The consumer electronics industry, like its mobile phone counterpart, is going into a phase of flux, where Moore’s law and smart software and services would dictate how tomorrow’s consumer devices are built. Everyone — from start-ups such as Sonos to Microsoft and Sony  — is trying […]

The consumer electronics industry, like its mobile phone counterpart, is going into a phase of flux, where Moore’s law and smart software and services would dictate how tomorrow’s consumer devices are built. Everyone — from start-ups such as Sonos to Microsoft and Sony  — is trying to figure out their next move.

Apple, which has been great so far at building clever products that leverage software, services and commodity hardware, has so far lagged in its efforts. Apple TV, its Internet set-top box, has been a disappointment. Michael Wolf, who spearheads GigaOM Pro, thinks it is time for Apple to refocus its attention on this device.

“Since the launch of Apple TV, the company has launched its app store, pushed into gaming, and started offering HD video content on iTunes,” he writes (subscription required). “Add it all together on a refreshed box, and it could be a potent combination.” Higher video quality and adding gaming capabilities are two of his picks. I was wondering if you would like to share your perspective in the comments section.

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  1. I think that it needs to offer three things on top of the current functionality:

    1. Access to streaming services such as iPlayer, Hulu etc as it already does with Youtube.

    2. Games and other Apps via the App Store, suddenly you have a ready made console. The tricky part will be how powerful it needs to be, they probably won’t do an X360 PS3 rival but it needs to be competitive to the Wii on the graphics front.

    3. Make it play a much wider range of video files. I want to be able to play my DVD’s that I have ripped to my Mac then I don’t need a DVD player and it is much easier to choose and navigate my content. I don’t want to buy everything again on iTunes, I want to rip them like I did with my CD’s and iPod. Obviously this has piracy complications.

    The trouble is I am not convinced that any of them are very likely to happen. Good job you can plug a Mac Mini into a TV!

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  3. The Apple TV currently seems to serve a niche market of consumers who want to enjoy the convenience and don’t mind paying a comparatively steep price for video content via the iTunes Music Store. If Apple’s goal is to offer a device that provides a convenient way to get content from the iTMS directly to their TV for those who need something that does specifically that, then they’ve succeeded. But I don’t think Apple can expect to gain significant market share against completing products if it doesn’t offer services such as Hulu and Netflix streaming in the near future. The device as it stands right now is far too limited for those who want access to a variety of video streaming/downloading sources.

  4. I unplugged Comcast 4 months ago to see if I could live off the Apple TV. I must say the the experience has been pretty positive. I really miss live sports and wish I could buy passed for Tennis tournaments for example. Access to Hulu would also be nice. Re: Games I am not sure because we have a wii and it works really well. Beside access to more content, there are 2 features I think would be nice. 1) the ability to rate podcast + a genius like system which would recommend more content and 2) the ability to share recommendations on twitter and facebook and access the recommendations of people in my twitter or facebook network. Navigating for content on the Apple TV is hard, voted and social recommendations could make content discovery more linear/simple

    1. Streaming online coverage will only increase in choice, quality and features (such as user-controlled camera selection). The winning “box” must support the evolution of online content technology and business model. That means buying movies from Netflix, videos from Amazon or iTunes, and subscription services from MLB, F1, NASCAR, etc. I doubt that Apple will go there. Ultimately TVs will go there, e.g. Samsung’s decision to integrate ARM processors in future TVs. If the “box” will fit into a smartphone, why not a TV?


  5. It seems counter-intuitive but I believe including a blu-ray/dvd drive is the key. Why?

    Doing so makes it a drop-in upgrade for millions of aging DVD players that are already sitting on racks, under TVs, already wired in, whether in a $500 or $5000 home theater. No new wiring, no additional input needed on the TV/Receiver.

    And as the A/V crowd would say, the WAF is huge. “Its not *another* box, it’s just replacing one thats there.”


    1. You make a good point. Download IS the future but its not quite the present yet. DVD’s are cheaper than iTunes and everybody still has loads of them.

    2. Yeah, you are right.

      That is the reason I have a macmini attached to my tv and not an apple tv.

  6. Navigation just bearable now if you have the iphone app – more films and more pay per view like sport and other events. Perhaps some widgets for news and instant weather , or a quick what’s new in the store feature. Watch content you converted automatically in itunes so you can take it away on your iphone/laptop to watch while you travel

  7. The Apple TV needs composite or SCART video out. No use to me otherwise.

  8. My wish list is:
    – App/widget channel for news, sports, stocks, weather, etc.
    – Video/photos directly from iPhone using USB or Wi-Fi
    – Video/photos from Facebook and Picasa

  9. After really really wanting to buy and try an Apple TV, I ended up with a macmini instead

    I would love to avoid the extra cost and the clunky interface (for a box attached to a tv) and the need for a mouse. But here are some of the things missing from an apple tv …

    1) DVD / BluRay – Hey thats still where I get most of my content.
    2) Netflix support
    3) Hulu support
    4) Twitter / Facebook etc (Thats where I discover content)
    5) Combining 1-4, A flash enabled web browser
    6) Widgets for quick information consumption and looking up scores, weather etc
    7) Pandora / Last.fm for great free music and music discovery (but as I say below less of a priority)
    8) More storage space by attaching usb drives. This also enables me to look at files “borrowed” from friends in say USB sticks ;)

    Currently the dominant devices connected to a tv are a cable box and a dvd player. the apple tv gives you very few capabilities over these 2. What you get is access to your music and photos. Photos is useful. Music arguably less so because few people want to listen to their music on their TV.

    The truth is you can get a lot more out of a device like the Apple TV if either Apple opened the device up or more probably developed these features / partnerships themselves.

    BTW most of these capabilities are present in the XBox, But I am not really a gamer and so the value proposition does not make sense and again, A game controller is not the best way to control your media.

    On a side note: a 6 button remote really is irritating to use. Apple needs a better controller. The Apple remote app to control the apple tv is really a great great step in the right direction.

    And on an other note, I do not think Apple should/will do a gamebox. There is too much competition there and seriously why ?

    1. @Yuvamani – I think Apple could do a gamebox since they would be able to leverage the active developer network they have established for Mac and iPhone and not have to do a billion dollar game console development cycle like the others. The Apple TV – this one and likely a future one- is really a purpose built Mac based appliance. If they can push a box with loads of apps, gaming (where iPhones are the remotes) and streaming video, I think they would. Clearly they need to do something to answer the Xbox 360, which is really Microsoft’s biggest unanswered advantage in the consumer space relative to Apple.


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