Regarding Apple TV

Dan Frommer is pretty down on the Apple TV 3.0 update:

Apple needs to make major changes to the Apple TV’s software and platform. That could include some or all of these options:

  • Opening Apple TV up to all Web video content, whether Apple controls it or not. (Rival Roku is heading in this direction with its $99 box.)

Apple isn’t going to do that. Love it or leave it, Apple TV is a front-end to the iTunes Store and a player for open video and audio content (i.e. non-DRM-protected MP4 video and MP3 and AAC audio, synced from a Mac or PC on your home network). If you want access to everything, use a Mac Mini — more powerful, open to just about anything, but also a lot more fiddly. Apple TV is not a Mac, it’s a top-to-bottom Apple experience device.

  • Adding a Blu-ray player to Apple TV so it could replace an existing port on peoples’ TVs, not take up a new one.

That would be nice. (I bought a PS3 just for use as a Blu-ray player; I would have bought a new Blu-ray equipped Apple TV instead if there were one.) But: Apple seems to have made a decision to ignore Blu-ray across the board, at least for now. Apple’s answer for HD movies is the iTunes Store.

  • Establishing an App Store for Apple TV, so that companies could offer video services, games, other apps, hardware accessories, etc., the way they do on the iPhone.

This sort of did happen with the 3.0 software — Apple TV can now play iTunes Extras and iTunes LPs, which are bundles of WebKit content.

More importantly, Frommer’s last two points would require new hardware. When you talk about “apps” for a computer hooked up to your TV, you’re going to want games. And there’s no way you’re going to have games where the input is a little five-button Apple Remote, or anything else connected by IR. As Jason Snell pointed out in his Apple TV 3.0 review, the current hardware doesn’t do 1080p or 720p at 30 fps, and occasionally struggles even with 720p at 24 fps.

You can argue that Apple should have released major new Apple TV hardware in time for this holiday season, but it’s not fair to complain that a software update doesn’t include features that would require new hardware. Surely they have to update the hardware eventually, but if not now, when?

That said, my biggest Apple TV complaint has nothing to do with its hardware or software, but instead remains the paltry number of movies available through iTunes — especially the number of rentable movies.