Apple, during its quarterly earnings call yesterday, didn’t bring up its stepchild set-top box, the Apple TV. For those who follow the video industry, this is more of a predictable disappointment than a shocker. But as the video world evolves all around it, Apple appears to […]

Apple, during its quarterly earnings call yesterday, didn’t bring up its stepchild set-top box, the Apple TV. For those who follow the video industry, this is more of a predictable disappointment than a shocker. But as the video world evolves all around it, Apple appears to be stuck on pause, rather than fast-forwarding us into a television experience of the future. What gives?


The company has a history of relegating the Apple TV to the kids’ table, referring to it as a “hobby,” or not referring to it at all, as it did yesterday during its second-quarter conference call. But time isn’t on Apple’s side, and if it wants to be a player in this space, it needs to do something. Consider:

  • Microsoft, ironically, is becoming a true innovator in the living room. The company associated with boring PCs isn’t just using its Xbox game console as a gateway onto people’s TVs, it’s busting down the door with new social viewing features, social media integration and 1080p HD streaming.

  • Netflix and Amazon continue to strike deals with multiple consumer electronics partners, putting their services on just about every net-connected Blu-ray and TV out there. (And who knows, the two might merge to form one gigantic VOD Voltron-like service!)
  • Hulu and the cable companies will offer a one-two punch of putting TV shows from the broadcast and cable networks online. Granted, there will be windowing issues and you’ll need a cable subscription for some of that content, but these options greatly expand a viewer’s VOD choices at any one time.

But we still won’t count Apple out entirely. Michael Wolf over at our GigaOM Pro service (subscription required) recently outlined some new directions Apple could take with the Apple TV, including a shift towards gaming and apps and tighter integration with other Apple products, like the iPhone or a web pad.

What do you think is going on with the Apple TV? Do you have one? Do you use it? What does it need?

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  1. Played with an Apple TV at a friend’s house over the weekend. It had nothing on it — no movies, no TV shows, no podcasts, no music, nothing. The only thing it was good for was watching YouTube vids.

    I think Apple doesn’t talk about ATV because it doesn’t want to admit ATV is a failure. They would have been better off just making a video dock and letting the iPod be the center of the media experience. Plus, Apple still wants to sell movies a la carte, and people see more value in paying Netflix $10/month.

    If ATV came with what it has now, plus Netflix, Hulu, ESPN360 and a few other streaming services, plus a built-in OTA tuner with guide and DVR, it might start taking off. But it will be a cold day in hell before Apple makes deals with Netflix and Hulu.

  2. What to read on the GigaOM network Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    [...] Staff | Wednesday, July 22, 2009 | 9:54 AM PT | 0 comments What the heck is going on with Apple TV? (NewTeeVee) An early look at Firefox 3.7 (OStatic) Wireless charging: making the leap from gadgets [...]

  3. Apple TV is useless… they should go ahead and kill it.

    The only reason Apple built it was to provide a front end for purchasing videos on iTunes. They don’t want you to watch episodes for free on Hulu or all-you-can stream movies on Netflix or downloaded DivX files from the darker parts of the Internet. They want you to buy individual shows or episodes, from them, and from nobody else.

    Technology companies that aren’t in bed with media companies are much better positioned to build a decent set top box… because when a major part of your business model involves giving BJs to movie/music industry executives, and selling “exclusive” content a-la-carte, you’re going to build products that please those industry execs and protect your own store (like a video player that doesn’t support DivX, for instance). And that’s not what users actually want.

    Apple should get out of the way. This space is going to be owned by company that isn’t beholden to Disney and BigContent… and the sooner we can get there, the better it will be for video consumers.

  4. Too low end a platform to be universal Wednesday, July 22, 2009
    • Add a better CPU (core 2 or up)
    • Support all features supported by boxee
    • Support a full web browser

    Yes, it will look like Mac Mini and there is nothing you can do about it.

  5. I thought the same thing about the ATV being just a front end for iTunes until I discovered Boxxe. Boxxe has allowed me to cancel my cable service and still see all of the shows that I want to see. Boxxe has also allowed me to view almost any video format on my HDTV. My ATV has treated me so well that my ‘wife’ is talking about getting another one for our bed room.

  6. I was going to say the exact opposite. If you read their report, look at how many times they mention Apple TV:

    I was shocked at how many: Nine Times.

    It indicated to me that they have big plans on the horizon and wanted to get the investors thinking about it.

    1. @Andrew,

      I was referring to the call specifically. But even in the report, they didn’t provide any update on ATV.

  7. Mark Schoneveld Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    Incredible that it hasn’t been updated. I have one and still love it, despite the fact that it hasn’t updated. Using Boxee on it is awesome and heck, I even rent movies and TV shows more often than I care to admit. So I guess I’m just patiently waiting to see what happens. No rush. I enjoy the thing. I know if they do give it some elbow grease they’ll hit one out of the park. Apps on the Apple TV, plz.

  8. Konstantin Gonikman Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    I still believe there’s a future for Apple TV. Not as a external box, but as a TV Set. I mean the tube. It would make sense, since Apple [historically] loves to control every node, from low-hardware to end-software. And they’re making very good Cinema Displays already.

  9. Over the weekend I experimented with both Boxee and Plex. Plex was a MUCH better experience – better integration with Netflix and my Netflix account, integration with Hulu (!), and easier on the eyes, too. Made me strongly consider buying a MacMini or converting the old Dell desktop in my garage into a media server.

  10. My AppleTV serves mostly as a tool that allows me to play my 200+GB iTunes collection via my TV/receiver, with the added bonus of getting to rent/purchase HD movies that are available to watch almost instantly.

    Yes, it is not the same quality as Blu-Ray, and yes, there are more elegant solutions to handle the music sharing, but for $180 on eBay it works for me.

    If I had it to do over again, I might buy the Mac Mini instead tho.

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