An extraordinary thing happened today (well at least given who it was), Steve Jobs admitted that Apple had screwed up with its Apple TV product. Never one to take the rap alone he threw in Microsoft and a few others as well as examples of how internet computers/ devices that were meant for TV’s as a whole hadn’t taken off. There was of course method to Jobs’ unprecedented admission of failure: it’s far easier to hype a new product when you denigrate its predecessor first.
Apple TV Take 2 takes off where the Apple TV started with what Jobs claimed was the key feature to driving demand; inbuilt (ie: computer independent) movie rentals. Apple has all the big movie studios, then some others as well signed up to provide content for the service at $2.99 for old titles, $3.99 for new releases (30 days after they become available on DVD). Two key points: the movies offered are HD (720p for memory) and can be viewed within 30 seconds after purchase for those with a decent broadband connection.
Then there’s the price: $229, which unlike the Macbook Air is eminently affordable for the masses.
Apple is far from the first to get into online movie rentals. Only days ago Netflix announced that they’d begin offering unlimited online movies as part of their $16.99/ mth for 3 physical DVD’s at a time deal, and has previously announced a set-top box in conjunction with LG. Blockbuster bought long term online video site Movielink for less that $20 million in August 2007. Vudu offers a couple of dedicated set-top online video rental boxes for $399 and $999.
I’ll admit that I was impressed by the presentation, but it might have just been the salesman onstage. The interface for renting movies is classic Apple simplicity, and renting a movie can be done in a couple of clicks. On the other hand the Flickr demonstration didn’t work and the ability to play music whilst viewing a slideshow of pictures was…well…underwhelming. The Apple TV still lacks two key features that would make it a killer product: a DVD player and a TV Tuner. Both may sound old fashioned but consider that many people may baulk at buying yet another device to plug into their TV’s; with a DVD player built in it becomes a DVD player substitute, with a TV tuner and PVR functionality it’s a TiVo replacement. There’s already a healthy group of Apple fans setting up Mac Mini’s in this exact way.
What do you think? Having learned from the failure of Apple TV, has Steve Jobs now delivered a device that will take online movie rentals into the mainstream lounge rooms of the world, or will this be an abject failure…again?