Ah yes. It’s that time of the year again: Apple rumor-time! And this time around it’s all about the new Apple TV – or iTV as it’s now being called. The revamp is supposedly going to make its debut in September, and will undoubtedly conjure up a myriad of superlatives related to its magnificence. May I amuse you with a succinct listing of some the qualities currently attributed to this (for now) non-existent device? As I’m sure you won’t mind to know, this “innovative”, “magical”, “incredible”, “unbelievable” new device will purportedly run Apple’s iOS and will aim to be a streaming device with extremely limited storage space (4GB). Rumored price? 99 USD.
Important? I sure don’t think so.
Geeks like you and me naturally adore the idea of hooking up an Internet-connected device to a TV. This rumored Utopian device (grin) could enable the TV-watching crowd to stream a whole lot of other stuff into the living room besides static television programming. Yes. We could have easy access to YouTube, podcasts, photo sharing sites like Flickr and Picasa, Farmville and on-demand video. We could browse the wide-open Internet comfortably from our cozy armchair.. And we could have apps. Hundreds of thousands of apps and games, which are already available from the App Store.
STOP! Reality check. If we’re honest, we know this won’t gain any traction. Ever (well, not in the foreseeable future). Why? The answer is two-fold.
One: adding another set top box is just too complicated for “normal” users. Most folks can hardly work out which buttons to press in sequence in order to get the cable box turned on. Let alone switch over to a different box for the Internet-connected stuff. Also, a television is expected to behave like an appliance – it should be an instant-on experience. It surely shouldn’t crash, freeze or require a reboot every so often.
Two: cost versus value-add. Will the features that an iTV-like device adds be enough for the average consumer to put down another 100 – 150 USD, on top of their current cable box and DVD/Blu-Ray player? Additionaly, a box like this would probably incur subscription fees for premium content, e.g. from HBO.
Aside from the conceptual issues, there’s still Apple to deal with. Sure, they have the power to strike deals with content creators to deliver great content. But Apple being Apple, they’ll undoubtedly want to keep their draconian clutches snugly around the product, most likely making it as limited as the iPhone and iPad. So don’t expect this thing to take off in a meaningful way any time soon.
Note: I furthermore resent the idea that people think that apps are (or should be) taking over regular websites/web apps on these devices. As many others have already opined, this negatively impacts the open internet because Apple’s app ecosystem is designed to censor and limit the user’s view of the net. In my humble opinion, the future of the Internet still lies in freedom and choice. Devices like the iPhone, iPad, and perhaps iTV should integrate with the Internet, not become a sub-Internet.
Note: I own Apple products. So yes, I can slam Apple if I choose to.