In the wake of Apple’s WWDC keynote event this past Monday, it appears we are in for a storm of hardware releases coming this fall. A Tsunami of products are now overdue, but launching so many highly needed updates together brings tremendous risk.
No big game changers have come about with Apple’s updates over the past few years. Apple TV’s big moment was Apps, yet it does not support 4K nor does Apple have it's own streaming package. This Fall, Apple Watch will be 18 months old. iMac’s are becoming ancient, and the current MacBook Air was just entered into the Smithsonian. Walking into an Apple store today feels like being time-warped back to 2014. The only thing you may notice is a slimmer MacBook in three different colors and a larger iPad. Modern hardware updates have been sloth slow.
The brave new world of online entertainment is here, and the only way traditional network television (ABC, CBS, NBC, etc) will be able to survive is by purchasing live sports contracts and being ready for unforeseen news events with live coverage.
I cut the chord several years ago. I’m saving myself about $70/month, well over $2,000.00 in total so far. I subscribe to Netflix and also picked up the Tennis Channel Plus’ Apple TV package. It doesn't matter to me if I watch Seinfeld (via the free Crackle Apple TV app) or Blue Bloods on Netflix. These shows can be watched at any time, in any decade. Great TV comedies and dramas stand the test of time (Original Mission Impossible, Original Hawaii 5-0, etc...). So if Person of Interest is 4 years old, what do I care? I don’t need to see it on Tuesday night at 9pm (or whenever it airs) in order to enjoy its value. I can watch it this year or the next. It is these type of shows (comedies & dramas) that used to be the staple of network television. Not any more.
Amazon paired Fire TV with Nick Nolte. Google tried Kevin Bacon in their Google TV ads, while Roku’s used families and customer testimonial commercials in an attempt to make waves. Until the arrival of Apple’s 4th generation Apple TV, the company was content to do virtually nothing to advertise their cord cutting device. Not since the original Apple TV launched in 2007 had Apple delivered a single television commercial. While Apple sat back, satisfied with its “hobby” gaining modest sales via word of mouth, the challengers took sales leadership. Signs that things would change for Apple TV’s fortunes began in January, 2015, when Apple CEO, Tim Cook, announced Apple TV had sold over 25 million units. The "hobby" phrase, often associated with Apple TV from Apple’s management was dropped, and signs were in the air that the company was about to get serious with Apple TV.
When the World Wide Web made its debut in the mid-90's, the mantra that was born alongside was “Content is King.” What it meant was that you could have a pretty website that contained animated dancing, twirling babies (actually something semi-popular back then — albeit a little creepy), but if your website did not have content people were looking for, you may get a lot of one time visitors, but that would be it. Without valued content, websites were just organized electrons.
Nearly 20 years later the same can still be said for any online presence, but it can also be said for a lot of other content delivery platforms — including Apple TV. While the latest revision of Apple TV has a much better remote and includes Siri for finding content, if Apple TV does not have the content you want, having a better remote means nothing.
According to a report from Bloomberg, Apple has halted its negotiations with television networks due to the fact that a sub-$30 package arrangement cannot be settled upon. Apple has been hoping to finally provide its own unique streaming service package for Apple TV. Again negotiations have failed. Fine. The big boys don't want to play. Move on Apple. The horse is now officially dead.
Apple's leadership is showing signs of understanding that this endless feet dragging game by the major network holders is fruitless, and is now taking a different direction. Eddy Cue, Apple Sr. VP of software and services, suggested to buzzfeed that Presidential candidates should launch their own Apple TV apps. It appears Cue, like other content providers such as Netflix, is taking another route to flush out new Apple TV content. Unlike Netflix, that gambles big on high production cost original programming, Cue seems to be searching for those capable of producing, quick, low-cost streaming solutions, unique to the industry.
Apple’s latest and greatest Apple TV ships with an all-new remote. Its touch control is a small improvement over the previous push button selector. Voice control is a nice addition. Its new layout and controls enabling TV power and volume are also nice features. But the biggest update to Apple TV's remote is its size.
Not once since having Apple TV in my living room have either myself, or my family, lost the diminutive compact remote. The previous remote was the same since the original Apple TV, and caused me countless headaches. It wasn’t that the remote was not well thought out, or didn’t work as advertised — it was fine in terms of functionality. However, the original Apple TV remote was simply too small for adult hands. The anodized aluminum and slim, curved design, was simply not that comfortable to hold. On the other hand the new Apple TV remote feels like what a remote should feel like.
It has been the battle cry for Apple detractors and anti-Apple tech journalists since Eddie Cue announced the all-new Apple TV – without 4K (UHD) resolution capability – during a September Apple special event.
For those of you not in the know, 4K, also known as UHD (Ultra-High Definition), is a resolution that is 4 times higher than that of traditional 1080 HD TV set or display. There is just one little catch to the promise of 4 times greater image quality — it doesn’t really matter.
Excuse me for injecting some concern into the conversation, but it appears the highly rumored Apple TV network streaming bundle is sounding more and more like a zero sum game, or worse. Before Apple’s World-Wide Developers Conference in June, rumors suggested Apple TV would arrive at the show, possibly accompanied with an all new OS and television streaming service for roughly $20/month, the same as Dish Networks Sling TV service. Nothing materialized.
The summer months were slow, but gave us a new Apple TV launch date, which happened this past Friday. However, no TV package arrived and the only constant network bundle drumbeat that gets talked about contains ever higher monthly prices. Initial rumors were $20. That rumor quickly shifted to “between $20 - $30.” The latest price rumor is the now not-so-magical figure of $40/month. $40 did not seem right in terms of price competitiveness, and for a cord cutters that have found a lot of resources to watch what they want, it seems like a lot for perhaps not so much in return. So I checked out what my local providers offer.
It has been my fifth day with the all-new Apple TV, and while the interface is certainly fast, (by the way 1080p is a welcome upgrade from my previous 720p Apple TV) there are a few areas that are in need of help. Some areas of complaint have already been mentioned by others, but there are a few omitted nuggets which could really make the system a lot more powerful, and frankly, amazingly better.
Taking a look at the physical, the taller Apple TV versus the previous generations makes zero difference. However, the remote control is an advancement compared to the previous couch-hiding silver remote. The new remote’s optional lanyard certainly helps keep it noticeable on the couch, a coffee table or even if it somehow wondered into the kitchen. I have found myself constantly pressing Siri instead of the menu button. If Apple would add a simple braille bump to the menu button, using it would prove much less error-proof. Outside of blind finder navigation (which would really help), the trackpad with click solution works very well, and having the remote run on Bluethooth eliminates the need to have line of site to the Apple TV. Overall, the remote is a welcome upgrade.
According to Bloomberg, Amazon will no longer be selling Apple TV or Google Chromecast starting October 29, siting vague references that these products are not easily “compatible” with Amazon’s Prime video service. A big shift in Amazon is taking place within the online retail giant by refusing to sell what look to be popular forthcoming retail products.
Control within Amazon seems to have shifted from its online retail division, to that of the Prime team. This shift is similar to the power Microsoft’s Windows team yielded for decades, and continues to do so, stifling anything in their path for the sake of maintaining power. What is good for Windows is good for Microsoft is the Redmond mantra. In Amazon’s case, subscriptions are now king, running over any physical hardware sales gains. Amazon has taken on a somewhat Orwellian-Marxist viewpoint that all products are equal, but some are more equal than others. In this case, Fire TV is sold along side any other competing product, that is, unless other products threaten the power of Fire TV.