Apple TV: I Love It and I Hate It
The big "one more thing" moment from today’s Apple event was the announcement of the new Apple TV device, which vastly improves features from its last version by including streaming video services, as well as the ability to rent movies and TV shows. Today’s announcement should have some hands wrangling over at companies like Roku, Seagate, Western Digital and ViewSonic, among others, which offer up similar Internet TV offerings. The small pond just got a big fish, and with companies like Google sniffing the waters of Internet TV, it’s going to be an interesting fall.
Here’s what I love about the new Apple TV, based on their announcement:
* Price: At $99 (down from about $230), Apple has made this available to the mainstream.
* Inclusion of streaming services: The number one reason I love my Roku device is for its ability to watch my Netflix Instant Queue. Apple includes Netflix, as well as YouTube, Flickr and MobileMe. The Roku and other Internet TVs also do this, but it’s Netflix that’s the key.
* First-run movies on the DVD day of release: Apple has the clout to offer this, unlike Netflix. For $5, I’ll be able to rent a DVD the day it comes out through the Apple TV. I can’t do this with Netflix.
* 99-cent TV show rentals: For the most part, repeat viewings of TV shows doesn’t really happen, usually you just want to see a show that you’ve missed. The price is right on this one.
* Integration with other Apple devices: If you have an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, you can download the free Remote app, and use the device as a remote control for the Apple TV. It also appears that you can watch a movie on your iPad (or iPhone or iPod Touch) and then stream it to the Apple TV.
Here’s what I’m not thrilled about:
* HDMI output only: It will be time to buy a new HDTV if you don’t have this interface on your older television. No component outputs, no composite. This could be a deal-breaker for many people. Once again, Apple's obsession with fewer inputs/outputs takes out a bunch of potential customers.
* No hard drive on the unit: You can’t buy a movie or video and then have it stored on the Apple TV. That explains the price drop.
* Apple says you’ll be able to stream music, photos and videos from PCs and Macs, but this also means that you’ll have to keep those devices powered while you watch the video on the Apple TV. And by “videos”, I’m not sure yet whether this means that a movie that I bought through iTunes on my PC will stream to the Apple TV – the term videos could just mean the home videos I’ve stored on my computer. It’s also unclear whether you’ll be able to stream content from a network-attached storage box.
Other than Apple, there are some other winners here. First, Netflix remains hugely viable, especially with its instant queue streaming features. Apple probably recognized that it didn’t want to get into streaming lots of older stuff, when Netflix already does this. I’m glad to see Apple teaming up with Netflix instead of competing with them here.
Home broadband carriers will also see some additional traffic from this, although whether this is good or not depends on your perspective. Comcast and others now face some additional competition on the on-demand/streaming side of things, but they also have capped bandwidth plans, and consumers who buy the Apple TV better make sure they don’t have these caps, or they may end up reaching them quicker than they think, which could result in overage charges.
What do you think of the Apple TV announcement? Who are some of the other winners/losers here?
Update: Here's an official statement from Roku regarding Apple TV:
"Roku created the category for streaming players over two years ago with the original Netflix player for $99. Since then the category has continued to grow rapidly with large hardware entrants like Xbox, PS3, Wii, blu-ray players, and now AppleTV adding streaming capabilities. At the same time, content is becoming more readily available thanks to Netflix’s increasing popularity, but also from Amazon, MLB.TV and most recently Hulu Plus. During this time Roku sales have continued to accelerate as the overall streaming market grows, and customers enjoy our simple interface, low cost and large selection of services. Our customers are using the box more and more. Two years ago the average Roku customer used our product 11 hours a month, but now it’s 43 hours a month.
"Beyond Netflix we have introduced over 50 additional content partners on our open platform that offer customers access to over 100,000 movies and TV shows, live sports, music, photo and video sharing, and more — all while continuing to reduce the cost of our products. Today, a customer can get a Roku player for as low as $59.99 and an HD-capable model for as low as $69.99, plus a 1080p model for $99.99. By selling direct to customers (on roku.com) we can offer more while maintaining lower prices.
"Roku is completely confident that our strategy of offering more features and lower cost than competitors continues to be the right plan."
Update 2: Here's a video report from the IDGNS about the Jobs announcement on Apple TV: