By now we all now that the Apple TV has been delayed from mid February, to mid March. What we don’t know is why?
There can only be one of two reasons:
1. Apple is having production problems...
2. Something’s changed...
Option 1 may be true, after all Apple had problems producing the shuffle 2G on time. But as a rule the company generally announces something then releases it without any appearance of a hitch.
No. I think something has changed. The product seemed complete at the Macworld show in San Francisco, so much so that one of our rivals reviewed it based upon fiddling around with the demonstration model on the show floor. (We decided – wisely – to wait unit a genuine test unit arrived).
Still, it’s fair to say that we were underwhelmed by the device (and our rival's review was less than complimentary). Lack of DivX support, lack of IPTV, expensive cost, lack of the iTunes store in the UK. These are all factors working against the Apple TV.
In fact, the only really great thing about the product is its support for 720p, but where’s the high def content going to come from. Unlike the iTunes music store, Apple’s facing some real competition in this market.
So what’s changed? Here’s a few ideas…
1. Movie rentals The recently relaunched and legal BitTorrent service (www.bittorrent.com) has support from all the major movie manufacturers. Movies cost $2.99 or $3.99 and can be watched within 30 days (once you start watching you have 24 hours to finish the film). Basically it’s a decent rental service, which is what everybody has been crying out for. Shame it’s US and PC only, but there must be real pressure on Apple now to do the same.
2. Wider format range? Most of the criticism of the Apple TV has centred around its inability to play formats other than iPod video. Unlike Front Row and QuickTime (which play just about anything) the Apple TV only syncs with iTunes. While it’s true that most of the video floating around isn’t in the Apple format, most of the complaint centres around the failure to play back DivX movies. And if everybody is really honest that’s because so many pirated movies and television shows are shared in the DivX format. DivX is the MP3 format of digital video. So there’s a clear battle here between what the consumer wants (DivX playback) and what film companies want (restricted DRM formats).
Maybe Apple has had a change of heart with regards to format playback and has decided that getting the customers interested via DivX is the best way to sell them legal films.
3. Internet TV Joost has just gone into Beta (www.joost.com) and – whilst the selection hardly rivals Sky and NTL – it’s not bad for a demonstration of what the future of television could be. We couldn’t help but notice that the Apple TV had an upgrade option, but has Apple jumped the gun and decided that IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) direct over your broadband connection is the future.
Or it could be something else…