Tuesday, September 07, 2010

AppleTV – The new Blockbuster Box

I had an article about the new AppleTV ready to publish last week after Steve Jobs “event” but I held back.  I decided I needed to ponder my opinion over the long weekend before clicking publish.  I think the AppleTV is a device meant for a particular purpose – one that won’t work for many of the hardcore HTPC types like myself – might actually still serve many consumers needs.


The New AppleTV – What’s New?

The AppleTV in its old form was pretty much a locked-down toy that couldn’t do much.  Case in point – many AppleTV owners inserted the Boxee HTPC interface to get more of what they wanted.  The new AppleTV introduced last week is a much smaller and more importantly cheaper set top box.  It’s main goal in life is to be the “Blockbuster” movie rental box you never knew you needed.  I say that because the main mode of media delivery from Apple is to rent movies and TV shows to you via their AppleTV box.  It will be sort of a Video-On-Demand box like you get with a cable set-top-box where you can get a hopefully-richer catalog of movies and TV shows to rent from.  Movie rentals would run $4.99 and TV episodes would run $.99.  I personally would end up exceeding my monthly cable rental fees pretty quickly with a model like this, but I guess light TV watchers might see the benefit of the rental model.  One problem Apple is having with the content side of things is that ABC & Fox hadn’t signed up to deliver their TV shows in the iTunes store – that will likely be worked out, but obviously a sign of battles between the new content delivery system versus the old.

Netflix Streaming Build In

Another new feature is that Netflix Streaming is built-in to the new AppleTV.  This alone makes the device much more useful – something comparable to the popular Roku box.  The feature sounds pretty good and will help the buyer of an AppleTV justify their purchase, but from the looks of it, Netflix streaming will be in a good number of hardware devices by the end of this year and I expect to see it in many, many more next year.

Wi-Fi & HDMI Included

Connectivity for the AppleTV includes built-in Wi-Fi or wired ethernet to get to the internet.  And TVs can be connected through the included HDMI port.  A unique AppleTV feature Jobs mentioned was that iOS devices could be used to to control the AppleTV – sort of a way to begin watching a show on the iPad or iPhone and “push” it to the AppleTV to continue watching.

Price Dropped to $99

The biggest improvement mentioned in my opinion was the price drop from $229 for the older AppleTV to $99 for the new improved version.

AppleTV Back

AppleTV – The TV/Movie Rental Box for Non-Geeks

I don’t see the AppleTV as a device most HTPC enthusiasts would appreciate.  It lacks 1080p HD, no Blu-ray, has no bitstreaming of audio, no tuner capability, locked down content, rental only and the list goes on and on.  But I do see the casual gadget buyer picking one up as a “cool” way to get Netflix and Movies to their TV.  These will be the people who don’t understand what else is available or honestly don’t care.  They just want to plug it in and it works.  The AppleTV won’t be quite that easly, but it certainly will be a step in that direction and it’s from a brand name that the casual consumer will know and probably trust.  That’s the target audience for the AppleTV.   Apple could sell these things for $49 or less and still make money off of them.  Because the rental & licensing model is built to bring in monthly profits – not a one-time sales profit on the device itself.

The AppleTV is ready to pre-order now and should be available in approximately three weeks from now.  It’s obvious that Apple sees this as a niche device still – just look below at their Apple.com page and you notice the AppleTV is relegated to the bottom-left of the page

AppleTV Apple Page

I’m curious – will any GeekTonic readers by purchasing an AppleTV for themselves or family?