CES Gadgets: Looks Like Apple TV Needs to Step It Up a Notch

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by BoulderBum, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. BoulderBum macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    So the entertainment devices and TV's this year are increasingly connected to the internet. There are some that stream Netflix, some that provide a portal to Amazon's store, some that provide internet TV capability, and unlike past offerings, this year's batch of products is starting to look pretty compelling.

    Now, I'm still convinced of the superiority of Apple TV, but it's clear that Apple can't stagnate or they're not going to get left behind all the new innovations coming out!

    I'm still hoping for the casual gaming platform/App Store to help propel sales! It should be an interesting year for internet video!
     
  2. rockstarjoe macrumors 6502a

    rockstarjoe

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    #2
    Seeing all of these TVs that are being introduced with Yahoo widgets makes me confident that Apple has a plan to improve their presence in the home theater.

    My idea is this: the AppleTV will receive TV input (either cable or sattelite or whatever) and output the same video but with the ability to overlay menus and widgets and such, just like these new TVs do. If they are really slick they will integrate your local tv guide info into their menu so that if you want a show you can 1-click buy it from iTunes (sort of like how you can "tag" a song on XM radio to buy from iTunes).

    This seems to me like the most likely evolution of the AppleTV. There will probably be a store for widgets and small games, too. It requires minimal hardware changes and adds another source of iTunes downloads.
     
  3. dmm219 macrumors 6502

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    #3
    I love my apple tv, but I believe the opposite. My bet if for apple to leave the living room space all together and discontinue the ATV. They just won't be competitive there. There are 2 major problems with Apple trying to compete in this space:

    1. Apple has limited leverage over content providers. We can easily see this with the recent fact that you can get Wall E (A DISNEY movie no less) via HD rental EVERYWHERE but on Itunes. Content providers do not like the idea of downloading movies as opposed to streaming. While its great for the customer, and I give Apple credit for fighting for us, the content providers are going to fight their way into the graves just like the record labels did, while failing to adopt to the future. I think apple is tired of fighting with the studios, and eventually, it won't be worth their effort anymore with the low sales of ATV.

    2. Cable companies are smart. They KNOW that online media capabilities are their greatest threat moving forward. (ie, people like me, leaving cable for online options). At this point, every major cable provider is now working on pay as go pricing limits. Which means, if they can't make their money off of charging your for cable tv, they will make it off of you for the extra bandwidth you will use to get your media online. So far there is virtually no gov resistance to this. Within a year, be prepared to pay for internet, the same way you pay for water, and electricity.

    From Apple's, point of view...why would you want to get into this space exactly? It just isn't a good business move.

    I'm enjoying the ATV while I can, but I think it will die a slow death.
     
  4. TuckBodi macrumors 6502

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    #4
    I can't agree with the above comments more. While people gripe about the amount of content available and/or price, little do they know Apple is getting arm twisted by the studios. They really do not want Apple to become as powerful with their movies as they are with music.

    And if you haven't been following the saga of Comcast this past year then you don't know what you have coming. First they lie to the FCC about throttling and then they "partner" with torrent sites to make the FCC happy but in reality they are just setting themselves up for the future to be able to charge by the bit rate. FCC is allowing us to get screwed and they don't even know it yet.

    Oh, and another thing about the torrent sites. Now that the studios are taking over their servers and putting trackers out there, the illegal avenue will be drying up real soon. In the future the only people who will be paying for the pipes will be the legit ones like iTunes users.
     
  5. whooleytoo macrumors 603

    whooleytoo

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    #5
    Anyone have names of/links to any good AppleTV equivalents?

    I've been looking at the options for a while now, and am coming to the conclusion a Mac mini with an external hard drive or NAS is the most future-proof option; though the HDMI out of the AppleTV would be very handy.
     
  6. TuckBodi macrumors 6502

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    #6
    I have an AppleTV, Mac mini (server) and a new Western Digital TV. They all have their plus and minuses.

    AppleTV - hacked and can play just about everything except the like hi-def MKV stuff (not enough horsepower). Apple uses the GPU to play their hi-def stuff so it is doable but nobody has been able to to reverse engineer how they're doing it. XBMC on it looks great. My HDMI port acted real flakey and I'm now using the component.
    Mac mini - has DVI out and optical audio out (if your TV only has HDMI then you can get a cheap adaptor from Monoprice). Recommend at least the 2.0GHz if you plan on playing 1080p content. You might also want to crank up the memory to 3GB while you're at it too. With all this you are now well over double the cost of the AppleTV. Biggest drawback.
    WDTV - at $99 was priced right and can play a lot of formats including most of the hi-def ones. Can also hook up to both hi-def and standard TV's (ATV can with hack and tweaking and mini can with $20 cable) out of the box. Small and portable but/and uses external drive, up to two of them (although heard of people getting hubs working). Interface sucks in my opinion. They are doing quick firmware updates to fix bugs and add features so I am on the fence about returning.

    If money is no object then I'd go with the Mac mini using XBMC.
     
  7. BoulderBum thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #7
    That sounds like a very interesting idea! Do any of the new TV's have widgets that actually interact with what's being played on TV? I didn't actually catch that detail if so (I thought the widgets were standalone).

    I don't know if Apple will emerge as the #1 video play just as they did for music, but I think there's no way they'll just roll over and die.

    For one thing, it's not just about the living room, it's about hardware sales. They need to sell video for their video-capable iPods. I think you're right about the movie industry preferring streaming video, but I hope to heavens that Apple wins that fight (I need to be able to take my cartoons with me on a plane ride with the kids, where I don't have an internet connection to stream from).

    Also, iTunes made Apple a net profit of about half a billion dollars last year. Whoever emerges as #1 in video downloads is going to make a whole lot of money, and Apple certainly wants a piece of that.

    Besides, I don't think Apple has had any tougher of a time than anyone getting movie content. If you look at CinemaNow and Amazon Unbox they're pretty much all in the same boat with what's available, but Apple has a better way to carry the video with you on portable devices.
     
  8. whooleytoo macrumors 603

    whooleytoo

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    #8
    Appreciate the info TuckBodi, thanks!

    Looks like the Mini is still ahead, unless a new Apple TV iteration ships some time soon. I was considering writing my own media player front end; but XBMC looks great.
     
  9. ipedro macrumors 68030

    ipedro

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    #9
    I disagree with rockstarjoe's comments. Apple isn't going to give up on the future biggest slice of iTunes. If there are companies that are going to be at the table and make money from HD rentals, it's Apple. They're not quitters and there's no reason to leave their relatively strong position to allow somebody else to come in and make money in their place.

    They could have given up on tv when it failed at first but they released Take 2. They keep on persevering and I think they're eventually going to find the right formula.

    They're already two thirds of the way there: they have 60M credit cards on file via iTunes already. They need to sell the idea of an iPod for your living room versus cable tv. Most people (including many on this forum) look at tv as if it were a complement to their cable plan... so they demand that it get a PVR. They don't get it. Apple needs to make it clear that it's tv instead of cable. iTunes needs to become a portal to all online content, a job Boxee is doing better than Apple right now. The best thing Apple could do at the moment would be to buy Boxee. The unlikely other best thing that Apple could do would be to make deals with TV manufacturers to install an tv chip in their TVs.

    It's becoming clear that something is coming. Nothing was announced in the living room entertainment space at Macworld despite strong indications that Apple was introducing a media server device. Mac Mini wasn't unveiled despite multiple sources saying it's ready. I think we'll see a series of announcements, some of which will warrent their own events at Apple campus in February. One of them will revolve around Apple's living room strategy and tv. I look forward to 2009. It's going to be a game changer.
     
  10. dmm219 macrumors 6502

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    #10
    I hope this is the case...i really do...again, I love my ATV. But reality doesn't bare this out. Itunes is very successfull...by NOT in the living room. Music makes up most the profits. Video has faired far worse than the music side. Itunes will always offer a good amount of video for the ipod; the studios dont mind that. HD content for you living room is a totally different beast. And itunes has been a total failure at delivering it so far.

    The streaming companies all have far more HD current releases than itunes does. Again, why do we still not have Wall E in HD? Its not just Wall E...its 80% of new movies...they are all available for download in HD via vudu, 360...you name it. The studios are clearly providing and unfair content advantage to the "streamers"

    I also agree with you on the cable "replacement" idea. But as I alluded to earlier...the cable companies KNOW this...and they are fighting it every stop they can. If they start metering your internet usage, you'll end up paying MORE using itunes or streamers...and go back to overpriced cable subscription services.

    If I were Jobs, you'd have to be one hell of a salesmen to sell this pitch to me...
     
  11. anubis macrumors 6502a

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    #11
    The problem with AppleTV is that no one has ever heard of it. EVERY friend I've ever had over to my house had never even heard of AppleTV, let alone had any clue about what it did. After a 5-minute demonstration, every person I've shown it to has been absolutely astounded, and has said something along the lines of "Why doesn't Apple tell peple about this?"

    Therein lies Apple's current problem... I think they have a pretty good product, but they've never advertised it and no one knows about it or what it does. On the other hand, everyone has heard about the Netflix streaming box, PS3 media center, etc.

    Next, consider the iPod. If you compare it spec-wise to other MP3 players in the market, it appears (on paper) that the iPod lacks lots of features that other portable music players have. However, iPod remains the top selling portable music player. That's because although the iPod can only do a few things compared to other players, it does those things extremely well and therefore it's very intuitive and easy to use. The AppleTV is exactly the same. It may not have all of the bells and whistles of, say, the PS3 media center, but the few things it's capable of doing, it does perfectly and with a minimal learning curve.

    I don't think Apple is going to abandon the AppleTV. A few years ago, Steve Jobs said that he envisioned the computer as a "digital hub" that would connect all of the "digital appliances" (e.g. iPod, AppleTV, etc) in the home. I believe that Apple continues to innovate toward this goal, and the AppleTV figures to play a central role in the digital hub strategy. But at the same time, I do think Apple has been resting on its laurels with the AppleTV, both in terms of capability and in advertising. The AppleTV hasn't been significantly upgraded since it was released years ago and Apple really needs to step their game up to keep AppleTV a viable product.
     
  12. Tilpots macrumors 601

    Tilpots

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    #12
    I actually agree with most of what you're saying here, but you HAVE to factor in free OTA HD broadcasts and the need for some way to record this using the :apple:TV. Without a DVR for OTA HD broadcasts, the :apple:TV will NEVER get off the ground. EVER!
     
  13. rrr macrumors member

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    #13
    I know many will disagree, but this is a major reason why I feel that the AppleTV needs either an optical drive or cable tuner/DVR functionality. Or both.

    I believe, that given the current state the market, it would be so much easier to sell the AppleTV by saying, "Hey, it can replace your DVD/Blu-Ray player, but also do so much more!" "Get an AppleTV in place of your cable box and DVR, and look at all this other content you also get access to!"

    I agree that Apple's interest is iTunes and other IP content over broadband, and I ultimately feel that's where the public interest will go too. But if the AppleTV were currently an additive technology rather than a disruptive one, I think it might be an easier sell. Yes, people will hopefully find that they prefer iTunes content to cable and DVD media, but it might be necessary for them to get an AppleTV in their home before they gradually discover this. And to initially get that box into their home, it might have to serve double duty as a replacement for equipment they currently own, or are considering for purchase.
     
  14. pilotError macrumors 68020

    pilotError

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    #14
    I think Slingbox has pretty much kicked the crap out of the ATV in terms of features.

    What's the next ATV going to have? New picture screen saver themes like in iPhoto 09?

    They had a good opportunity, but severely limited the box to living withing the Apple ecosystem.

    There's a bunch of folks on here with NAS boxes that are going underutilized because of the code that the ATV forces you to enter into the iTunes. The ability to do Time Machine backups to those NAS's.

    If they are going to limit you to their ecosystem, they have to deliver what customers want, but that's just not happening.

    I love my ATV, but it really needs to be opened up without having to hack it.

    I have to agree that there is serious collusion going on to limit Apple's ability to deliver content. It happened in the Music industry and now we have multi-tiered pricing. The Movie industry is trying desperately to avoid the iTunes monopoly.

    Now that MS has sided with Netflix, how long will it be before Apple abandons the Movie business and signs a deal with Blockbuster?
     
  15. ipedro macrumors 68030

    ipedro

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    #15
    tv is in more or less the same stage as iPod was when it was about 2 years in the market. Nobody had heard of or knew what an iPod was but once you'd show them, they were astounded that you could carry all that music in your pocket and manage it all so efficiently on iTunes.

    iPod was a niche player and wasn't hitting the mainstream until well after the 3rd and 4th generations. Apple didn't give in and include a CD player. Everybody was buying CDs back then and Discmans were the norm for portable music. Apple stuck to their strategy of laying low while they developed the iPod until all the pieces were in place and the critical mass had been built through word of mouth. Then they hit hard with their iPod+iTunes ads and the rest is history.

    Today, tv has grown consistently to include HD rentals and has built up a large library of movie and TV titles. Apple still needs to convince the TV and Movie industry that it can make them money without the risk of piracy. Once Apple's position is strong, I think they'll go all out with brilliant advertising and quickly, tv will be a mainstream name.
     
  16. Bye Bye Baby macrumors 65816

    Bye Bye Baby

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    #16
    Can't quite agree

    I think those who want to add a whole lot of functions to the apple tv are missing the point. How much trouble do you want in order to watch something on tv? How much do you want to pay to watch it?

    The whole point of :apple:TV is that it is so simple to operate and watch things. A few clicks and you have your choice of content. All these other media devices get so complicated so quickly. Millions of people don't want the hassle. They want simplicity.


    You pay for what you use. Cable is a complete waste of money for many people. You pay a fortune for what is most of the time utter nonsense. It may be pricier per unit, but the premium on itunes gets you the content you want.
     
  17. rrr macrumors member

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    #17
    Good points, ipedro, although I don't think the CD/iPod analogy totally holds, for a couple reasons.

    For one, there was a legal and integrated way for users to move their CD content (ripping to iTunes) to the iPod without paying for it again.

    For another, adding a CD player to the iPod would have drastically changed its form factor, and consequently, its utility as an ultraportable device. I think it could be argued that adding an optical drive to the AppleTV would not drastically alter its form factor.
     
  18. rrr macrumors member

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    #18
    I don't advocate adding "a whole lot of functions" by any means. I do advocate adding one or two functions that make it easier to sell the AppleTV, to some potential customers, as a replacement for or convergence with existing hardware they either own, or are looking to buy.
     
  19. BoulderBum thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    A thought just occured to me. What kind of killer seller would Apple have on their hands if the next Apple TV had a DVD drive that could both play movies and also rip them into the Apple format! Something that would automatically add cover art and metadata? I wouldn't even care if it had DRM for use with only my user account, it would just be great to have an easy way to get my DVD's into iTunes!

    Wishful thinking perhaps. :p
     
  20. ipedro macrumors 68030

    ipedro

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    #20
    I'm sure that was Apple's original intention. They would have loved to emulate that but the content owners would never allow that. It would be too easy to rent a movie, rip it and then keep it for yourself after you return the DVD.

    Another approach has been taken though: some movie studios have begun providing digital copies on the DVD and BluRay so that when you purchase the physical copy, you'll also have a digital version to import into your iTunes and sync to tv.

    I think that tv 3.0 will bring a lot of the missing pieces and help Apple catch up to the approaching competition.
     
  21. BoulderBum thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    Good point. With my Apple TV, I sort of forgot that rental stores still existed. :)
     
  22. Cuthbert macrumors regular

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    #22
    I don't think anyone is getting the computer/tv/internet integration thing right. Even Steve admitted that Apple hasn't gotten it right yet. I think that apple is likely working harder on the Apple TV than many people think. They hit a home run with the iphone; the potential is there when it comes to the Apple TV for the same home run. The ball is definately not out of the park with this model. As much as I like the Apple TV, I don't think Apple even hit a double on this. I look forward to the next version.
     
  23. IgnatiusTheKing macrumors 68040

    IgnatiusTheKing

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    #23
    The only problem with this line of thought is that cable companies aren't the only ones selling internet service.

    Besides, streaming is the way of the future and everyone (including cable and dish companies) know it. That's why the InDemand-type stuff is so prevalent these days. You can go to Blockbuster and rent a movie for $4, go on Netflix and add it to your queue and wait for it to show up in the mail or you can click a button on your remote and watch it instantly, even though PPV costs a little more than going to the rental place or waiting for Netflix to arrive.

    People will pay a little more for convenience (like $5+ PPV) or will buy a set-top streaming box like the Apple TV and the Netflix box. Even Sony is getting into the act with a movie service for the PS3.
     
  24. Tilpots macrumors 601

    Tilpots

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    #24
    The equation here is much simpler than people are making it out to be. It goes like this:

    Content->Delivery Medium->TV

    That's it.
     
  25. ipedro macrumors 68030

    ipedro

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    #25
    That's exactly what the tv does. In the US iTunes store, you can make a case for a very good range of content. There could be improvements on the HD side and a solution for live tv (sports, news) via a streaming feed.
     

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