It seems fairly apparent that AppleTV is nowhere near the runaway success the company’s enjoyed recently. It’s been called a “hobby” by some, and that’s about as flattering as it gets. It might actually be the best examples of why…
- Convergence products suck – they are too hard to explain to consumers, too hard to get working properly (yes, you need a computer running iTunes to get content into it, but no, it doesn’t have to be on all the time. gah!), and they can’t satisfy even their own users all the time due to incompatible networks, formats, codecs, etc. Sneakernet is a better solution for getting digital media off a computer, as the standalone products violate my “4-boxes in the living room, and no more” rule (which I have not yet written, but will do soon).
- Good UI isn’t enough – it doesn’t matter how nice it looks if there isn’t enough substance to support the product. Yes, the AppleTV has a better UI than the NETGEAR Digital Entertainer HD and probably any other streaming media device in the past, but it’s still a convergence product (see above).
- Walled gardens are clearly annoying customers – let’s face it, there are just too many content options available today to try to trap consumers into a limited set. The only reason the iPod was more successful at this game is that it’s main value proposition when it came out was about the ease of ripping and synchronizing, not the iTunes store.
So now let’s take a step back. Apple makes a beautiful (yet pricey) 30″ LCD monitor – it’s more expensive than the 46″ Samsung LCD I’m considering. One of the reasons it’s so expensive is the resolution is so high. They could easily drop it down to 1080p, up the sizes to 36, 42, and 46 inches, and pow, it’s a TV. Next, they could throw the guts of an AppleTV inside, and you’ve got a great-looking display with built-in media streaming capabilities, and they could probably hit a pretty affordable price point. My hunch is it would sell better as a $1999 TV set than the $299 box does today.
While they are at it, I’d love to see them apply some Apple-goodness to the EPG, and throw a DVR into it. There’ve been rumors that they’d buy TiVo for years, I hope they don’t. They can out-TiVo TiVo in my opinion. Better yet, they should throw in the ability to synch it back to an iPod, or to your .Mac account online (for an additional fee).
That’s a winning convergence product in my eyes.