Sunday, May 11, 2008

Remember the AppleTV?

(AppleTV: Multipurpose - Sushi platter, bet Jobs and co. didn't see this one coming)
Photo source: Fortune

When we talk about Apple, most of us will instantly recognize products such as iPhone, MacBook Air and of course, the iPod. But how many of you remember that Apple released a much hyped product in early 2007 called AppleTV.

Dubbed the “DVD Killer”, the AppleTV is supposed to usher in a new generation of entertainment and be the centerpiece to our living room. AppleTV promised to stream videos and multimedia contents from PCs through our wireless network and providing playback capabilities on HDTVs.

The strategy was simple – link all the killer apps from iPod to iTunes and create a happy medium to play the music, video, and pictures through the big-screen. The result however, was as bad as the Apple III.

Several factors why AppleTV failed to take off.

First, the device requires a HDMI (Hi-Def Multimedia Interface) connection but very few contents on iTunes produces HD quality videos. The result was a very bad combination of low resolution videos playing on a HD capability TV. This is almost like requiring a HDTV to play VHS tapes, not a happy marriage.

Second, AppleTV has streaming capabilities through our PCs and it also has a separate connection to the internet. However, users are not able to directly order contents via AppleTV and download the contents directly to the device. Instead, a PC is required to be the middleman doing a very non-value added and time consuming task.

Third, yes, it was dubbed as the “DVD killer” and so AppleTV chose to come without a DVD drive. Sure, from a differentiation perspective, it works, but how many of us are ready to shell out $300 to pay for another device that we don’t really need. I can spend $300 on a quality home theater entertainment system or the AppleTV and the decision won’t be the latter.

Fourth, AppleTV has a HD, 40 GB worth to be exact. You would think that it would be awesome to replace that old TiVo of yours and use the AppleTV to record television shows. WRONG. The AppleTV does not have any capabilities to record anything.

Finally, the AppleTV fails to compete with newer laptops who are HDMI capable. Why need another device when I can connect my laptop directly to the TV and play real HD contents without ever having to stream through the network.

In summary, AppleTV does have some nice features such as the signature design from Jobs and co, but it lacks the most fundamental features that even the most novice users would want. There will be lessons learned from AppleTV – so much for the DVD killer.