Apple must be hopelessly behind. Internet television is growing like wildfire and Apple TV customers are stuck with a clumsy menu system and a flaky touchscreen remote. No matter. The choice of networks, the expense of the device itself, and Apple’s seeming intent on ignoring the direction of the industry put the company and its customers far behind. Maybe.
Sleeping? Or, Leaping?
Historically, but specifically during the second coming of co-founder Steve Jobs and the reign of Tim Cook, Apple takes a two-fold approach to products and markets. The first is the iterative innovation of existing products. Improvements happen, innovation is visible, but Apple seems not to lead while competitors outdo our favorite Cupertino company.
Sure, every notable Windows PC notebook looks like a Mac running Windows, but Apple does not give customers the same options; RAM is a good example. Likewise, iPhone doesn’t have an iris scanner and rivals seem to have improved cameras.
What about Apple TV? In a moment.
The second side of Apple is the disruptive innovation the company brings to markets. The Mac was one of Jobs’ first. So was Apple Store (most profitable retailer anywhere), iPod, iTunes, iTunes Music Store, iPhone, iPad, and now Watch. All have disrupted entire industry segments, and none more so than iPhone.
So, we have an Apple with a split personality. Iterative innovator which falls behind competition, and disruptive innovator which defines and redefines entire market segments.
Just a few months ago I read all over the interwebs that Apple was so far behind in artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, and virtual reality that it could never catch up to the likes of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, et al. Alexa and Bixby and Google Assistant far outshine poor lonely Siri. Google’s efforts into AI and augmented reality were demonstrated across the world as the one to follow.
Ever iterative Apple was far behind. Again.
What about Apple TV. Coming. I promise.
Then, in a few minutes in early June, Apple introduced ARKit, a platform for augmented reality that paves the way for AR to catapult onto the tech gadget scene with hundreds of millions of devices and a flow of applications and games– all due before the end of the year. Suddenly, Apple was the world leader in augmented reality and every competitor was busy licking dust.
In other words, Apple had been working on a plan to use hundreds of millions of current devices to create an application bonanza of AR uses, games, apps, utilities, that will capture that segment of the industry almost overnight.
We’ll see how it all plays out, but remember; Apple was behind. Now Apple is ahead.
OK, Apple is behind in streaming television. There’s Roku, Amazon, and Google. Apple brings up the rear of major tech players with barely 12-percent of the connected TV market. What’s going on? Typical Apple. With 12-percent of the market, Apple TV is priced at $149 (to start) so likely brings in the lion’s share of revenue and profits. Google and Amazon sticks are priced far less. Yes, they sell more units, but likely do not make as much money as Apple.
How is that different than Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Watch?
Where is Apple TV’s failure?
In contrast to the nattering nabobs of negativism among the technorati politburo members™, what I see coming is not failure, but, like AR and Watch, another jump forward and probably to a point just out of reach of many of Apple’s streaming television competitors. Google, Amazon, Roku, and others have streaming sticks and plenty of the same content, but what we don’t really know beyond device marketshare is usage marketshare, revenue marketshare, or profit marketshare. And, as well all know, unit marketshare is a poor indicator of performance.
What can Apple do that is an improvement upon Apple TV and a leap beyond the competition? Already we have a multitude of streaming devices, streaming content systems, and cloud DVRs. How could Apple differentiate Apple TV?
I see three areas of advancement.
- Navigation – Apple TV is cumbersome. Siri of late 2017 may help, but most online services have a clumsy interface and Apple’s is among the worst. The bounce between networks is nauseatingly slow. Siri is cumbersome and inaccurate. The interface is complicated. Fix it.
- Selection – There are skinny packages, add-on packages, ala carte packages, but nobody has want I want. All TV shows and movies on demand. All of them. Anytime. Click and ye share receive. Apple may not have the clout among content producers as it did with desperate music executives in the iPod and iTunes Music Store era, but a massive selection does not exist in any one source today. Fix it.
- Service – Apple TV is a device, and with AirPlay makes a compelling living room viewing environment. Mac, iPhone, and iPad can stream video content to a nice, fat, widescreen television. So what? All the TV sticks do the same. What they all do not do is stream everything to all of your devices. For example, Google’s YouTube TV limits to six devices. Others are even more restrictive. Whatever Apple creates to move Apple TV into the future needs to run on every Apple device, and with an Android app, do what Apple Music does, and cross platforms.
There you have it. Without a jump forward all we’ll see in the future is the coming failure of Apple TV.