The little black box has had a rough ride in recent times.
It’s morphed from one thing to another, Apple seemingly flailing around trying to find something that sticks.
Not much has.
I own an entry level version 4, and I’m not really that happy with it.
I’m from the UK, so a lot of what is printed in the press about the Apple TV in the US doesn’t really apply to me, but the UK version doesn’t fair that much better.
The device is really buggy.
I have to routinely restart it to play iTunes content (I get the “ready to play in 2 hours 24 minutes bug).
Also home sharing is fubar’d. Turning it on destroys my entire home network, both wireless and wired, mandating a router and modem restart.
The aerial screensaver thinks I’m an American vampire – and live in a permanent night state in San Francisco.
The selection of apps is woefully sparse and is infrequently updated.
The BBC had to be shown the way to create an app for it and the other commercial channels, whilst they are on the iPhone, don’t seem interested in the Apple TV.
The main reason for this is AirPlay.
Apple have made such a good job of this that it discourages developers from doing more work to create a TV version.
Hence there’s no Amazon, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 apps.
Gaming would be fun, if Apple would allow the 5-10 iOS devices in my household, TO BE CONTROLLERS.
Then there’s the remote.
I didn’t really understand the problem, until I tried to use one.
In a previous article I ranted about how Apple’s designers aren’t as good as they say they are because they are more concerned about how something looks rather than how it works.
This remote not only looks awful, it’s a nightmare to actually use.
Siri? I’ll admit it’s well done, and certainly the most successful implementation of it.
But in comparison with other verbal assistants it still falls short.
So what can be done?
For me personally, if they could get the UK channels to sign up, I’d be pretty happy.
However you can run these channel’s iOS apps on a jailbroken ATV, so why doesn’t Apple just do that and let the apps flood in?
It seems like an easy win to me.
The buggieness I hope is sorted with an update, but this is The New Apple, so you never know.
Apple’s design issues run much deeper than the Apple TV, a fundamental shake up is required here.
Apple’s problem with the Apple TV is its scale. It’s simply trying to do too much, too soon.
The consumers problem with the Apple TV is that it has to do different things in different regions.
I want Channel 4, somebody else might want pro-games, somebody else might want DVR capabilities.
The point is you can’t please everyone, it needs to do a small number of things and do them really well.
There is one thing they can do that would help enormously though:
Sack Eddy Cue – he’s is Totally Valueless.
Very interesting post from MacRumors.com, on the perceived evolution of Apple’s customer base, to-wit,”consumers want what we don’t have”.
As new players enter the market, the customer’s needs change, this is inevitable in any free-market and it’s something that Apple used to be very good at despite all the dogma that, “Apple abhors focus groups, and doesn’t listen to it’s customers.”
Take the iPod for instance.
The iPod started of in as much the same way as the iPhone, a very expensive, albeit limited answer to a market that already existed.
Over time, new models were introduced, the hardware got a lot cheaper, and every single market niche was eventually filled, from the music-mad (100g+ iPod classic for all your songs), to the teen with limited cash, (the iPod mini/nano), onto the bargain-basement little iPod shuffle.
The iTunes store gained traction and ALL the hardware from the high end to the low-end was serviced by the iTunes store.
To the point we are now at where the competition to the iPod doesn’t exist, it’s been destroyed, other than extremely cheap devices that are little more than USB sticks with a few extras.
Game, set and match.
You can argue that the bottom has fallen out of the iPod market, now that the iPod touch fills most of what remains, however all the iPod line is still on sale.
So why hasn’t this happened with the iPhone?
Where is our iPhone mini or nano?
Where is our iPhone shuffle, or the candy-bar phone equivalent?
While we’re at it, why can’t developers write apps for the AppleTV?
Why doesn’t Apple view the iPhone market, in the same way the viewed the iPod market?
It would certainly work, the AppStore is perfectly capable of servicing every model of iPhone, with apps that can only run on certain hardware, (you can’t view videos on an iPod shuffle like you can on an iPod classic for instance).
Lot’s of why’s, very little answers.
Looking at some of the internal memos that have come out from the Apple / Samsung trial, it’s clear that there’s a struggle going on at the top of Apple, in what they stand for, what markets they should service, and what their profit-margins should be.
It’s clear that Apple needs to get focused and act like a start-up, like they used to.
I’m quite a prolific user of the iTunes store and use it to buy just about everything it has to offer – music, apps, podcasts and even it’s limited selection of films.
Over Christmas I decided to purchase a film I’ve great admiration for – ‘District 9’ – the tale of a fictional visitation of refugee aliens to planet earth.
It’s a great film, and I’d highly recommend it to any science-fiction fan, or even people who like political drama’s. In fact on one level it’s even a love-story, so something for everyone I think (although it’s a bit gory in places).
However this isn’t a review – it’s a comment on something I got in purchasing this film I wasn’t expecting – iTunes Extras.
The iTunes Extra content sits a little oddly outside and separate from the actual film, in fact at first I didn’t notice it until I’d watched the film. When double clicking on it, it opens in the iTunes window as if you were looking at the iTunes store.
The content is what you’d expect from DVD extras, documentaries and links to other content, however it looks to me that iTunes Extra is aimed at larger screen Macs and Apple TV.
It doesn’t sync to the iPhone, which I thought was a missed opportunity.
My poor little iBook only has a 12″ screen and the iTunes Extra content didn’t fit the screen, I had to scroll down and right to see it all – not the best experience really, I’d really expect it to scale to the screen.
So it looks like that iTunes Extra is aimed at future technology, technology I can’t afford just yet.
The ever-excellent Roughly Drafted goes into great detail here, about how iTunes Extra & LP work.
So that’s my question answered, however Roughly Drafted also goes on to postulate that the real benefactor for this approach is Apple TV, or whatever it’s successor is to be called.
The real kicker though is the fact that all this is done using open standards – no proprietary Flash or Silverlight required.
It would be really nice if certain people, who have lambasted Apple in the past for their horrible, closed proprietary systems, to maybe just admit, just for once, that Apple just might have the user’s interests at heart.
And of course, as RD points out, their own hardware sales. Once Apple’s users have enough iTunes LP & Extra content on their Mac/PC, Apple will release Apple TV 3.0 and all that content now plays on that device, effectively replacing DVD players in one fell swoop.
As always, there’s far more info in Roughly Drafted’s article, it’s highly recommended, but sometimes I wish RD would keep these plans to himself – we don’t want the enemy knowing all our plans do we?