I had high hopes for the new Apple TV and the type of interactive experiences that it could usher in. And while 1080p video is great and all, I can’t shake the feeling that this new $99 box has so much potential completely untapped.


AppleTVI hate writing posts like this, the kind of story that talks about how underwhelming or disappointing a new product is. It makes me think of this one Louis CK bit, about how everything is amazing and nobody’s happy. But really, I just can’t help it.

I had high hopes for the new Apple TV. Really high hopes. So high that chances are Apple wouldn’t have been able to meet those expectations, no matter what. Because, you know, somehow I feel like Apple owes me something. Like it’s just there to make magical products for me and all the other consumers in the world.

But this Apple TV thing . . . it’s disappointing. It’s disappointing because it’s the most incremental of all incremental updates for a product that hasn’t been moving forward nearly as quickly as it should be. It’s disappointing because I have this amazing vision in my head of what the Apple TV could be, what it should be, and Apple is not doing any of the things I hoped it would.

Last week I laid out a road map for where I thought Apple TV was going. Or at least, where I thought it should go, based on the available hardware and software that Apple has at its disposal.

Basically, I hoped Apple would:

  • Open up the Apple TV SDK and let developers have at it
  • Create more-advanced integration between the TV and the mobile devices
  • Enable navigation control and interactivity on the second screen

It seems obvious, doesn’t it? In part because Apple already owns the ecosystem and in part because competitors like Samsung are already doing this.

On Wednesday on Twitter I took things a step further, breathlessly predicting the Apple TV could upstage the new iPad. I even provided some predictions for which content partners might begin building for the new platform and what sort of capabilities might be enabled by doing so. It’s not just wounded pride or a sense of being completely and utterly wrong that makes me disappointed. It’s that the industry is moving forward, and in this respect, Apple is seriously lagging behind some of the competition.

Take a look at the latest update to Xbox Live or some of Samsung’s dual-screen apps. Even Google TV, for as little traction as it has gotten so far, has created an open app ecosystem that has some interesting interactive features built in. Now compare that to what developers can do on the Apple TV: bubkes.

It could be the improvements Apple made under the hood could eventually get the platform to where it needs to be to offer up the types of experiences I’m hoping for. And it could be the Apple TV’s potential will be fully unlocked once Apple releases iOS 6 during an event in the fall, with the eventual introduction of the next iPhone.

But for now I can’t shake the feeling that this $99 box has so much potential that is still completely untapped.

  1. I think control scheme continues to be the big problem. It’s one reason, in my opinion, Apple has simply side-stepped the issue of how to more intuitively control complex interfaces on the tv screen – you don’t. You just do it on your iPad/iPhone and run it through Airplay. But I agree, that $100 box just seems to powerful, so tantalizing and yet so criminally underused.

  2. Ian Andrew Bell Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    Basically, you’re hoping AppleTV will become Plex.

    http://plexapp.com Why wait?

    1. Plex runs the iOS app library? Awesome!

    2. Plex gave me nothing but problems. Removing it was not simple.

  3. I wouldn’t be disappointed, and I don’t think this is a missed opportunity. I think Apple is definitely in for this, it just isn’t ready for launch yet.

    As you watch (listen to?) the Apple rumor mill churn, it becomes clear that a lot of the rumors are premature. Apple usually doing the things that suppliers and unnamed insiders point out, but it can take awhile for things to get to market. Sometimes they change along the way, too (a big company like Apple will try a lot of options and abandon many as a matter of course). For example, we haven’t yet seen an AMOLED screen on an iPhone. Is Apple working on one? I think they must be (it’s the future). But there are reasons why they haven’t launched yet (cost, performance, reliability, etc).

    The same is true for Apple TV. What could be holding up the show? I think it’s almost a given that they have to have great content to make it a revolutionary product, and I think it’s also a given that the people who own and distribute the content are hard to deal with and probably scared to death of Apple being a part of their business (more than it is already with iTunes downloads).

    Apple TV is coming. It’s disappointing that it’s not here yet, but I wouldn’t call it a missed opportunity. No one has cracked this thing yet. There were Wintel tablets years before the iPad, but that didn’t matter. Remember when people joking that the iPad would be called the iSlate, as in “isLate”? Turns out, they were right on time.

    1. +1

    2. Matt–I’d wager that the reason we haven’t seen AMOLED on any Apple product is mainly a question of supply+price (via Samsung). Samsung hasn’t put that product into all of its devices (only the high-end models) because they don’t have the capacity to ramp up which of course lowers price. The next couple of years sees more factories coming online to increase AMOLED output, at which point I think we’ll finally see that iPhone w/ AMOLED. My $.02 of course.

  4. I think people expected too much, or it could be the effect of not having Steve Jobs?

  5. googletv def is a step up over appletv imo. we can atleast sideload apps that aren’t googletv compatible. now if they work or not, thats hit or miss.

    i personally think appletv needs to add back in a real storage medium, ie a 1TB hard drive and allow us to store media directly on it and then use the itunes remote app to control it from an iphone, ipad or android device. i have a headless pc setup to do this w/itunes but really would love to shrink down the setup. lastly, isn’t an integrated Apple iHDTV coming soon? :)

  6. I’m guessing that a lot of the functionality you’re looking for is being saved for the so-called iTV.

    I’m a bit disappointed too. I was all set to order a new Apple TV but if the only thing I’m gaining is 1080p capability then I won’t bother, at least not for now.

  7. Everything listed here can be done in software, but there was no point in waiting to release a 1080p hardware version

  8. Reblogged this on Qwinten.com Min medie Blog and commented:
    Apple udnyttede ikke mulighen for at indfri forbugernes forventninger til Appletv3.

    1. Having seen the new Apple TV interface, it seems like yesterday would have been the perfect opportunity to update the remote app to basically AirPlay the Apple Tv menu to the iPad to give you touch control of your TV in your lap. With the iPad now matching your TV’s1080p, they could say they are bringing the Tv to your lap. But they didn’t.

      I still see the key to the living room being a $99 accessory rather than another $3,000 TV

  9. Someone has to clue me in as to why a integrated AppleTV would be better than having the box? With the ATV in the current box form, I can then purchase the size and function of the television I want. The ATV could be any form given the way that storage is getting smaller physically but larger in capacity. One HDMI cable connects the whole thing. Give me the option to add an additional storage unit and I am happy.

  10. This is the key sentence – the rest is just whining, sorry: “But for now I can’t shake the feeling that this $99 box has so much potential, that is still completely untapped.”

    My thoughts on Apple TV from January:


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