The past few months, the primary feeling I associate with Apple TV is waiting: Waiting for it to come up when I turn it on; Waiting for content to load when I select an item (from the main menu or within an app); Waiting for new content or channels; and worst of all, waiting for new hardware.
When I piece together the various rumors and executive side-stepping over the last few years, I come to one clumsy conclusion: that Apple is, indeed, planning something revolutionary for the living room, but something is holding up that vision. The primary culprits are technology and content owners, and given Apple’s recent decade of success with hardware, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s the latter – difficulty working out deals with content owners and creators – that’s causing the Apple TV to languish.
That Apple is possibly shooting for the moon doesn’t bother me, but what does bother me is that they’re letting the moonshot play ground their otherwise serviceable and perfectly adequate existing technology. Recent hardware releases from competitors Google (Chromecast, Android TV) and Amazon (Fire TV, Fire Stick) aren’t revolutionary, but they are evolutionary enhancements over Apple TV and, by some accounts, they’re eating Apple TV’s lunch in the marketplace. Longtime contender Roku is also benefitting from the lull in Apple TV’s lifecycle.
My wife and I recently wanted to watch a Christmas movie that we only have on gasp DVD. My TV only has two HDMI ports, so I had to choose between temporarily disconnecting the FireTV or the Apple TV. The decision was harder than I thought. I’m an Apple loyalist, and I’m well entrenched in their eco-system, but I’m not an idiot. Apple TV works well-enough for me to get by, but in my recent experience, Amazon’s Fire TV works better and it feels faster – experiences I usually associate more with Apple products. I ultimately chose to disconnect the FireTV, a fortuitous decision because I ended up buying the movie we planned to watch on iTunes when the damage done to the DVD by our two-year old proved too much for the DVD player to overcome.
I am all in on the moonshot, but let’s not forget about what we already have and what it needs in order to maintain its place in the marketplace. Apple innovates most successfully when they iterate rather than leap. I wish they would apply that strategy to their hobbies as relentlessly as they do their core business.