Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The New Apple TV: Fascinating and Frustrating

I just finished watching the big Apple announcement today where along with new iOS and iPods, we got a good look at the new Apple TV. There are several things that I like very much:

I really like the new size and the new price. I also like that they have opened it all up to streaming rentals rather than downloads and they included Netflix in their lineup of movies available. This is very big of Apple considering Netflix is technically a competitor. It is also a smart move that the are moving over to the iOS architecture with very little storage rather than being, basically, a scaled down mac with the finder locked out. They are also providing the ability to stream media directly from your mac and other Apple mobile devices so there is no need to store it on Apple TV.

Now for the places that I think it fails:

1) WTF Steve you could have added 90% of this to the existing unit a year ago and given us a decent damn update for our money! Now your early adopters are supposed to throw away their $300 purchases and spend another $100 bucks just to get the new functionality? Bummer.

2) WHERE IS SAFARI???!!! Apple's claim that the number one feature people were clamoring for is full HD is misleading. Their claim that people "don't want a computer" plugged into their TV" is also misleading. I have been testing lots of these set top boxes and following the Apple TV audience in particular. People want two parts of their computer on the TV screen: Their media files AND an internet browser to access the whole universe of other internet media. It was in such high demand that people HACKED Apple TV to get it. Why are they denying this and still choking out the internet access we have had on computers for 10 years now?

I'm beginning to suspect that content licensing is completely out of control in the entertainment industry and there is a media frenzy leveraging hardware manufacturers to lock out our access to internet media the second we start using our HD TV as a computer monitor. All this hoopla about studying their audience and 3 years after I bought Apple TV I still need to plug my laptop into my entertainment center if I want to watch a movie or listen to my local radio station through an internet browser? I don't buy it. Either Steve Jobs is deaf, Apple is playing market games of their own, or they are being leveraged by content providers. There is a disturbing trend among some content licensors to keep the internet off the TV set because TV sets are for cable boxes and broadcasting rights while watching the internet through a TV set is only internet rights.

I'm glad that they are finally back to work on this device and I do really like the direction they are taking it. I just feel frustrated that my original investment in this idea has now become obsolete and it is being replaced with a device that makes basic changes I was still waiting for. In this and this area alone, the new Apple TV is a disappointment to me, the early adopter who spent $300 on the "old" Apple TV which never got a major update after I bought it.