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Summary:

Over the past few months, a variety of reports have speculated about the future of the Apple TV. Some have flat-out asked if the device “will die,” and although I can’t be sure of that answer, I still like to believe that Apple wants to make […]

Over the past few months, a variety of reports have speculated about the future of the Apple TV. Some have flat-out asked if the device “will die,” and although I can’t be sure of that answer, I still like to believe that Apple wants to make it the cornerstone of any home theater. So if you’re asking me to answer that question, I’d say, “Not yet.”

Apple TVRegardless of my own stance, there are still a host of issues surrounding the Apple TV. First off, it is estimated to have sold just 400,000 units, according to Forrester Research, which is an astounding 600,000 units shy of what the research firm originally believed Apple would have sold by now.

To make matters worse, Apple has yet to provide a decent array of videos on its iTunes store. And ever since Steve Jobs called the Apple TV a “hobby,” some have wondered how dedicated the company really is to seeing this product succeed.

Yet while Apple’s questionable dedication may stand in the way of the Apple TV’s success, there are still a few ways the company can turn the tide.

Step 1: Allow users to do more

Who else has used the Apple TV and become extremely upset with its functionality? Am I the only person who believes we should be able to browse iTunes on the Apple TV menu, buy songs and video on the fly, and be allowed to browse the web? Sure, you can already do this with the Mac Mini, but wouldn’t you rather spend less to have the same sort of functionality without dealing with a full-fledged computer? I certainly would — and I own both products.

Step 2: Start working with movie studios for a change

While I may side with Apple on the topic of movie studios and its desire to basically change the way these companies have done business for the past 50 years, I also believe that sometimes it’s necessary for Steve Jobs’ ego to take a backseat to what is best for consumers. As Apple continues to break its ties with movie and television studios, the amount of content is dwindling to the point of irrelevance and without a healthy offering, there’s no hope for the Apple TV.

At best, we’re currently able to download Disney and Pixar films, while a handful of other titles from MGM and Lions Gate have been made available to whet our appetite. Did you know that according to Apple, a little over 500 movies are currently available on the iTunes Store? Granted, there are television shows and other entertainment at your disposal too, but will that anemic offering of video that doesn’t even spit out HD justify your purchase of a $399 device? I doubt it.

Step 3: Apple must pretend like it cares

When Steve Jobs uttered those fateful words — that the Apple TV was just “a hobby” — the world was left to wonder if the device was nothing more than an 18-month experiment. Unfortunately, it looks like it is. If it was as important to the company as the iPod, why wouldn’t some of these obvious problems have been addressed already?

Simply put, Apple seems like it doesn’t even care what happens with the Apple TV. And while it will talk about the iPod and iPhone until its PR people are blue in the face, it has failed to even speak to the issues that are plaguing this device.

That said, I truly believe Apple can turn this product around if it starts to focus on it. And if you ask me, now would be the best time to do just that. After all, what would be a distraction at this point? Leopard is out, the iPhone is an unbridled success and the iPod continues to dominate its industry. The only wild card in the entire equation is the Apple TV. But with some focus and market research to find out exactly what customers want, this company can find a way to turn it around.

The Apple TV has hope — Apple just needs to realize it.

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who covers everything from Google to HDTVs. He currently writes for over 15 popular technology publications, including CNET’s Digital Home, InformationWeek and Future Publishing in the UK.

  1. You left out the most important part. Apple has to facilitate free, advertiser-supported programming on iTunes. And they need to figure out a way to let advertisers target geographics and demographics.

    The great strength of Apple is that it creates great consumer experiences… but that’s their great weakness too — they sometimes care too much about it. The winner of the PC battle was Microsoft because they didn’t insist on doing the hardware themselves. Apple provided a better experience with their superior software/hardware integration, but it didn’t matter because people wanted something cheap.

    Now it’s a new battle: the integrated experience is now probably an advantage for Apple, but if they care too much about a pristine experience and not enough about value, a company like Google is going to win the day. It should be Apple, if they get over their control-freak tendencies and open up their universe to a thousand (advertiser-supported) voices.

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  2. [...] Don Reisinger added an interesting post today on How to Fix the Apple TVHere’s a small readingAs Apple continues to break its ties with movie and television studios, the amount of content is dwindling to the point of irrelevance and without a healthy offering, there’s no hope for the Apple TV. At best, we’re currently able to … [...]

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  3. Bravo, and yes, as an appleTV owner, for what I paid, I feel a bit unloved. However, with the stuff that the folks at awkwardtv have let me do, it is the cornerstone of my home theater. Sapphire and nitroTV let me play anything I want.

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  4. Or they could just start selling this thing called “DVI-HDMI-cable” and point out that in an almost magical way it actually lets you connect that $1000+ Mac to your TV.

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  5. I love my apple TV. And I am not a mac user.

    I believe that apple is missing a trick here. They need to position the apple tv as the mac tiny. This will get all of us non mac guys a taste of the apple pc/os world while deriving some clear intrinsic value in form of a media station. If I had my say in defining the road map I would add the following:

    activate the USB port to support a mouse/ keyboard and external drive
    enable a web browser
    provide widgets
    add DVR functionality / (charge a subscription for it I would rather pay apple then the cable guys)
    some of the suggestions listed above with regards to a open media plug ins

    Apple should also consider distributing the apple tv as the DVR platform via the largest cable/sat providers or buy tivo and combine tivo and atv to deliver a killer product.

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  6. How many “How can we Fix Apple TV” posts can there be? I’m as disappointed than anyone.

    What would be great is if an updated version of the box supported CableCard, and have DVR functionality. I bet the only way the cable industry would allow that is if it was only available for RENTAL from the cable companies.

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  7. Simple answer – support non-proprietary formats. Apple has so quickly forgotten what made the ipod so successful… it’s support for mp3. Sony would not do this, and failed in the same space. If Apple insists on supporting only DRM/Apple formats, it will fail in this venture.

    On the other hand, if they made the Appletv equivalent to an XBMC player – so that it would gracefully play all codecs, they would start to sell like hotcakes. Xvid, Divx, AVI, WMV, MKV, etc.

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  8. You are forgetting a few things. Apple TV has been on the market less than a year, yet…

    Apple holds 91% of video downloads
    Apple has 42% of movie downloads
    Apple is certainly making money on this product whether it sells 400,000 or 4,000,000.
    For example, Tivo started in 1997, yet only has 1.7 million stand alone DVR subscribers, so Apple already has 25% of Tivo’s customer base and didn’t lose $52 million like Tivo did last year.
    Cable companies will never willingly let Apple piggyback on their networks by offering a cablecard plugin for the ATV. (Overall, the cablecard concept is a raging failure.)
    Although more commercial content will certainly put a fire under ATV sales, ATV still has a great niche without boatloads of commercial content. ATV provides an elegant way to move any media on your computer to your living room.
    Certainly, the ATV has it’s shortcomings, but every other company in the same space—Tivo, Vudu, Unbox, MS Live, Movielink, etc. would love to have the “terrible” year the AppleTV had.

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  9. BTW, the Apple TV does spit out HD content if you provide it with HD content.

    “Apple has to facilitate free, advertiser-supported programming on iTunes. And they need to figure out a way to let advertisers target geographics and demographics.”

    Hugh? Ever heard of Podcasting? Pretty much anyone can post a free podcast on Apple with advertising.

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  10. [...] its problems, there are still a few things the company can do to turn the tide for the device. To read more, go to NewTeeVee. Share/Send Sphere Previous [...]

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