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Battle for Living Room still Stagnating

August 2, 2011

Today Apple released an update to the Apple TV (via @gruber)that brings changes including streaming of purchased TV shows and the addition of Vimeo as a video service. This update essentially turns iTunes into a cloud storage locker for TV shows, now, as well as for Music and Apps, but does it push the living room entertainment forward?

Not quite.

The Apple TV was introduced in late 2006 and went on sale in early 2007 but only enthusiasts seemed to pay attention. It was a box that connects to your TV and streamed music and videos from your computer running iTunes and lets you rent or buy movies from Apple. The idea was that anything you bought on iTunes was now available on your computer, iPod and Apple TV, as long as you connected the device to iTunes. The people who bought into this was the people who knew how to rip their own DVDs and build a great streaming media collection. The people who did not know how to rip DVDs probably did not spend money to buy a digital copy of a movie on iTunes. 

In September, 2010, Apple released and updated Apple TV with a new design and built on top of iOS. This allowed for a feature called AirPlay that lets iPad and iPhone users stream content from their device to the Apple TV wirelessly. Users could click on an emailed video link on their iPad and stream it wirelessly to the new Apple TV. Other additions included the ability to rent TV shows, watch Netflix and watch MLB TV. 

In October, 2010, Google announced Google TV with several hardware partners. Google TV was built on the idea of having all these online places where you favorite content might exist and make it easy to find and watch. For instance, if you wanted to watch an episode of Family Guy you would search for it and you would get results from Hulu.com or Fox.com from which you could then watch the video. The problem with this is the software was very buggy and complicated and the hardware was slow. Not to mention that content providers wanted monetary compensation from Google and when deals fell through Google TV was blocked by all the network sites. A recent blow for Google TV was the announcement from Logitech that there were more returns of the Logitech Revue than sales in their last fiscal quarter. 

So, who is winning the battle for the living room? No one. 

Nilay Patel said it best in the This is my next Podcast. He said people want their TV to look like TV. They don’t want to hook up a computer and have everything so complicated that they cant use it.

I don’t think anyone has got the formula yet. What I would like to see is something like the Apple TV where you can choose you TV station and then easily view all of their content and watch anything you want on demand. This would be a subscription service with a fair price that lets you watch what you want without paying for bulk cable services with channels you don’t want. Until these TV add-ons look like TV, people will be stuck with their cable and satellite or a clunky box that sorta does something they want. 

 

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