The iPod. The iPhone. Apple TV.
One of these things is not like the other. I’ll give you one guess which one I’m talking about.
Since its inception, Apple TV has been little more than a half-baked idea that appeals only to a niche market. Even Steve Jobs says Apple TV is only “a hobby.”
For a company known for pumping out game-changing products, this is very out of character. Apple TV is great at what it does, but it could be so much more.
The Past & Present
Whether people know it or not, they want a computer in their living room.
And that’s what Apple TV needs to be – the computer of the living room.
I love iTunes. I love owning my music. I prefer this to a Zune-like subscription service. Where this á la carte purchase system doesn’t work is when it comes to watching movies and TV shows.
As a recent Netflix subscriber, I’m watching more movies then I ever have. For $9.00/month I get as many DVD rentals as I can make in a month (only 1 DVD out at a time) and unlimited streaming of some interesting (if not a bit random) content.
After a month or so of using Netflix, one thing is painfully obvious. Apple could/should be blowing these guys out of the water. But it’s hard to justify renting a couple new movies at $3.99 each from iTunes when for an additional dollar a month I can get a lot more.
Just as we’ve moved from VHS to DVDs & Blu-ray, we are slowly transitioning to digital downloads and streaming. I don’t think people even want to mess with downloading really. They’d rather just stream something on demand and not worry about running out of space on their hard drives.
The only way for Apple TV to become the one living room device to rule them all is to offer some sort of subscription based payment plan. iTunes has almost anything you could want to watch. The only problem is I don’t want to buy the 6th season of The Office for $40-$60 and have it sitting on my hard drive taking up lots of space. I’d rather just subscribe to a monthly service and have it available for streaming anytime.
That’s how you stick it to the cable and satellite companies
That’s how you compete with Netflix.
You make the iTunes store content available as a subscription. Maybe it doesn’t work with music, but it’ll work for video.
While we’re at it, let’s add a couple other features to this baby.
Number one – Safari. This thing needs a browser to make it the living room computer. And since it’s in the living room, why not pack even more entertainment into it? I’m talking about downloadable games. It would be like the App store meets Xbox Marketplace. Beautiful. Apple already has thousands of developers flocking to them to develop for the iPhone. Might as well harness that power and bring it to the Apple TV.
And how do we control all of this – the menus, surfing the web, the mini-games?
The Apple Remote? Not likely. A separate mouse and keyboard? That’s all I need, another controller.
How about the over 40 million iPhones & iPod touches out there [or maybe some sort of tablet]?
A built-in keyboard and trackpad right in your pocket. Boom.
So how much for this earth-shattering device? What would you say to $99?
Talk about a competitively priced home theater gadget! Apple saves on cost by ditching the hard drive not required for people who just want to stream their content. This would just be the entry level version of course.
For an extra $79 you get yourself a built-in Blu-ray player. And maybe for a little bit more money you get yourself that 160GB hard drive you still want.
The Bottom Line
It’s time for Apple TV to no longer be just a hobby.
It’s time for Apple TV to replace the two or three other devices cluttering my home theater.
It’s time for Apple to step it up when it comes to home entertainment.
It’s time for Apple to do what they do best – shake things up.
Thinking differently, Shane.