Posted by: hdemott | September 2, 2010

Apple TV – Why Much Of The Blogosphere Has Got It Wrong

It was no great secret – and much of the info was out there already – but when Steve Jobs unveiled the new Apple TV yesterday – much of the blogosphere lit up decrying it as not so interesting  – and a minor update to the “hobby” that has been around since 2006.

Venture Beat downplayed it here and Forrester analyst James McQuivey was less than excited here.

There were others out there – all of whom focused on the same two things:

1. The new Apple TV was launching with less than all the networks content and

2. There is no huge support for open source architecture allowing services like Boxee to run on the the new box

While both of these issues might put off some people you have to remember that  Apple is a very large company selling to the mainstream across the world. By bundling Netflix in with the Apple Store at $99 – you make the device worthwhile for the vast number of iPod, iPhone and iPad owners who want to stream content from their handheld devices to the TV easily. Sure, many TV’s are now equipped with widgets giving you access to Netflix, Pandora and other services, and so the new Apple TV is, in reality, just catching up to my TV – but the excellent UI that Apple provides across all of its devices more than makes up for this. I’d much rather go through Apple’s menu system than Sony’s, or Pioneer’s or Samsung’s – heck I’m already using it on all sorts of other devices – so it feels native to me.

As for the the lack of Boxee support or other video support from the web, I’m solidly with Steve Jobs on this one. When I turn on the TV, I want professional content not squirrels surfing (BTW: the Apple TV does support You Tube – so if I want the surfing squirrel, I can see him – although I can assure you he will look like crap on my 50 inch plasma display). More importantly, the one thing I would like to use my 50 inch plasma display for is pictures – and that will be handled well.

Sure 2 of the networks and some of the cable channels are missing from the line-up on day 1 – but is that a real deterrent. As someone wrote yesterday, this device is not meant to replace cable (yet) – it is an input 2 device – and so I am more than happy to watch Dexter on my DVR if CBS decides not to participate in any way into the future. But guess what – all content guys go where the audience is – and if Apple ultimately sells a lot of Apple TV boxes – the content guys will be there ready to sell $0.99 downloads of their latest TV show. Remember, the average prime time television series costs between $1M and $2M to produce. Imagine a world where Apple sells 10M Apple TV boxes (maybe aggressive – but sooner or later?) If the networks could start defraying a good bit of their production costs through the rental of these shows – to a small population of real fans – the economics of the business start to work in their favor – and that is what will drive the move ultimately to these type of services.

The blogosphere is in love with Google TV – they want a television OS – and they want to cut the cord on cable’s video service (they never seem to write about where they are going to get their massive bandwidth to run all the video they want in HD to their TV sets – but that’s another post). Apple TV does nothing to further that ambition – and Apple is correct to pursue this path. Ultimately they are a consumer facing company – taking technology and making it available to the masses. Google is in the other camp – they are an engineering facing company – taking technology and asking the masses to come to it. Their big product – search – was and is like an apple product – clean and simple – doing a massive amount of work in the background and returning massively useful information in under a second. Contrast that to g-mails contact program – which only a Google engineer with a 160 IQ could love.

In front of a computer, I might put up with the Google view of the world – but on my TV, kicking back in my lounge chair – give me the Apple device.

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Responses

  1. I think the move from $225 to $99 is revealing not only regarding consumer level of interest, but also Apple’s approach to this market. With only 115mm TV households, how much money can Apple make selling boxes for $99? So is this a razor blade model or a just a way for Apple to retain / capture eyeballs on another screen?

    Either way, local TV broadcasters must be breathing a sigh of relief. Apple TV has (or had?) the potential to be a very disruptive event; at least for the moment, local broadcasters have dodged a bullet.

    • Pricing is probably about the same – less the storage that was in the $229 version.

      Yes it is a small market for Apple – but an important one – in that it brings together the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch – and puts them all on the best viewing device in the home – and on the best stereo system in the home. In addition, it the addition of Ping as a social media platform further locks you into iTunes – which helps sell more of the high margin hardware.

      I agree that local TV broadcasters dogged a bullet here – but I think that Apple (and others) have just set a long fused bomb off on these guys. Sooner or later CBS will put their stuff on – as will NBC (post merger with Comcast probably) and then you will see the other cable guys get there – it is the way consumers want to view programming. Once that happens (and it could take a long while) – then as a local affiliate – all you really have is local news. I’m not sure that supports you in the long run – and a market certainly won’t support 3-4 different providers.

  2. Nice to get an NYTMag article on a portfolio company. What kind of impact does something like this have?

    • At first I didn’t understand the question – as I was behind on the NYT this weekend – but just saw the Pandora article.

      In general, the NY population is pretty tech savvy – and Pandora has been mentioned so many times in the NYT as well as the WSJ – that I doubt we will see any meaningful pickup in usage from this article.

      That said, if it had been a few years ago, I would say that it would have been a pretty good pick-up. The NYT is well read by intelligent readers – the type that are probably more likely to try out a digital service – so it would certainly be helpful.

      As the famous boxing promoter Don King once said – the only bad pub (publicity) – is no pub.

      Good to have people like the service.

  3. I’d love it if you looked at the data on Sunday vs Sunday signups and listener time, as well as this upcoming week vs the past few weeks. Just curious.

    • If I get the data I’ll post what I can.

      Harry DeMott 917-439-6600


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