Speaking of Mark Gurman, his Power On newsletter continues to be an excellent read. His main topic this week argues that Apple TV (hardware) is “mostly pointless”:
Most importantly, buying an Apple TV no longer gives users a
content advantage. We are in the age of streaming services like
Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, and business models have
shifted so that every service is available on every device — phones, tablets, TV sets, streaming sticks and game consoles.
Apple, known for its closed ecosystem, is even embracing the shift
by offering many services on smart TVs and boxes made by
competitors. […] That made the Apple TV a mostly pointless
accessory, and consumers seem to agree: 2020 data from Strategy
Analytics found that the Apple TV holds 2% of the streaming
The product isn’t without its benefits, though, for the Apple
ecosystem’s most loyal users. Integration with HomeKit, Fitness+,
AirPods and the iOS remote app is useful. The new remote control
and faster chip in this year’s version are definite improvements,
and the box is getting SharePlay and Spatial Audio support later
this year. Still, I don’t see these enhancements moving the needle
for most people.
I’d argue that Apple TV is a quintessential Apple product: its primary point is to deliver a superior user experience for those who care and are willing to pay a premium for it. If you look only at “content” there’s little reason to buy an iPhone or Mac or iPad, either. The Mac in particular seems an apt comparison. The reason to buy a Mac instead of a PC isn’t that the Mac can do things PCs can’t, but that what you do on a Mac is delivered through a superior experience. That’s Apple TV, too — especially now that Apple is shipping a good remote control. For a lot of us, it clearly delivers a superior and more private user experience that is worth paying a premium for.
2 percent market share is really low, no question about it, but if you look at those market share numbers from Strategy Analytics, no TV platform has a dominant position. It’s a remarkably diverse market, with no platform over 12 percent share. And Apple’s market share isn’t just any random 2 percent of the market, it’s 2 percent at the very high end of the market. It’s a premium product for Apple’s core customer base.
Update: An alternative response to Gurman’s “What’s the point of Apple TV?” question is just one word: privacy. Here’s a note I just got from an Apple TV devotee friend:
Remarkable that Gurman never even mentions the privacy benefits of
Apple TV hardware. There are no circumstances in which I’d feel OK
connecting a TV to the internet, or buying a streaming box from a
company monetizing it with user tracking, so his “content is
available everywhere, shrug emoji” outlook looks myopic. What’s
the second-best option supposed to be?
That’s a great point and a good question. If Apple were to get out of the streaming hardware game, what’s the next best choice?
Mark Gurman, with a few scoops on the upcoming new iPhones:
Apple first added Portrait mode to the iPhone 7 Plus in 2016, and
it quickly become a fan favorite. The feature can put a person in
sharp focus while blurring the background in what is known as a
bokeh effect. For the new iPhones, Apple plans to add this same
technique to video with a feature internally dubbed Cinematic
Video. Like with still photos, the iPhone’s depth sensor will
create the effect and allow users to change the amount of blur
after recording. […]
Another feature will let users better control the look of colors
and highlights in their pictures. Users will be able to choose
from several styles to apply to their photos, including one for
showing colors at either a warmer or cooler temperature while
keeping whites neutral. Another option will add a more dramatic
look with deeper shadows and more contrast, and the company is
planning a more balanced style for showing shadows and
true-to-life colors with a brighter appearance. The feature will
differ from standard filters, available in the iPhone’s Camera app
since 2013, by precisely applying changes to objects and people
across the photos using artificial intelligence, rather than
applying a single filter across the entire picture.
Computational photography is easily one of the most exciting, fast-moving areas in computing today. You can literally see it getting better year-over-year. I’ve noticed in recent weeks that Portrait Mode on the iPhone 12 has gotten better than ever at separating subjects from the background.
Sidenote, but the sort of thing I spend way too much time thinking about around this time every year: Are they going to be the iPhones 13 or iPhones 12S? I’m thinking that since — by all reports — the new iPhones are the same sizes and shapes as last year’s lineup, it might be an “S” year. Also, now that I’m thinking about it, is this numbering ever going to stop? Will we be speculating about the iPhone 23 in 10 years? I’m not even saying it should stop, but it is an unusual naming scheme. The reason, I think, Apple sticks with it is that iPhone models are sold for years to come. Apple’s mid-range iPhones are years-old models that were once top-of-the-line. They need names that make that clear.