Thoughts on Apple’s new TV companion

After all the iPod banter including new cameras and touchscreens and retina displays, Apple reminded us that there’s more to life than just handhelds. Even though their new addition to the lineup is holdable, and practically portable; it is indeed a set-top box. It’s their new Apple TV.

What Apple has pitched us is their official delve into the set-top box market, which in my opinion will probably see rapid growth entering into 2011. They’ve shown us that they really want to get into this new realm of content delivery — over the net a.k.a. quasi-IPTV. 99 cent TV show rentals are not quite something to really get excited about with only Fox and ABC signed up at launch to participate in this deal This isn’t something that’s that revolutionary — at least not yet.

from Apple

I think it’s critical to talk about the “decision” by Apple to not include apps on this new Apple TV. I’ve heard a lot if people throw the idea of apps out the window based on the fact that the new Apple TV sill release with no apparent app ecosystem. These people also seem to be insisting that just because Apple didn’t introduce the App Store ecosystem (or something like it) initially, that apps are indeed a no-go for this new device. I disagree, I think that with this “new” platform Apple is — as usual — timidly testing the waters to see how things will go at first. This is nothing new; we’ve always seen Apple come to the party with something seemingly being too little, too late (e.g: iPhone/iOS). Albeit they’re likely to end up becoming a top competitor in this part of the market anyway.

With that said, I think that apps are on the way. What I believe solidifies this is the competition. Roku and Boxee are probably the only companies of note when it comes to this. Roku’s success lies in their variety of apps and low barrier to entry. Roku boxes start at $59 now, which already make the new Apple TV look too expensive. On the other hand, Boxee has announced their new box at $229 ($199 if you’re lucky). Although Boxee’s box (the Boxee Box) is a little too expensive, it’s most definitely in the race of new internet connected set-top boxes.

The key to both of these competitors is that they’re experiences are based on apps or app-like channels within their interfaces. Each offer channels/apps like Netflix, Pandora, MLB.tv and more, and this is inevitably where Apple’s headed with this new box. They apparently won’t win locking everything down, and yet having the lowest cost (Roku), and they won’t move towards a completely open platform capable of playing back any format known to man. Apps are on the way, it’s just a matter of time before we see what Apple will allow on this new box.

On another note, with Apple’s partnership with Netflix at launch leads me to believe that their intentions may not necessarily be to provide consumers with as many different options as they can. Apple can’t offer all of the TV shows they want to at a more affordable price, so they added Netflix. But I think Apple brought Netflix to the Apple TV for one reason, and one reason only: the fact that Apple only has deals with ABC and Fox, which we all know is nowhere near enough for Apple to really make a splash with this device. Netflix offers an array of TV shoe titles from various networks. I think Apple sees this as a crutch they can use to get the Apple TV into a position where other networks (maybe CBS, NBC and others) are eager to hop aboard Apple’s new set-top box model.

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