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.
New iPhones, a new iPad Pro and a new Apple TV, were all unveiled last month during Apple’s Bill Graham Auditorium special event. Beyond iPhone it is difficult to gage exactly which product is garnering the most attention. Now that the iPhone has launched the magic behind the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil has yet to be fully discovered. However what is least known is Apple TV and what it will truly be capably of once it begins shipping late October.
The mysteries of Apple TV are numerous, and one unknown begins to pile atop the next. Why does Apple TV’s A8 processor have such a massive heat sync? Why is the unit thick enough to support Optical Audio Out, but it is no longer included? Why is 4K (UHD) and HDMI 2.0 not supported? Why did Apple not release their own optional game controller to kick things off? And of course, why no silver, space gray, gold versions? Did the crew that built the MacBook with one port also lend their hand with Apple TV? It is almost as if Apple is launching their very own Area 51 product. Here’s to trying my hand at unraveling some curious areas of Apple TV.
A lot has been said of the latest Apple TV, since Eddie Cue performed its unveiling last week. Sporting many new features, a chief complaint has been the devise's lack of support for 4K (UHD) video. In light of the fact that Apple’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus support 4K video recording out of the box, it would seem a logical, if not easy move for Apple to support 4K for its latest Apple TV. What exactly is holding back Apple TV from including 4K? Technically, nothing.
Apple TV’s A8 processor is capable of supporting 4K video playback, but the potential for confusion and lack of overall great experience would create disappointment — or worse frustration. 4K gaming would not be supported, nor would 4K apps. In short, the only advantage of a 4K capable Apple TV would be streaming a few titles from the likes of Netflix. Summer 4K TV shipments — not — just reached 14% of the overall TV market early summer, and is not expected to reach the 50% range of TV sales until well into 2017. Numbers alone indicate 4K is not necessary, but it would act more as a sexy check box for those thinking they need it (even if they don’t have a 4K TV).
People in 80 countries will get their hands on the all-new Apple TV in late October. But those customers will also be able to purchase the existing Apple TV for only $69. Apple’s 3-tier strategy eschewed in a new era of how Apple views and provides solutions for the living room, something that was previously a simplistic one-size-fits-all solution.
Apple is actually late to the game, as Amazon, Google and Roku have been providing multi-tiered solutions for quite some time. Google offers their Chromecast with simple remote, for only $35, while Amazon offers their Fire Stick and remote for $39. Amazon and Roku also offer up higher-end solutions, with voice controlled systems. Roku offers the most solutions, currently selling four different systems, starting at $49.99, with their top-end solution just reduced to $89.99.
Tomorrow is September 9th, the day of the big event and we know virtually nothing. Yes, there are lots of rumors about and people who proclaim to know things, some having shown iPhone parts, but these things mean nothing until Tim Cook takes the stage. Showing off random components, and making educated guesses, claiming that as true knowledge??? Don’t be fooled.
Is Apple too geeky to understand sports? It is an audacious claim, I know. How in the world could the coolest, hippest tech company in the world, with Beats and Dr. Dre in-house, possibly be geeky? Take a look at Apple’s Executive Team and Board of Directors. Suddenly it becomes very clear. It just may be that Apple’s corporate culture simply does not understand or value sports the way it should. These guys may be the hipsters of tech, but this is Silicon Valley, not blue collar Boston. To help the cause, Mark Cuban should be enlisted to Apple’s Board of Directors. No one at Apple has the combined tech and sports skill set Cuban does. Cuban would prove an invaluable asset for Apple constructing their own content and streaming services.
When groups like Green Peace started attacking Apple on the environmental front, Apple quickly recruited former Vice President, Al Gore. Almost immediately the hammering on Apple’s manufacturing and business practices became a dull whisper. Within a few years Apple became the clear leader of best practices for the environment. Whether Gore’s position on Apple’s Board was merely symbolic, political or he actually became the hands-on guy pursuing environmental solutions for Apple, it was immaterial. The fact Gore was amongst the leaders in championing environmental concerns, and had a powerful presence within Apple, delivered the end result Apple was seeking. Cuban could effect Apple in a similar fashion, adding significant value and expertise in entertainment, sports and streaming services — all areas where Apple seems to flat.
Yesterday Apple released its September 9, special event invitation to select media with the message “Hey Siri, give us a hint.” Thousands of people instantly grabbed their iOS devices asking Siri to “give them a hint” to see if anything particular regarding the event came up. At times, Siri does say “Well, I hear there is something big happening on September 9,” but beyond the cute response, Apple's keeping Siri quiet. At times Apple has hidden hints within their invitations as to what may be coming. This invitation may also hold some clues.