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Apple TV graduates from hobby/accessory to product line ahead of major changes (9to5mac.com)
55 points by rkudeshi on Jan 28, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 59 comments



This is how it's going to play out:

1. Updated Apple TV launches

2. Tech pundits and gadget blog commentators pan it because of limited content deals but most likely not living up to some pie in the sky ideal

3. Apple TV sells well

4. Apple keeps iterating on product adding new content as they get more leverage

5. Console gaming gets accidentally disrupted because they don't take the threat seriously and "it's just Angry Birds on your TV, not the good games like Call of Duty"

6. Installed base gets too large for Activision (and other large game studios) to ignore and launches Call of Duty on Apple TV

7. Another leg on the stool for Apple


I don't get it. This is the exact same model Roku, Google, Xbox, Ouya et al are trying to follow, and so far, they've all had limited success. Even Netflix and Amazon had to give up chasing after content and had to resort to making their own. What makes Apple's attempt so different from all the others in this area? (No sarcasm intended, I'm genuinely curious.) What leverage do they have that can guarantee them the kind of instant success that the idevices had?

I guess integration with their other products is one advantage, but really, most other consoles have smartphone apps as well, and they're nothing special. The integration with Airplay that TFA touts seems rather dubious... isn't that just normal QOS any old router can do?

EDIT: The most obvious advantage, I guess, is the large corpus of devs who are willing to rewrite their apps to target a new form factor. No other company right now commands that sort of manpower, and that, indirectly, may be enough to convince content owners and game publishers to target their platform.


The idea doesn't matter nearly as much as the execution of said idea. Roku product is OK from the little that I've seen, but they haven't put in the marketing or the branding effort to hit it big. Google didn't even pretend to know what was going on with their TV attempt when it came to content. Xbox/Ps3 are fairly terrible UIs, and don't respect the user enough, as they assume that the user is going to be a 15-35 year old male gamer, with attendant good-enough UI. Amazon seems to try to hide their streaming business, I apparently have a subscription through Prime but haven't streamed a single thing because I can't consistently find out how to browse it. (Please don't tell me how, my point is that Amazon has not made streaming a focus.)

If, and this is a big "if," Apple can make this easy, and generate enough noise, and most importantly of all get critical content provider momentum, they could see significant market penetration. What's clear is that the traditional tech media has been absolutely terrible at judging products' potential at their initial launch, at least when it comes to Apple.


What makes Apple's attempt so different from all the others in this area?

Because literally with the press of a button you can make the video playing on your iPhone or iPad appear on your HDTV.

Because you just plug in the Apple TV and hook it to your wireless network and it shows up on your iOS devices instantly as a recipient for video and music streaming.

No setup. No confusing configuration. It just works.

It's the same reason that Apple was the first company to really get video calls to work. Other vendors and phone companies tried to get video calls to work...and some of the tech crowd certainly made use of it. But Facetime was the first video calling system that made it ridiculously easy for non-technical folks to use.


This.

I have an AppleTV and a ChromeCast. I have a bunch of (legal) rips of the Simpsons.

On the ChromeCast I have to load a single video in the Chrometab every time. The playback isn't always smooth.

On the AppleTV, I drag VNC to the display, hit full screen and watch all day. The playback is smooth and hassle free.

The ChromeCast is more portable, but not by much. If the AppleTV was USB powered I would consider traveling with it.


Apple has half a billion users with active credit cards.


Most realistic answer. Much better response to the question of how can Apple execute the product better than others than gushing about Apple's marketing team.


I think the biggest advantage for Apple is that they have the most popular content distribution platform, and they don't care if they make a profit on content. That makes them pretty attractive to content producers.

If you think of app developers as content producers, you can see how well Apple is already doing with partners.


having a hundred billion dollars in the bank helps, that and a near monopoly on good tablets if not a real one.

They could always cut a deal that makes some studios jump, something for a few years to lock them in.


I wonder whether console gaming will indeed be seriously disrupted, as opposed to merely supplemented. So far, phones and tablets have had certainly had an impact on traditional portable game systems (3DS), but the former are still widely considered to be limited to casual, low-quality games, with the serious stuff to be found elsewhere. There is Call of Duty and Final Fantasy and Grand Theft Auto on iOS already, but only spinoffs and retro ports.

Part of the cause is issues such as controller support. I'd say this would be a much easier sell at home than mobile, since using a physical controller would just require buying one, rather than buying one and then carrying it around everywhere in case you feel like playing a game. But still, not bundling a controller, which is almost certain, fragments the market and means that developers will probably end up having to support awkward touchscreen controls anyway.

Another part is pricing on the App Store. If people are only willing to pay $5 rather than $60, how can you make the same caliber of game? Freemium works, if you're lucky enough to get popular, but it's also a miserable user experience that I hope traditional games stay well away from. Another way to see it is that on a console you have less choice, but if the indirect effect is to increase game quality and I don't mind the price, please give me less choice.

On the other hand, PC gaming seems to be doing pretty well even though for every $60 game there is a free online Facebook game; the market managed to sustain both "casual" and "serious" gaming on the same device. The same could theoretically happen with iOS... It would help if there were multiple storefronts rather than one big one, but that isn't going to happen.


Apple TV would disrupt hardcore console gaming to the same extent the OUYA did. Hardware capabilities are still a very real and important part of console hardware.

The reason the iPad has hurt Gameboy sales is because they can both provide similar level of games. Due to size restrictions a dedicated gaming handheld really can't be that much more powerful than an iPod. There isn't a size restrictions on consoles. Xbox and PS4 back in a whole lot more power into their consoles than Apple ever could in a Apple TV sized piece of hardware. Unless the Apple TV blows up again to something like the size of a Mac Mini, it isn't going to get the same Call of Duty that real consoles get.


But if Apple gets enough users and developers on its console, people will design high quality games for it even if the best graphics can be found elsewhere; most of what makes a game fundamentally good is orthogonal or even opposed to graphics quality. Like the Wii, but potentially more so due to more users and more developers.

...theoretically. Apple TV is currently a niche product, the mass popularity currently only exists on mobile devices, and adoption of a new TV device won't be instant. But if Apple does come up with a truly compelling story for video content, users will follow.


The xbox live / collar doodie crowd isn't exactly a good brand image. I really don't think Apple is interested in the "13 year old boys shouting expletives at each other" market.


Our Apple TV is the main way we watch TV, but frankly the channel options are a bit bizarre, and half of the interesting ones require a cable contract. It'd be nice if they put a stake in the ground for ESPN, Disney, HBO Go, etc and didn't require a cable subscription. Seems like such a backwards model.


I'm in the same situation and completely agree.

My guess is that Apple is trying to build channel momentum any way they can. Unable to pre-negotiate deals and launch with a huge splash, as they prefer, they're doing it from the bottom up, starting with content providers like Crackle that probably get a lot more out of it than Apple does.

But as we've seen, Crackle begets Smithsonian and Smithsonian begets PBS and PBS begets ABC. So it seems like it's working.

I bet in the next year, we'll see some sort of foldering option for home screen icons.


...PBS begets ABC.

Actually, Apple has a relationship with the Walt Disney Company[1], which owns the ABC, ESPN and the Disney channels - and many more. Perhaps these additional TV apps were added after enough content creators agreed to whatever terms.

Also, interestingly enough, there is a show on Disney Junior that first premiered on the Disney Junior iPhone/iPad app before it was shown on the regular Disney Junior TV channel. Maybe this is a new model to beta test new content?

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Walt_Disney_Company#Disney_...


Yes please, the cheapest plan I can add HBO too is the forty nine dollar plan... as in, screw the consumer. HBO leaves a lot of money on the table.


It's really not safe to assume that media companies "leave a lot of money on the table" by not catering to cord cutters. Cord cutters are currently a very small market, and HBO would lose a lot of leverage over the cable companies. At the margin they'd rather have 1 cable subscription over 1 stand-alone subscription - or even two or three for that matter.

The bear case is actually the opposite - they aren't leaving any money on the table now, but it will be at the expense of future growth. They'd be better cutting over to stand-alone sooner, at a loss in current revenue, to better position themselves for the future. That may or may not be the right play, but that's really how you should be reading the current market.

Giant companies are often not very customer friendly, but they are rarely leaving obvious money on the table.

[Edited for clarity]


Welp, time to start figuring out a business to build around the Apple TV. Should have started that a while back, but I was waiting for a sign they are moving.

This is the equivalent to a highly telegraphed right hook from a boxer - that also happens to be heading directly for an opponent dazed, on the ropes.

Sweeeeeeet.


"We’re led to believe that the game integration will utilize existing iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches as controllers"

This wouldn't come as a surprise, but using a buttonless handheld touchscreen as a controller would be a terrible interface for gaming on a tv.


If you're trying to model something like an Xbox controller with a touch surface, then, as you say, no chance.

If you're trying to model something simpler like a WiiMote, then I think you might hit closer to the mark. Let's keep in mind too the fun possibilities of asymmetric information games that are possible because of the display (think poker, football, Scrabble, Wii U type-games, etc).


More and more, I'm thinking iOS 7's new APIs were preparing for Apple's products in 2014 a year in advance. For instance, they now have physical controller support and a few controllers shipping, if that's your preference.


I actually wrote about this three years ago (has it really been that long that we've been anticipating an Apple TV SDK?) with some thoughts about what a remote-slash-game-controller for iOS TV apps might look like: http://interuserface.net/2010/08/rethinking-the-remote/


This lines up will with what I wrote about a month ago. Everyone's focus is on the Xbox One and Playstation 4, but the real challenger in the console space is an upgraded Apple TV (and other emerging products).

http://goldfirestudios.com/blog/121/Why-the-Xbox-One-and-PS4...


I just spend $1300 on a MacBook Air, but if the part about integrating with digital cable is true it looks like Apple will be getting even more of my money. As a blind person the apple TV is the only accessible set top box. The ability to actually have an accessible TV guide would be worth a couple hundred dollars to me especially if there was some kind of DVR functionality.


>As a blind person the apple TV is the only accessible set top box.

OK, I'm curious. As a blind person, how much value do you get from watching TV? Do you just listen to the audio? What do you (for lack of a better term) watch? It seems like scripted shows typically have a lot of content that is only shown, not said; and most other content such as news and sports would be easy to get on the radio, which would seem preferable.

Care to enlighten me?


Some sitcoms are fairly easy to follow. I watch a lot of documentaries on Netflix and Hulu. I also make use of airplay quite heavily especially for listening to sports games through radio apps on the iPhone.


Interesting.

Thanks!


I really hope they merge it with airports, it's always nice to have one-less-device. I hope they put a ton of storage in it as well so it can be used for time machine and not have to always stream the movies I buy.

The gaming is also a really exciting possibility, iOS has an amazing gaming ecosystem and I miss it a lot when I'm playing stuff on my kindle and phone.

The only thing I'm not enthusiastic about is it will still be too locked down to replace my media pc.


It really needs to be able to work without a computer or iOS device. Right now you can't use just storage attached to your router and the AppleTV. Annoying limitation.


Hmm... but how will they make money from the content on your external storage? If you bought the content from Apple, then (assuming a fast internet connection) they could let you stream it, without requiring a computer or iOS device. If you got the content someplace else, then that place is Apple's competitor.


You can already do what I'm describing. It just requires that you have a computer with iTunes running or an iOS device.


What you're describing is "use just storage attached to your router and the AppleTV". You cannot already that.

I acknowledge that you can work around that limitation by using AirPlay from Mac/iOS, or adding media to your iTunes library.

My point is that there's no incentive for Apple to add the specific functionality you (we) would like, i.e. playing stuff from a USB mass storage device or from an SMB share.


>or adding media to your iTunes library.

Yes, which doesn't require the iTunes store.


My point is simply that, although there are already ways for you to watch non-iTunes-store content onto your Apple TV, Apple has no incentive to provide you with an additional method like USB mass storage or SMB streaming.


Next to a huge EM shield (TV) isn't always the best place for an access point.


Is that something they're able or likely to solve?


Apple solution: "You're placing it wrong."


Now I get it. I'm hundred percent sure that Apple TV integrates iBeacon powered mobile payments. How else do we pay for the on-demand content on TV? Just scan your fingerprint and there you go. Maybe even buy an advertised product that you see on TV, just like that.

"This channel requires subscription, please verify your payment with your iDevice, thank you." Fantastic.


Nice, this is very much a space about to get crazy. We started the process of keeping a journal of what we actually watch/use in our current satellite subscription and it was pretty revealing. Easily 80% of everything was available elsewhere in a more useful format.


I have 2 Apple TV devices and have loved the product in general. { Disclaimer - I am far from being an apple fan boy }

Couple of things that require fixes.

- Content: Frankly the current content is pretty lame. ABC has a sheepish presence catering to its prime TV shows. ESPN seems to use this as a vehicle for ESPN3.

- Itunes: I had such a bad experience with itunes movie rentals over the weekend. Utterly bad streaming/buffering experience. Unacceptable.

- Radio: Come on .... Do you know they have internet radio support?

-Keyboard: Searching is such a pain. Try using the search on the youtube app.

- Remote: The remote interferes with your Bluetooth receiver on your mac book.

- lack of local storage


I think that the Apple TV is best misunderstood product that Apple makes (and perhaps it's misunderstood, and sometimes frustrating, because it's dependent on another device - your TV).


Hopefully that means better software support. The newest update has a bug with video playback after using iTunes Radio, video plays "through" the UI and no way for me to downgrade.


Looking forward to this - the current design makes mirroring fail for most people, and mirroring is very important for our app.


Why does mirroring fail? I'm curious because it usually fails for me. Are you just talking about the supposed new integration of the wireless AP with the Apple TV?


I knew this would happen when they demoed Mavericks streaming. That's the coolest feature from Mavericks.


I figure their new Thunderbolt Display will be actual Apple TVs, and they'll justify the set-top box by integrating the Airport Express product so it can fulfill a standalone use if you're successfully upsold.


I hope Apple loosens up their design guidelines. The Netflix app is terrible on Apple TV.


Maybe I'm just being silly but I really hope not. AppleTV is the only Netflix device I know of that won't automatically keep playing TV episodes (with no way to turn this "feature" off).


They just made that feature optional:

https://support.netflix.com/en/node/2102


Took them long enough!


My Vizio TV doesn't autoplay TV episodes in Netflix. Plus it has Amazon streaming, plus I've been able to write software for it on the platform of my choosing, for years, without having to jailbreak my TV (using Yahoo's TVWidgets).


I'm not asking for continuous play really, just that it only be one click when the credits begin to roll ( or however they determine when to pop up that little modal for the next episode ).


The Wii version of Netflix also does not play automatically - it's pretty much the only thing I use the Wii for.


Unfortunately the Wii doesn't do 1080/720p stuff either though :/. The increase in quality is well worth spending $100 on some other type of streamer.


Yes, that would be a nice feature for sure.


The first thing that caught my eye on that page is "apple hdmi to hdmi".

I immediately face-palmed in disgust.


It's not an (Apple HDMI) to HDMI cable. It's an Apple (HDMI to HDMI) cable.


This is a funny example of how people tend to see what they want to see.




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