Why The Apple TV Has Nothing To Fear From The Xbox One

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Today Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One at its Redmond, Washington campus. As the battle for the living room rages on, Microsoft has won a decisive victory that puts it well ahead of the competition.

The Xbox One is just as much for all-around entertainment as it is for gaming, perhaps even more so. It’s designed to be the one box that sits below your TV and does everything: games, movies, live TV, music, surfing the web, messaging, and even video calling. Minority Report-style gestures control the experience, it can recognize your face when you walk in the room, and you can talk to it like Siri on steroids.

Should Apple be worried? The answer is no, at least not yet.

The Xbox One demonstrates how to play to an audience. And that audience isn’t the same as Apple’s.

“Microsoft has included everything but the kitchen sink.”

While the Xbox One certainly looks like a fantastic entertainment hub, it would totally overwhelm my mother. Microsoft has included everything but the kitchen sink. To go from a traditional remote + controller combo to pinch and pull gestures with voice commands is quite the leap, even for a tech nerd.

If you use Netflix, get pumped for the new Call of Duty, and are hooked into Xbox Live, then the One console is a no-brainer. It’s a product that will instantly appease hip, young techies and gamers. The entertainment system aspect is definitely there, but the Xbox is still based on the foundation of console gaming. That won’t change, and that ultimately limits Microsoft’s reach.

“Content is king for Apple.”

On the other hand, the Apple TV is for everyone. You can mirror iOS games to the big screen, but the crux of the product is not built around gaming at all. Playing games is just one part of the Apple TV experience. The Apple TV is ultimately designed for watching and listening to stuff. Content is king for Apple. It always will be.

Xbox One owners will have little need for an Apple TV, unless the ability to use AirPlay is of great value. But most people won’t be buying a more expensive Xbox One instead of a $99 Apple TV.

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If the Apple TV doesn’t get new features or replaced entirely over the next couple years, there are going to be problems. Competitors like Microsoft are piecing together what it takes to create a modern living room experience. Apple hasn’t solved it yet, and today Microsoft got closer.

One of the Xbox One’s coolest features is the ability to instantly recognize a person’s face and track command gestures with the Kinect sensor bar. That combined with voice support for navigating creates a pretty compelling, futuristic experience. We reported that Apple was prototyping the same kind of features in a HDTV last year. Little is known about Apple’s current plans for TV, other than the fact that the company has desperately been trying to secure licensing deals for streaming live programming. A standalone ‘iTV’ panel could be involved, or the current Apple TV could be turned into the internet-connected, app-ready, TV guide/DVR you’ve always wished you had.

The Apple TV hasn’t received a major, fundamental change since it was released in 2006. Sure, the box has been made slimmer and sleeker. The interface has changed, and a few app-like channels have been added, but the hockey puck is still pretty much the same. Apple has called it a “hobby” for years, although recent comments from Tim Cook suggest that something more is brewing.

This living room stuff takes time. It’s been nearly¬†eight years since the Xbox 360. I wonder how long it will take Apple.

  • Uhweqhe Jheqhe

    I want one.

  • iSteve

    Another shit from Microsoft!

    Just wait, Apple will re-invent the TV industry because Steve Jobs has finally cracked it.

  • vanstatten

    Hahaha yeahh he cracked it, another sht from apple fan..

  • Steven Quan

    How is Microsoft closer to making the modern living room experience?

    Online gaming – Ok, I’ll give you this one. Fancy voice interface, Kinect, Xbox Live, Apple has no equivalent for the online gaming experience, but not everyone is a gamer, it’s a niche market.

    TV – The Xbox can stream movies, tv shows and music, and so does the Apple TV, but the Apple TV is able to do a better job in this category as you can use iPhone or iPad to interface with it and this cannot be done with Windows Phone. It’s close, but Apple gets a slight nod here in my book but you could go with Microsoft just as easily because of it’s advanced interface.

    Lights – The Hue isn’t an Apple product, but it’s part of every living room and as such, is part of the modern living room experience. The Hue LED light is designed to be controlled by iDevices and allows you to change the color of the light bulbs to a certain color when it’s raining outside, to turn on before you reach the door, to turn on at a certain time, etc. etc. Microsoft has no answer here.

    Thermostat – The Nest isn’t an Apple product per se either, but it’s designed to be used exclusively with iDevices. Like the Hue, you can program your thermostat to come on at certain time of day or let it figure out by itself with it’s motion detector. Microsoft has no answer here.

    Apple Airport Express Base Station – the only quality equivalent here is the Logitech Wireless Speaker adapter which allows you to stream music via bluetooth from your Windows Phone, unfortunately you can only stream music through one speaker adapter at a time. Apple’s Express Base Station allows you to stream music to multiple Base Stations in multiple rooms or multiple speakers in the same room simultaneously. You could also use it to print wirelessly as well. Advantage: Apple.

    If you are talking about entertainment using purely a tv, then yes, you could make an argument that Microsoft has an edge there. However, if you are talking about the entire living room experience, including lights, thermostat, and listening to music, then I’d say Apple definitely has the leg up and you’ll find more practical use with your iDevice than your Windows phone or Xbox as an iPhone can be used to control all the devices in your living room where the Xbox, is just well, a box.

  • dcdevito

    Ah, I love watching you Apple and Microsoft fanboys fighting again, brings me back…

    Sincerely yours,
    A Google Fan

  • daov2a

    The living room has a lot to fear from Apple at this point. If the iTV or AppleTV does not get updated before Q1 of 2014, expect the AppleTV to be squashed by the other competitors in the market.

    The AppleTV is cheap and lackluster at this point. There is no innovation happening and the developers cannot jump in.

    The big reveal for me was that the XBoxOne is using the same kernel as Windows and Windows Phone. This will allow for easier development and will no doubt allow the device to do a lot, especially considering the Kinect and voice commands that can be developed for it.

    MS’s R&D department did a nice job creating the interface and the cool gizmos and the software. They really should have tried to make it smaller though. That will hurt it.

  • Icedming1987

    Wohoo and another hit towards making games that tend to take at least two years and many developers. Here comes the in-app purchase and lets make a game in 4 hrs concept. WTF Microsoft, keep console gaming and your stupid all in one media entertainment separate.

  • davidgarrickh

    I think when you write about “cool new feature” it must be taken with a grain of salt. This is a company who’s CEO balked at the idea of the iPhone only to create a similar in design device. A company who’s founder very recently stated that “iPad users are sad that they don’t have a keyboard or MS Office.” And a company who has 3 EPIC Failures in a row, Win 8, Windows Phone, & The Surface. Since we haven’t actually witnessed ANY of these features, nor did Microsoft have a model for the press to play with; we have to figure that all of these features are just talk. The console world is quickly dying, especially since the introduction of the iPad. If the Xbox One costs more than $300.00, I can’t see it gaining much traction even with current Xbox users due to the lack of backwards compatibility. Even by Microsoft’s claim of “supporting the 360 for years to come” I can’t imagine too many Moms & Dads wanting 2 bulky devices in the living room.

  • RDProsperity

    Unfortunately, I think you missed the boat on both these devices. The XBox One and the Apple TV aren’t competing with each other – the XBox One is competing with the PS4, and the Apple TV is competing with the Roku Player. And in both cases, they will lose.

    The XBox One has shown that it completely doesn’t understand its brand’s target audience – gamers. No backwards compatibility and paying a fee for pre-owned games is a slap in the face to that target audience. And all these TV watching features? The XBox brand’s target audience is the one that’s most likely to cut the cord, and therefore, for whom TV watching features are worthless. You say that if I watch Netflix, am plugged into XBox Live, and like Call of Duty, the XBox One is a no-brainer? Not so – I can still play Call of Duty on my 360 and get my Live features there, and as for Netflix, I’ve got my Roku Player or my Wii for that. Hardly a no-brainer. At least the PS4 kept the gaming audience in mind and gave gamers features that, even if they didn’t explicitly ask for them, they can nod and say, “Okay, sure, I can try that.”

    Now, as for the Apple TV, that loses to the Roku Player in a big way, and that is they didn’t open the door to third party developers and third party content providers, which they have no excuse for – they opened the door for third party developers on the iOS, and they could have easily done it on the Apple TV. But they didn’t, while Roku did. So for half the price, I can get (and have gotten) a Roku Player and can watch not only Hulu Plus, but the Mormon Channel, TED Talks, VEVO, Funimation, and a bunch of other channels you probably haven’t heard of. The Apple TV? Not so much. Now, this is an oversight that Apple can easily correct, but can they correct it enough to win over Roku Player owners? I don’t know. I doubt it.

About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath is a staff writer at Cult of Mac and co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by the likes of the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

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