How To Fix The AppleTV (Hint: It’s not DVR functionality)
During the long stretch between Last Hardware Updates Of The Year and MacWorld there is little news coming out of Apple, Inc.. This is the time of year when Apple Talk turns from news and rumors to OpEd pieces.
In the last month, I’ve read more than a few articles telling the world what Apple needs to do to “fix” the AppleTV and send sales through the roof. Most of these articles recommend adding a DVR or an optical drive or both.
I hope not. AppleTV is a box for internet-delivered content.
Americans need to re-think Video Delivery
Americans think that you “get TV” from broadcast/cable/satellite and “get movies” come from shiny discs and Premium Channels. Therefore, anything that wants to rule the big screen will have to handle the content coming to it via these means.
…but what if TV and Movies came via internet? What if every single piece of programming that the cable company wants you to pay them to send to you could be sent via the internet connection you already have?
What if you could pull up a TV show as easily as a web page? What if you could subscribe to a TV show as easily as subscribing to a mailing list or an RSS feed?
Stop wondering “what if?”, because it’s all possible today.
(Now that you know this, how long before YOU cut the cable?)
AppleTV isn’t perfect
AppleTV needs to do better, not do more. The machine needs to be a better internet-delivered entertainment device. With this in mind, it’s easy to see where Apple TV could improve.
In addition to a processor/memory/storage bump, the AppleTV Take 3 should boast one of the two following features:
App Store / Plug-Ins
Yes, I know you can use plug-ins now. I also know they’ve gone from hacking and jailbraking-level mods to plug-and-play simplicity, but in the end… they’re still hacks.
Also, an App store would allow Netflix and Apple to combine forces without an official partnership.
It is widely known that Apple makes the bulk of it’s money on hardware sales and all other endeavors (including the iTunes store) work with the slimmest of profit margins. Apple is in the hardware business, first and foremost. Netflix is not.
Netflix doesn’t make ANY hardware, instead they are doing their damnedest to get their SaaS on everything from TiVo to XBox360 to Macs and PCs to your cable box. It is certain that they would make an App Store app.
Plug-ins boost the value of Apple’s hardware offering with minimal effort and minimal OS bloat.
– or –
Apple needs to show the world that there is more free content than just Podcasts and YouTube Rants available online.
Streaming new/current TV Shows from Hulu beats Netflix’s tiny and ancient TV offering, plus Hulu is as free as broadcast, but with fewer commercials.
With MGM adding full-length movies to AppleTV via YouTube, adding Hulu to AppleTV at the factory will make it a REAL linear-delivery killer.
Having Hulu on the main menu next to YouTube would boost the value of Apple’s hardware offering with minimal effort and minimal OS bloat.
[Update: As someone pointed out to me, The Take 3 Software (if released before February) would be free to all AppleTV owners, thanks to the iPhone-like accounting method Apple uses.]
What AppleTV DOESN’T need is DVR features.
DVRs are for wrangling [linear-delivered video] sent on [a proprietary network].
AppleTV is for sorting [non-linear delivered video] sent on [the open internet].
Like a Gas Dryer vs an Electric Dryer, they’re incompatible with (and redundant to) each other. They do the “same” thing, but in two different ways; and no one needs both.
Yet, some people still don’t get it.
Thanks to non-linear deliverable video available on the open internet, I no longer pay a cable or satellite bill and I’m not missing any of my favorite shows.
In it’s current state, AppleTV can help wean you off of cable and satellite… but only if you combine it with Bittorrent, TVrss.net, and VisualHub. Hulu-on-AppleTV makes those other tools unnecessary, makes television-over-internet as simple as a DVR, and makes it that much easier to “cut the cable”.
Without cable, you don’t NEED a machine to wrangle it.
AppleTV DOESN’T NEED a DVD or BluRay Drive
Optical discs can compliment internet delivery, but I feel a dedicated box (like a DVD or BluRay Player) is a better solution for anything with moving parts.
I bought my first two DVD Players in 1998. A Creative Labs DxR2 for the computer and a Panasonic A110u for the television. Since then, I’ve gone through 5 DVD drives and 4 stand-alone players.
Luckily, each replacement was cheaper, faster, and had more features that the one it was replacing; although each one also got lighter and more fragile feeling, too.
Like component AV equipment, the optical disc player and the internet-delivered content player should remain as separate as the cassette player and the CD Player.
But that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.