Why Apple TV is finally starting to matter

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Hidden somewhere in Apple’s earnings call is this little snippet: According to CEO Tim Cook, the company sold 1.4 million Apple TVs during the holiday quarter. That’s notable because it’s about half of the devices that Apple had sold in the entire year prior, and one-third of the 4.2 million sold in total. In other words, sales of the second-generation Apple TVs are accelerating nicely after a (somewhat) slow start.

That’s worth noting for a few reasons:

  1. Apple is clearly outselling the competition. Apple TV might be a hobby, but it’s already the top-selling device in its class. The next-best-selling Roku streaming boxes have sold 2.5 million units over the past three years, compared to Apple’s 4.2 million units in about half the time.
  2. There’s pent-up demand for the mythical “iTV.” Apple is expected to introduce a connected TV soon — possibly later this year — and Apple TV’s sales show that users are already interested in the company’s user interface and services that would likely be available on it.
  3. Users want Internet connectivity and access to streaming content on their TVs but might not be willing to buy a new set to get it. Last week, I wrote about how the latest batch of connected TVs from manufacturers like Sony, Samsung, Vizio and others probably won’t convince consumers to upgrade in the near term, but software improvements are likely to come soon. In the meantime, Apple TV is a good stopgap for those not quite ready to jump on the connected TV bandwagon.

All that said, let’s put things into perspective: The Microsoft Xbox 360 sold nearly a million units in one week alone during the holiday quarter. The Apple TV is far from a mass-market device, but its sales numbers show that even in a relatively small market, Apple dominates the competition.

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