Apple TV 2.0 – Will It Fly Or Fall?

27Jan08

AppleTV.jpgAt last years ‘All Things Digital’ Conference Steve Jobs labelled Apple TV ‘a hobby’, playing down the significance of the product and lowering expectations for it’s future. it is rare for Jobs to comment on such matters but I believe he did so as a damage limitation exercise. It has become clear in the months since that Apple TV has not gone down well with consumers. Sure, geeks have put their hand in the pocket and ponied up the cash. But in a clear sign that they felt the product was crippled, many went on to hack their Apple TV’s, increasing HD space and installing workarounds that enable the device to cope with many more codecs (such as DivX and XVid). In comparison to other Apple products of recent years, Apple TV 1.0 was a failure.

Fast forward to Macworld 2008 and Jobs unveils Apple TV 2.0 admitting on stage that their first stab at the digital living room was flawed. Although Macbook Air went on to steal the limelight at this years keynote, the real game-changing news to come from Cupertino was that Apple had secured digital rental deals with every major movie studio. In addition Jobs showed off a complete rewrite of the Apple TV software which no longer require the device to interact with a computer. Movies, TV shows, podcasts and music can now be purchased directly from the iTunes Music Store without the user ever having to leave the comfort of their sofa. To top it off Jobs went on to announce that the new features would be a free upgrade to existing customers and that the software update would usher in the ability to play HD content encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, all using the existing hardware out in the field. Sounds like a home run right?

Well maybe not. I believe the Apple TV’s future rests in the hands of the advertising agency. In recent years Apple’s ad campaigns have been schizophrenic. No-one can dispute the success of the silhouette iPod adverts. And the iPhone ads do wonders to demonstrate the capabilities of the touchscreen marvel. But despite the increase in Mac market share over the last couple of years I seriously doubt whether the current ‘I’m A Mac, and I’m A PC’ ads do much to encourage the average Windows user to switch platforms.

Sure, they are witty. If you are already a Mac user.

But to a PC user I suspect ‘Mac’ comes across as condescending. Macs have many advantages over their competition, two of these being the beauty of their hardware coupled with the elegance and robustness of Mac OS X. The ads do little to demonstrate either.

As of yet Cupertino has done Apple TV no favors. In the twelve months between its launch at Macworld 2007 and the unveiling of Apple TV 2.0 at Macworld 2008 it’s reputation has been left to languish. First impressions are hard to shift. And although the second coming of the device elevates it to one of the most compelling devices released by Apple in recent years, it’s announcement by Jobs was overshadowed by the Macbook Air (which secured the psuedo ‘One Last Thing…’ spot at this years keynote).

As of now, subtlety is not an option. If the marketing department decide to use the Apple TV adverts as a demonstration of the devices abilities it could spell the end for Blockbuster and seriously dent the HD-DVD/Blue Ray formats. However, if they opt to make the adverts more cryptic and artsy then Apple TV will struggle to shake off its reputation as a lemon.

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14 Responses to “Apple TV 2.0 – Will It Fly Or Fall?”

  1. But when is the update actually out ? it says soon….. but that could be weeks or months ?

  2. I talked to the apple reps on the booth at macworld. They believed that an early February is likely. However the picture may be a little different for apple TV owners outside of the US. Movie rentals are not going to be available to EU countries until later this year. What this means as far as the software update goes I am not sure. I would imagine it will be rolled out worldwide simultaneously, enabling the ability to download music and podcasts directly but with no access to movies.

  3. Apple needs to release a Front Row update where you could rent/watch movies ala AppleTV or an AppleTV App for Mac. This might lower sales of the AppleTV, hardware, but it will be well offset by sales of software. I don’t need another piece of hardware when I already have a Mac more than capable of performing the same function plus would enjoy the added flexibility to watch movies anywhere. And if I don’t have a Mac at all, it is unlikely I would venture into Apple territory just to purchase AppleTV.

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