Why the AppleTV is outdated already

Why the AppleTV is outdated alreadyThe online video landscape has changed dramatically since the AppleTV was launched last January. Along with a range of me-too video download stores competing directly with iTunes, there exists a confusing mix of ad-supported destination sites run by the television networks themselves, including Hulu, and the catch-up service, NBC Direct, complemented by desktop Internet TV applications such as Joost and Babelgum (again, both ad-supported), as well as video aggregators like VeohTV. Perhaps recognizing this, Apple CEO Steve Jobs himself has sought to reposition the company’s set-top-box away from “completing the story”, in terms of Apple’s digital lifestyle strategy, to being relegated to the company’s hobby.

And yet its still difficult, if not impossible, to get content originating from most Internet TV services onto a television, something which the AppleTV solved with regards to iTunes. So why has the AppleTV failed to ignite the market for PC to TV devices? That’s the question posed by Tom Krazit, over at CNET’s Crave.

Presuming that consumers want to watch Internet TV on a television (a pretty big assumption in itself), the AppleTV’s reliance on being connected to a Mac or PC and monopolistic ties to the iTunes Store, while making it incredibly easy to use, maybe its downfall. The iTunes Store is based on a paid-for download-to-own model, and, thanks to spats with the major film and television studios, has a limited range of content on offer. In contrast, more and more major studio content is being offered online, either ad-supported or on a rental basis.

For the AppleTV to flourish, Krazit rightfully argues that it needs live outside of the iTunes ecosystem (something which I’ve argued for right from the start). As it stands, Krazit says:

… it doesn’t come even close to fulfilling the promise of Internet-delivered video: the ability to watch anything I want, whenever I want it, without having to pay for all the useless channels I never watch. Nothing does yet, unfortunately, so I make do with the 250-plus channels I now get plus my digital video recorder.

In other words, for Apple to make a real success of the AppleTV the company will need to forgo revenue from the iTunes Store or at least break iTunes’ monopoly in relation to the company’s set-top-box. And that’s highly unlikely to happen, especially considering how little Apple reportedly makes on every AppleTV sold.

Also see: What’s next for the AppleTV?

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

2 Responses to “Why the AppleTV is outdated already”

  1. McDave says:

    I think you may need to look again. Being close to the media industry Apple chose AAC for the iTunes audio downloads and were instantly accused by self-proclaimed technology ‘experts’ of using a proprietary system. Luckily for us the ‘experts’ were wrong, Apple was right and the average consumer gets to use MPEG-4/AAC rather than some antiquated or proprietary audio format.

    When AppleTV came out it was a child of H.264 but because TV & Film pilferers did so in the older MPEG-4/ASP (XviD et al) once again the walled garden accusations came out. Now films and TV shows are stolen in MPEG-4/AVC (H.264) many of the 720p downloads work directly & gorgeously. Even if they don’t a right-click in iTunes and a quick conversion remedies the situation easily.

    Again Apple’s vision was way ahead of where the market stood and now the entire broadcast industry has voted for H.264 with its feet AppleTV is better than ever!

    As a side note – never listen to ‘experts’ who’ve never actually developed anything successful.


  2. David Mackey says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. Unless it moves outside of the iTunes ecosystem it cannot flourish. I’m not looking for the simplest device, I just want something that lets me pull up video then wirelessly stream it to my tv.

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