Blog Post

Why the New Apple TV Isn’t Something I’ll Be Watching

So is Apple TV still only a hobby for Jobs and company? Because if it isn’t, then I’m missing something from yesterday’s presentation when the new iteration of Apple’s (s aapl) set-top device was unveiled. The new Apple TV is smaller, cheaper and sexier, I’ll grant it that, but what else does it really have going for it?

Let’s start with rental only. That’s right, you can only rent content from the Apple TV, not purchase it. It makes sense given the device’s lack of onboard storage, but does it make sense for a buying public that’s only just now moving past the point of physical media ownership? All of a sudden, not only do you not have a disc you own when you pay for content, you also don’t even have a file. Instead you get a window of opportunity.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like archiving my material and I like to have it available whenever I want to review it, or just revisit a favorite scene to make sure I remember it correctly. True, as Steve Jobs said in the presentation, I’ll be able to rent it multiple times for cheaper than I’d be able to buy it, but then I can’t lend it to friends and family, pass it on to my kids or view it again 50 years down the road when its gone out of print.

Putting aside the tyranny of streaming-only, at least you can access your media on your computer, where it is comfortably stored, right? Well, only if you’ve adhered to Apple’s way of doing media, and haven’t strayed to any of the other terrific and much more popular video formats out there. Apple TV remains closed, and as a result, any machine running Boxee hooked up to my TV remains a better option, even considering the price differential for the original purchase.

Speaking of price, let’s look at that $99 tag Jobs dangled in our salivating faces. It’s almost an impulse buy at that point, and I know a few people who indulged that impulse. But you know what else is a good price? $10 for a fancy razor with replaceable heads. Those heads will cost you $40 for a four-pack, sure, but that’s later. Apple isn’t going to make most (if any) of its money on the Apple TV itself (though without much onboard storage, it’s cheap enough to build), but on the gobs of media you’re almost forced to purchase from them as a result.

The inclusion of Netflix (s nflx) is one of the few genuinely impressive things about the new Apple TV. It means that people who already have a subscription don’t need to go in for Apple’s pricier rental options, and the implementation looks pretty impressive as compared to its counterparts on other platforms.

But even if you exclusively use the Netflix option, which means being behind in terms of release dates on TV and movies, you’ll end up paying much more for the hardware than you probably would if you opted for a media PC (or Mac mini, even) purchase and just depended on free streaming from network websites. Occasionally you’d still run up against content you have to pay for, but you can own it, and you options for sourcing that could equate to a much better per purchase price.

In general, I’m willing to deal with Apple’s closed systems and devices because of the trade-offs I get in terms of quality. But third-party apps and desktop software make it possible for me to still use Apple hardware with my own content, regardless of format and point of origin. That’s not likely going to be the case with the Apple TV, and until it is, it won’t find a place in my living room, regardless of cost and cosmetics.

64 Responses to “Why the New Apple TV Isn’t Something I’ll Be Watching”

  1. Honestly, this has got to be one of the dumbest articles I have ever read. The guy who wrote this basically highlights two reasons, one more so than the other, why he utterly despises the new apple tv (so much so that he took the time to not only write this but make that image of it in a trash can)!

    Anyways, the first reason he talks about (the bigger issue for him) is how unaccetable it is that he now has to rent and not buy. How am I gonna show my grandkids, etc, etc…

    I’m not sure what else to say other than that’s just plain not true. You can buy all you want, just as you were and just as if this device was never announced for release. The new Apple TV and one’s ability to purchase content have nothing to do with each other.

    In other words, JUST DO THE EXACT SAME THING YOU WERE DOING BEFORE! The Apple TV is obviously not meant for this (ie the lack of hard drive) so why would you even bring that up? It’s not even relevant?

    Anyways, the second thing he talked about was in essence, having to organize his media in iTunes to play through the Apple TV.

    My response to that is…well, look at the bottom of your own article. You talk about Apple’s reputation for quality & simplicity, etc.

    Part of this is acheived (ie App Store) by mantaining a closed system. Open it up, and the compatibility problems will flood the gates.

    On the other hand, I strongly believe there is a place for open-source (non-contained) digital everything.

    But that is not what Apple is about. And that should not be a suprise. This is not news. All they are doing regarding that matter is the same thing they’ve always done, which believe it or not, is part of the reason you’re an Apple Fan in the first place.

    There are so many other great blogs and sites that give honest, informed reviews.

    This is garbage. Sounds like it was written from a whinny, spoiled brat.


  2. I would say 99% of the movies I have watched are all rentals. I don’t care to buy everything I see. The same goes with TV shows. AppleTV serves that purpose. My only issue is that movies are still pricy at $3.99 and $4.99. Redbox is .99 for new releases. The price point is still to expensive. $2.99 and I’m in!

  3. Sorry but Apple should concentrate more on fixing its broken products then to introduce new ones. Hey, you can’t blame them for trying to cover up a solution for the iPhone

    Plus has anyone heard about why Apple would not allow its products to be tested by O2? It was a simple questionnaire that they had to fill out. You can check it out here:

  4. Steve Simpson

    Oh for God’s sake, what is it with people who insist on owing content? Since the entertainment business began with limelight theatre productions of Shakespeare, audiences went to the show, were entertained and went home happy. Same for movies, network radio in the 40’s network TV in the 50’s leading up to today.

    What ever possesses folks to spend $29 buying a DVD of Toy Story. How many time are you going to watch it. Shelves are full of VHS pirated copies of Disney shows taped by parents who thought these ‘family treasures’ would go into their kids Hope Chests, and guess what? They sit collecting dust on the shelf.

    There is so much content out there to absorb you can’t view it all let alone own it. Let it go. Rent. Enjoy. Move on to the next selection.

    • me here

      could be to watch Toy Story 100x, you obviously dont have kids and aren’t a movie buff. If you look around you can BUY DVDs for $3, why rent for $1. There is WAY TOO MUCH content in the world, to be sucked in to paying $1 to watch the next ‘me-too’ production.

      I could not care less about HD (480, 720, 1080, who cares) the quality of the content is more important than the quality of the output.

      I would rather watch my VHS copy of StarWarsIV on my 12″ b/w TV than rent EpisodeI in 1080p on a 58″ unit from rent-a-center.

      “What ever possesses folks to spend $29 buying a DVD of Toy Story. How many time are you going to watch it”

  5. That’s funny.
    We had the opposite reaction.
    This is the first Apple TV we’d want to buy, and here’s why:

    – Not closed. AppleTV IS NOT CLOSED. You can buy TV shows from anywhere and stream them from your computer. Buy a DVD box set, rip and stream that. Same applies to music and movies. How is that closed?
    -On the subject of movies. Not all movies are worth buying. We went to Blockbuster all the time and never owned those films.
    -Podcasts. TWiT and various others were just begging to be on our TV. Well, now they are.
    -YouTube, Netflix, MobileMe and Flickr. The inclusion of Netflix justifies the price on its own.
    -Price. Let me get this right, You’re complaining about it being affordable?? Ok, you crossed the line into silliness there.
    -Internet Radio. I love Japanaradio and other stations. Now I can listen on some decent speakers.

    With respect Darrell, my family thinks Apple hit the mark this time.

  6. I have no idea why the Apple TV has been released in the UK. There is no real need for it. In the UK, we are unable to buy HD films and there is only a small selection of HDTV programmes.

    One thing I will keep my eye on is the “service only” USB port. Why is this there? Is this going to be the subject of a ‘one more thing’ announcement just before Xmas? The A4 chip will allow this to run exactly like an iPhone 4, so it should be possible to connect a FaceTime/iSight cam to it, no?

    Until something of genuine use is bestowed on this money-grabbing box, I see no use for it whatsoever.

    • Plus, it costs £99. At current exchange rates it should in fact cost £65, but it doesn’t – it costs £99. wtf is going on with that? I’m used to inflated prices for apple stuff here in the UK, like when snow leopard should have cost £15 but it cost £25, but just replacing the dollar sign with the pound sign is a bit extra.

  7. John Kalla

    What’s with the 720p??? I understand that, without internal storage, 720p is a good “catch-all” for the average broadband user, but if I have the bandwidth and a high-enough cap to d/l 1080p content, I should be able to.

    No 1080p and no storage of any kind kills this for me completely. Almost every device available can hook up to Netflix, or will in the near future. I see no reason to downgrade my four-year-old AppleTV for the “new & improved” model.

    On the plus side of the announcements, the Shuffle is back!!!

  8. Why the F#)$*( would anyone want to own a bunch of TV shows. Seriously. I “own” them on my direcTV but I deleted them after watching them. I vote keep the price down and keep it rental.

    This isn’t a huge concern for Apple, people, so if your mission is to prove what else you can buy then go buy it. I doubt Steve will lose sleep at night. Nothing that is out yet can replace cable or satellite.. yet. My money is on Apple to eventually get it right.

  9. This is why I stay away from all of this streaming download stuff. I’ll wait and buy or rent the Blu-ray and watch in glorious high bit rate 1080P High Definition. On any of my 4 TV’S whenever I want. Or in my HP Envy Laptop with a built in Blu-ray drive.

    Think about it, just to feed your instant gratification habit how much you loose. Quality, Convience, did I say Quality.