A close friend pointed out that Apple TV is lame, neglected, and as close to abandonware as a tech company product can get. At least, when Apple TV in its current incarnation is compared to the likes of Google Chromecast, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV Stick. He was right, of course, but I had two simple replies.
The first was ‘One word– AirPlay.’
The second was, ‘Apple doesn’t care.’
AirPlay is typical Apple, and, frankly, at least for me and many others, worthy of the price of admission all by itself. AirPlay works so much better than the clumsy, cumbersome, and somewhat similar options from other add-on TV boxes, but it’s almost as if Apple uses AirPlay as a filler feature, tacked on to mask the minimal channel selection, and the fact that Apple TV, though a hobby, isn’t exactly catching the television industry by surprise and hasn’t caught the fancy of the great unwashed TV viewing masses.
Apple doesn’t care.
The first thing to understand about Apple TV is where it fits in Apple’s scheme of things. It’s a hobby. A profitable hobby, but total sales numbers and profits don’t amount to much more than a rounding error on some spreadsheet in the Cupertino HQ.
The second thing to understand about Apple TV is how the TV industry works, vs. the music industry, and why Apple was able to dominate on one, but barely scratch the surface of the other. There’s no money in selling TVs, so don’t expect Apple to go there. The money is in content production, distribution, and advertising, and Apple TV can distribute but not much more than that.
The third thing to understand about Apple regarding Apple TV is the company’s patience. Apple has the wherewithal and discipline to wait until market conditions and technology mature appropriately so the company can leverage current products and new technology to its advantage.
What some may view as Apple’s inattention or neglect of Apple TV; as more proof the company isn’t innovating as much, can also be viewed as extreme discipline as the company gears up to make a splash in an industry that’s long overdue for some kick-butt changes.
So, does Apple care about Apple TV? Yes. And no. Apple probably makes more money with Apple TV than competitors, but none of the products in that industry segment are catching anyone’s hair on fire, so maybe we should give Apple the benefit of the doubt, and simply suspect they might be working on something that is far better than what we can buy for $99 or less.
The iMac is a mature product line, but who was expecting a 5k Retina display with that price tag? Apple tends to surprise us with something new and different every year or so. I’m waiting.