What the Heck Is Going on With Apple TV?

Apple (s AAPL), 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 (s MSFT), 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 (s NFLX) and Amazon (s AMZN) 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?