Apple TV’s missed opportunity


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.

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