jueves, 2 de septiembre de 2010
5 Reasons Why Apple TV Is (Still) Boring
We know — the new Apple TV is really small, and it finally focuses on renting rather than purchasing television shows, integrates iOS devices as remote controls, has an optical audio output for surround sound, and costs just a hundred bones.
That’s all good, but Apple TV has yet to knock our socks off despite being the ripest area for expansion by a company that has already firmly established itself on the computer, phone, portable media player and tablet.
Let’s just get right down to it. Here are five reasons Apple TV is still boring — even after today’s improvements:
1. Paltry Selection of TV Shows
The biggest promise of devices such as Apple TV, from the consumer’s point of view, is that they might — at long last — allow them to “cut the cord,” replacing their cable or satellite connections with an internet-connected set-top box, the same way many have replaced their landlines with cellphones.
But with only two networks — ABC and Fox — included in Apple’s new television rental program, the only way a television viewer with normal viewing habits would be able to cut the cord using the new Apple TV would be to wait a day and download unsupported new shows from BitTorrent (more on that below), while relying on Netflix for older shows.
“To get the 88 percent of the U.S. market that doesn’t know what Apple TV is to pay attention, Apple has to offer more of what people want in the living room: more TV shows,” said Forrester analyst James McQuivey after Wednesday’s announcement. “Yet only ABC and Fox have agreed to let Apple rent their TV shows. Meanwhile the Apple TV becomes merely one of dozens of devices — some even cheaper than $99 — that can stream Netflix videos to the living room.”
He’s right. This relative lack of television content appears to weaken the “TV” part of the “Apple TV” proposition more than any other factor. And the fact that one of only two launch partners Apple could secure is ABC — owned by Disney, of which Jobs is the largest shareholder — is not exactly a hopeful sign that the networks will be climbing aboard anytime soon.
2. No iOS
Apple’s iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) relies on a touchscreen, and a television — by its nature of being 10 or more feet away — does not. But Apple allows developers to simulate iOS devices on a computer that lacks such a touchscreen, so it’s possible to represent touch with a pointer. Similar technology — perhaps utilizing a Wii-style control wand, a gyroscopic mouse or even another iOS device — could solve that problem.
As Brian X. Chen wrote back in July — after both Engadget and The New York Times reported that Apple would include iOS in the next Apple TV overhaul — an iOS-based Apple TV would have led to the connected living room, an expanded iOS user base, TV apps, motion-based gaming, and a stronger alternative to cable or satellite.
Instead, Apple TV is more “Airport Express for television” than “iPhone for television.” Apple created (or helped create) custom Apple TV apps for Flickr, MobileMe, Netflix and YouTube in advance of this announcement. Why reinvent the wheel like that when Apple already has a thriving iOS app store?
Hopefully, for Apple’s sake and that of its customers, the next Apple TV will run iOS. If so, competing television networks would have less reason to balk, because they could create their own apps (see Hulu), which would go a long way towards solving our No. 1 objection, above.
As things stand now, the door is wide open for Google Android to take over the set-top boxes with a device that truly runs apps, essentially scaling the Boxee model out to hordes of Android users — and maybe even former iOS users.
3. No HD Antenna
It’s a real shame that more people don’t pull down HD broadcast signals to their television sets. Not only do those signals look better than the more-compressed signals on cable and satellite, but they’re free — just like the standard-definition signals most of us started ignoring when we switched to pay TV.
Apple’s point here is to encourage users to buy television shows from iTunes, and not to help them watch for free, and the $99, loss-leading price point of this hardware backs up that argument. But since some of the networks refuse to cooperate, an antenna would be a nice kluge for getting that content onto Apple TV — bonus points for linking it to a TiVo-like hard drive or streaming it to a computer, so that users could record (or at least watch) video from local HD broadcasters in addition to paying for it in the cloud.
4. No 1080p
To put it bluntly, this is 2010. Huge televisions cost next to nothing compared to just a few years ago. People want real high-definition signals from their “HD” equipment, not this watered-down 720p signal.
5. No replacement for BitTorrent
The dearth of content on Apple TV means it is no true replacement for cable and satellite, or for people who unabashedly run file sharing software such as BitTorrent to get their TV fix. This device doesn’t stop you from paying for cable or satellite as mentioned above, in which case it becomes little more than a streaming add-on to your traditional TV setup. But that add-on is not nearly powerful enough to offer a plausible alternative to BitTorrent or other file sharing networks.
Of course, BitTorrent users can just keep downloading videos to their main computers and streaming them from there — something the Apple TV does allow (so long as the files are in the H.264, MPEG-4 or M-JPEG formats, which could require some conversion).
Adam Philbin, in a widely echoed tweet offering speculation about this device’s target market, put it like this: “Apple TV … it’s like a shit, single-purpose Mac Mini for people who don’t know what BitTorrent is.”