Sunday, 16 December 2007

Apple TV 2.0

January 2008 will mark the 1 year anniversary of Apple TV - Apple's fledgling line of set top boxes. But will it enjoy many happy returns? Right now, the chances don't look too good. Sales have apparently not been so great, and Steve Jobs himself even referred to Apple TV as a "hobby" in his interview with Walt Mossberg at D: All Things Digital earlier this year.

So it seems that Apple TV has not delivered all that Apple had hoped for. However, given the strategic importance of this product line for Apple, I think it's unlikely that they'll give up on it anytime soon. In fact, I think it's more likely that they will put their A-Team onto the product to try and sort it out.

Why hasn't the product been a hit? Several reasons I suspect:
  • Lacks support for legacy TVs (only has HDMI and component video support)
  • Expensive (it's probably a low-margin product from Apple's perspective, but $299 [£199] is still a lot for a set top box)
  • Lack of rental product for movies
  • Lack of choice on iTunes store (especially outside the US, where with the exception of the UK, there's nothing but music videos to purchase for video download)
  • Lack of High Definition downloads
  • Frustrating remote control (it looks great, and doubtless most remotes have too many buttons, but the Apple remote surely has too few)
I predict that Apple will make the following Apple TV announcements at MacWorld in January:
  • New improved Apple Remote - larger, with more buttons (sure Steve Jobs loves the current one, but he loved the hockey-puck mouse back in the day, and he conceded defeat on that one too). This will probably come with all new Macs as well, and heck, why not sell it separately to the Apple fan-boys like myself who must have one 
  • Price cut (even if this means they'll initially be selling them at a loss - after all, isn't that how games consoles are marketed?)
  • New Movie Rental Service accessible directly from Apple TV (no need to use iTunes)
  • Support for Composite video and SCART for legacy TVs
  • Larger hard drives
  • Dashboard (which you can configure in iTunes)
  • Games (which you can buy from iTunes store. Apple may take a leaf out of Wii's book here, and come up with a special games controller)
Oh, and as a crowd-pleaser for existing Apple TV owners, all of the above will come as a free 2.0 software update, but will require the new remote to access the Movie Rental service and play the games. That's my guess anyway. We'll see in January.

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