them. Amazon, Netflix, and others can.

              Apple TV should have had 4K in 2015 when the current version hit shelves. Apple screwed up, as they do very consistently with Apple TV.

            4. It is only meaningless when your side is winning.

              While I agree with you on the state of AppleTV, you continue to reinforce my argument that the 4K content continues to represent rather negligible percentage of overall video content that’s consumed today. Until the amount and availability of 4K content improves, the ability of any hardware device (Chromecast, Fire, Roku, AppleTV) to output in 4K will be wasted.

              This is the same situation as when HD TV sets were reaching the market. At some point, the adoption rate started rapidly accelerating, and people were snatching those deeply discounted LCD HDTVs. However, substantial majority of them were still hooking them up to their SD cable boxes, using traditional red-white-yellow RCA cables, firmly believing how they are now watching HD (and expressing amazement at the picture quality); quite many were even stretching the SD 4:3 image to fit the wide 16:9 screen format, oblivious to the fact that everyone now looked short (or fat)…

              With the transition from HD to 4K, the image quality difference is much more difficult to perceive than from SD to HD. I would venture an educated guess that vast majority of current 4K TV owners never saw 4K content, but firmly believe they have been watching their TV in 4K all the time.

              And on a completely unrelated issue (but you brought it up), you seem to be obsessed with the outcome of your recent presidential election, particularly the fact that your guy lost the popular vote by the biggest margin in the history of popular vote losses. Why are you so obsessed? After all, your guys won across the board. Normally, when people win, they celebrate it and they are happy; they don’t obsess over their guy’s popularity (or lack thereof). I

            5. Apple TV is very late on 4K and they are paying for it in sales and usage.

              The GOP owns all levers of government.

              80% of the U.S. population is living in a state either totally or partially controlled by Republicans.

              It takes 34 states to convening a constitutional convention. Republicans control both chambers in 33 states.

              The only people I see bringing up popular votes are the losers.

              A few years ago, Pete Sampras beat Joseph Schmoe in a professional tennis match 3 sets to 1.

              Set 1: Sampras won 6 games to 5
              Set 2: Schmoe won 6-0
              Set 3: Sampras won 6 games to 5
              Set 4: Sampras won 6 games to 5

              After the fact, Schmoe fans like “Predrag” ran around claiming that Joe Schmoe won because he won 21 games to Sampras’ 18.

              For the Dem/Lib/Progs: Set 2 = California, where Trump smartly conserved energy and did not bother to compete because it was not necessary to win the match.

              In electoral votes, President Trump won 304 vs. 227 for the loser. President Trump won 29% more electoral votes than the loser, an exceedingly clear mandate, even before you factor in that voters also handed President Trump’s party control of the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and the future of the U.S. Supreme Court for decades.

            6. You are clearly obsessed by the popular vote loss in the last election, and I can’t understand why. In our discussion about AppleTV, your rambling post had exactly one sentence about it, and a lengthy treatise on the importance of popular vote, vs. electoral vote, the meaning of one or the other, etc. I didn’t bring this up; you did.

              For the life of me, I can’t figure it out, why are you so obsessed with the loss of popular vote, when your guy (guys, actually) won across the board? I keep asking this question, and the answer I keep getting is an increasingly longer and more convoluted dissertation on the difference between the popular and electoral vote, their meaning, then some stuff about Pete Sampras… Why are you so frustrated about your guy’s victory?

            7. “Percentage [of 4K] is as meaningless as touting popular votes.”

              That’s hardly “obsession.” It’s meant to demean you and your kind – those who have nothing left except to whine about a vote total that neither candidate was trying to win.

              The GOP owns:
              1. U.S. Presidency
              2. U.S. Senate
              3. U.S. House
              4. U.S. Supreme Court for decades

              Percentage is meaningless, because “much of the good content and the new content is available on 4K.” That the rest isn’t, yet, is as meaningless as decisions from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

            8. Now you are reinforcing my point about your obsession. You again keep talking about the outcome of recent election, (which I never mentioned, nor disputed).

              Again, why do you have such powerful desire to prove to everyone how your guy did win, and how your guys won big, as if anyone here (me in particular) is disputing that fact? You continue to write lengthy, repetitive paragraphs upon paragraphs of mostly same arguments, which aren’t in dispute, nor have been challenged. Do you feel so insecure about your guy’s victory that you must continuously repeat to yourself and everyone else how yes, he did win, as did the rest of your guys?

              By they way, and I will mention this only this once, and will not bring it up for the next two years; on the matter of Supreme Court, my math tells me that, at this point, the only certainty is that you have secured a replacement for Scalia, which was as right-wing as they come. The balance hasn’t tilted much (keep in mind, the same court, complete with Scalia, validated Obamacare, Marriage Equality and quite a few other similar progressive cases). In order for the Supreme Court to be meaningfully conservative, it would need to replace a progressive justice (the likeliest candidate being Ginsburg) with a conservative one. That would have to happen in the next two years, for it to be a certainty. After all, it is not quite certain that the Senate will remain in republican hands two years from now, which then makes ANY justice confirmation much more difficult for the republicans.

              All I’m saying is, SCOTUS ideological balance isn’t such a sure thing quite yet.

    2. “While this doesn’t justify or defend Apple’s strategy, it does seem quite consistent when Apple waits for technology to gain some market traction before adopting it.”

      I don’t agree with this statement.

      1. Like lightning-only headphones?

        USB-C-only laptops? (the right idea, but either too soon or too little – if they had replaced lightning entirely this would be moot).

        In the old days, Apple fearlessly jumped ahead with things the industry needed to, and usually was ready to follow. The iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, the MacBook Air, USB, Firewire, media services and software (iLife). And it made them a force of innovation and growth. Now, they just seem to drift aimlessly in proprietary irrelevance and an apparent vacuum of insight. Bloated, reviled by some of their most loyal advocates, with others desperately and pathetically hanging on like the Microsoft fanboys of old.

  3. I read this earlier this morning and I totally agree. Apple is really dropping the ball on TV. Providing marginally entertaining content like the new app “Shark Tank” show or the karaoke show won’t help he bottom line with TV purchasing or draw in viewers. I’m with Gene (stilll have an old version)- I use the TV as a portal to Netflix, Hulu and maybe on ore two other things. For example, the National Geographic channel is a joke and has very little content. Most of the other channels are subscription services. I want the device to work but I still think the Watch will be more profitable than the TV. JMO.

  4. Eddie Cue seems like a nice guy to sit at a bar with but maybe the absolute worst person to implement an Apple-Steve jobs worthy vision for Apple TV, unless Apple TV is still a hobby.

    If Tim Cook were not so involved in sexual political adventures and telling the federal government what to do, maybe he would have the time to make Apple TV a competitive product. And maybe he could save Apple Airport and Airport Extreme. Maybe he could make Macs and iPads that get product refreshes at least as often as a lousy Dell computer.

    Nah, more important to pose every day for your leftist fanbase.

  5. Thank you Gene Steinberg for speaking the truth. Apple has to know that it has a poor solution right now. I use my Apple TV everyday. Boy, I would like ten minutes with the design and marketing teams to show them all of it’s shortcomings. Apple wake up! This is not a “hobby” product. Use some of your money and build and sell a product that deserves the Apple logo on it.

    1. Eternal than using your money, just try using your product before you release it. Everybody at Apple must be so busy with Apple Music and all those other things that they just don’t watch tv. It takes only minutes of actual use to realize it’s shortcomings.

  6. AppleTV competes with Roku, and FireTV, not Netflix. You cannot buy a netflix box that provides smarthome hub functionality and a broad platform for any developer to add content. Apple Music competes with Spotify, not Netflix. Netflix is available on all apple platforms and is independent of all the channel shenanigans that the broadcast companies are going through. The TV app on tvOS and iOS is actually a great bridge to move us forward into that future everyone wants, and the app is getting more integrations and thus getting better every month. Eddie is right; spending tens or hundreds of billions of dollars to be a major media content company is not a good decision, and it will not guarantee the goal that we all want of on-demand all the time; there are still a mess of deals with regional affiliates that ties the big media companies down. It’s best to just provide a compelling platform that strengthens their existing ecosystems and promote innovative content where it makes sense.

    1. Sorry, won’t go as far as to say ATV is competing at this point.

      What puzzles me is the decision not to go to 4K. Even if iTunes doesn’t provide it, don’t the new iPhones record higher than HD? I would have thought it was a no brainer for users to play back their own ‘content’ made with their other Apple devices.

      1. The reason that 4K is not offered, is that there is little programing out there for 4K with the exception of a few DVD’s. All the manufacturer’s are selling 4K screens, but when you get them home and hook it up to DTV or your Blue Ray, it all looks like your four year old 120mhz 70″ HD.

        1. My argument is to forget ‘outside’ content and allow users that have recorded photo and videos on their iPhones an easy way to display their content on their 4K systems. I would think Apple users would be just the people that have the funds to buy into 4K. When the streaming industry eventually has more content ATV will already be there with satisfied users that haven’t been ‘forced’ to move to other platforms to get 4K capabilities.

  7. Apple is no longer the Steve Jobs vision . It now focuses on glitz and glamour above the hood , Model T under the hood , and attracting and enriching stockholders . Even the likes of Warren Buffet now ” get ” Apple and the fortune to be made by selling customers chocolate covered cotton balls . It is time for a new ” tech kid ” on the consumer tech block with the vision , innovation , and future useful practicality that defined Steve Jobs and entrepraneurs like him . Apple TV is a fantastic chocolate covered cotton ball , and pride of current Apple Corp execs .

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