Apple TV Gets Upgraded

Apple finally upgraded their Apple TV yesterday at MacWorld making
it worthy of a look.  Overall, I’m
impressed with the upgrade, but still not touching it.  I’m sure a lot of people out there are not
impressed, but I’m trying to see it from Apple’s angle.  No
PVR
and no
DVD player
is exactly what they want in this product.  As soon as they give you the ability to
playback “legacy” formats you have no reason to buy/rent the same content from
them.

The big draw of the new Apple TV is being able to make purchases/rentals
directly from the unit, taking the PC out of the picture.  I’ve said that would
add significant value before
and I think it succeed in that.  What they haven’t succeeded in is killing
Netflix.  With HD movie rentals for $3.99
($4.99 for new releases), I’d much rather pickup an $8.99 Netflix account.  New releases will be delayed 30 days from the
DVD release on iTunes, so Netflix is still the top choice here.  Plus, at $3.99/$4.99 you are talking about
Blockbuster rental prices, which have been too high for a while and caused the
switch to Netflix.  I’ve completely skipped
the technical stuff like lackluster bitrate and resolution when compared to HD
DVD/Blu-ray.

Apple did drop the price to $229 for a 40GB model, which
does beat out the price of any current Media Center Extender.  The problem is, the two products are competing
against each other while offering completely different feature sets.  If Microsoft would bring the Xbox Live
Marketplace rentals to Media Center and Extenders the products would match up a
bit more and I think give Media Center a big push.   Doing this doesn’t fix the price issue from
above, but it does give you choice as DVD playback is part of several Extenders.  If Microsoft can actually combine them all (you
know, like a Connected Home) then Apple could have a fight on their hand to upgrade
Apple TV to support other formats and features.

Apple TV
no longer sucks
, it is just not for me. 
What about you?

Apple
TV (Take 2) Details (Engadget)
, More
on Apple’s iTunes rentals (Engadget)
, Apple TV
Take 2 Hands-on (Engadget)

18 thoughts on “Apple TV Gets Upgraded

  1. Adding Netflix with unlimited downloads to Media Center and extenders would be great. Buy a Dell XPS 420 and 2-5 extenders and your good to go.

  2. It’s just not that different then so many other failed business modes, but since it’s Apple they get a free pass?

    The model here is your basic give us money for a pricey box that a a limited range of other hat tricks and we sell you stuff to play on it. Worse, it’s we will rent you stuff with crappy broken DRM that tells you how you can use it.

    They did a good job of geting the major labels to sign something but nobody knows what that really means. New releases are still 30 days later so their is actually not that much competition to netflicks or other renters, and naturally little to no straight up competition to the DVD market in general.

    In fact the only comparison is to HD Vod from cable/sat and most of them are giving you a lot more for your box to do.

    All and all. Meh.

    The iPhone upgrade was nice though. The Air looked good too, though the no user replaceable battery will keep it out of IT departments.

  3. I only wish MyMovies would automatically rip DVD’s to dvr-ms. Then I could just keep adding movies to my library and distribute them to my extenders.

  4. It’s obvious MCE and Extenders are DEAD…. the team has gone completely quiet. Barely any news from CES. No mention in the keynote whatsoever, no new partners. No advertising, no awareness in the market, no more bloggers, no SDK updates. To the extent the new Apple TV doesn’t need a computer, MS will look at that and chase that direction, years too late.

  5. Reality: What was brought up in the CES keynote? Was anything of value? I’m not even talking about Media Center related, just in general. The CES keynoted sucked all around.

    Did you miss the Samsung announcement at CES? That means Linksys, D-Link, HP, Samsung, Niveus Media, and Microsoft are all making Extenders. That’s pretty good for something that still has a small market!

    Advertising is in a few places, including top websites like NYT, CNET, Gizmodo, and more.

    Not sure why we need more Extender bloggers, everything for the platform is really in the hands of third parties to actually make the Extenders.

    Based on the comments I’m reading on Apple TV, there seems to actually be a growing interest and awareness of Media Center Extenders.

    Not sure what you mean by SDK updates, for Extenders or in general? What kind of update are you looking for?

  6. >> If Microsoft would bring the Xbox Live Marketplace rentals to Media Center and Extenders …

    Couldn’t agree more and I’ve been waiting for this. The infrastructure is already in place and MCE has all the necessary DRM hooks. Hopefully the APPLE announcement will push this forward.

  7. So SJ has done it again, whipped the prize of the digital home from under Bill’s nose. MS have so missed the boat. The softly, softly approach of MCE on Vista and Extenders has just been hoodwinked. It doesn’t matter if the Apple TV isn’t a better product – there are better MP3 players than the iPod and better phones than the iPhone, but both have the mass adoption factor. And as Chris has said before, they just work….

  8. EZRyder: The one counter point I’d have to that is that Jobs said pretty clear Apple TV v1 was crap. I think the lower price point and purchasing/renting content via the unit itself will help Apple, but it is hard to think that Apple will win the living room because of this.

    One big thing is that the market that accepts these types of devices wants more than what Apple is offering, they want more than what Microsoft is offering to. Apple now has bits and pieces of this to try and rival the bits and pieces Microsoft has. Neither one has set themselves up for a win at this point.

  9. I see nothing in that “fruit” box that looks remotely interesting. I’m not interested in paying $5 a movie for renting it when I can get essentially unlimited rentals for $15 from Netflix.

  10. From what I have seen, Apple and Jobs looks at the Apple TV as just another hardware platform to sell content. Apple TV is just a big’ol Video iPod. As such, I would expect Apple to expect to sell their customers a new piece of hardware every couple of years, just like an iPod. Apple TV G2, G3, G4, ….

    Regarding content, I would have to agree that Apple has taken the lead. Even though Apple TV is a “closed” platform and VMC is a generally “open” platform, and MCE/VMC has much greater market share, Apple has beaten Microsoft to the consumer with an easy to use content delivery channel. Yes, there is XBL, but as has been stated, where is the XBL equivalent for VMC?

    I want to see HD Movie downloads through the VMC interface, where I can use my WHS to store all those HD movies I want to buy.

  11. If you’re a heavy iTunes user then this is a great product, now that you can finally use it from the device itself vs. stepping away to a PC. If on the other hand you just want to stream MPEG4 or other downloaded/recorded video then this is over-priced for what you get.

    Personally a 360 still beats out AppleTV in everything except maybe noise, for a better price you get a great game machine, Marketplace, video streaming, photos, music, DVD and that’s without even touching Media Center.

  12. Reality: “…no more bloggers, no SDK updates.”

    Well, I’m a blogger on the Windows Media Center team and still around — just been *really* busy on stuff so posting been pretty minimal. We also published 3 revisions to the Windows Media Center SDK in the year since Windows Vista has been out. We never did any revisions for prior versions.

  13. The issue here is what would we use extenders for? To play content. In the UK at least the market is pretty much covered by Sky who offer lots of content, good pvr’s with similar or better functionality than Media Center. Who doesn’t own a DVD player these days? So currently, there is little incentive to put in all the network infrastructure, leave the PC on all the time and waiting ages to download a film over broadband to watch content that is already readily available.

  14. Justin: This is a big problem for both Microsoft and Apple. More and more cable/sat/IPTV providers are giving you this type of functionality using standard STB’s. This is a big problem, as the average user has less incentive to go out and buy an Extender or Apple TV.

  15. To chip in to what Justin has said, I have Virgin Media in the UK, which is cable. Their STB is HD ready, has 3 tuners, VOD which streams from their servers so is instant, loads of free content, such as catch up tv, it’s a PVR with 80hrs of space for SD content…the list goes on. I also have MCE 2005 streaming across to my XBOX 360. Guess which one the wife prefers…

  16. Justin: I am looking for extenders because there is no similar functionality in cable/sat STB/DVR that I am aware of. With 3 regularly used TVs in my house, provider STB/DVRs don’t allow sharing tuners or recorded shows among all three TVs, which extenders do. VMC with extenders is a perfect solution. One access point/repository (VMC) which becomes the media portal (for live and stored content) for all 3 TVs. I have yet to see anything remotely close to this from any cable/sat provider.

  17. Marty makes a valid point, but how big is the market for 3 or 4 viewing points? Sky offers a second room option which caters for most ‘power’ users. Personally, I don’t have sky and find media center with freeview more than adequate. After all how much quality content is out there? I think the media center experience should push the other aspects such as instant messaging, VOIP, internet browsing shared calendars and bring the computer to the living room. The biggest disappointment for me is that the internet aspect of media center has barely changed since MCE2005.

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