Instead, Apple TV remains an adolescent, an immature device with much promise and potential, a product that gets used by Apple faithful who long for it to do more than it actually does.
A Profitable Hobby
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told his biographer that he’d cracked the problem of television, although he didn’t say how, or when the solution would arrive (if ever; that was how Jobs rolled).
In the meantime, Apple TV lumbers along, acting more like a teenager with a summer job, getting it done, but always looking forward to the future.
Apple also launched the iPhone in 2007. Look at how far the iPhone and iPad have progressed in a few short years. What of Apple TV?
Other than AirPlay and far less storage, Apple TV today performs much as it did back in 2007 (a 40GB hard disk, followed by a 160GB hard disk, followed by a far smaller flash drive).
The latest Apple TV is much smaller than the original and now streams media via internet and AirPlay, but still sports a remarkably simple interface which is integrated into Mac, iPad, and iPhone.
Apple TV’s interface is elegant, simple, user friendly to a fault. All those app and media icons on the television screen look inviting, but there’s more disappointment than satisfaction.
Wherefore Art Thou, DVR?
The saving grace for Apple TV today is AirPlay, which lets you stream HD media from iPhone and iPad (and Mac) to your widescreen HDMI-enabled television.
Otherwise, that screen full of apps collectively are less than meets the eye. Netflix and Hulu Plus and YouTube are useful. Many of the other channels require you to have a cable TV account already (if I have cable, what’s the point of having Apple TV?).
The rest of the channel app lineup is nice, but hardly worth cutting the cord and ditching cable TV. Similar content is available in smart TV’s from Samsung, Vizio, and many other manufacturers already. Google’s Chromecast device, which works similarly to the $99 Apple TV, is smaller and about one-third the price.
The most glaring functionality missing from Apple TV is a DVR. Many cable TV companies charge a monthly fee to use their built-in DVR. Apple would prefer that we buy or rent movies and TV shows and stream them to our televisions over Apple TV. Why? That’s how Apple makes money.
The Future Is On Demand
Apple sells a few million Apple TV units each year, so it’s likely a mildly profitable device for our favorite Mac maker. It’s just that Apple TV doesn’t yet do much, and it’s the one device we want to see do more.
What do Apple TV users want?
Allow me to insert my own perspective and desire into the equation. I want instant TV and movies, on demand, all the time. Any TV show or movie or newscast or concert or special could be made available, on demand from a giant Apple library-cum-server farm, with a click– that would negate the need for a DVR function. It would also clog the internet with streaming media overnight, so maybe there’s some merit to Apple’s tip-toe approach to Apple TV.
Apple TV is nice, probably worth the $99 price tag, especially with AirPlay from iPad and iPhone, but it just needs to do more.