I’m not usually one to go for the top 10 list method of discussing limitations of a product. But then again, products don’t usually have 10 weaknesses I care enough about to compile a list. Apple TV, on the other hand, falls into this category. And it’s not even a first generation product!
But to be fair, I should point out that this is a product I sincerely want to work. After all, I already use iTunes to manage my music, and the iPod is my music player of choice. Too bad, then, that Apple TV simply isn’t ready for prime time. Here are the top 10 reasons you should wait:
1. No TV Focus
Steve Jobs has confirmed that Apple TV will focus on movies rather than TV shows. This makes sense considering Apple’s scuffle with NBC last year but means no Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, or The Office for you. If the focus is shifting toward movies then expect TV show selection to go down, not up.
2. Older iPods
So the cool new feature that makes Apple TV different this time around is the fact that you can rent a movie, watch part of it on your TV and then finish the rest of it on your iPod. Oh wait, this feature is only good for owners of the current generation of iPods. You know, the generation that has been out less than five months. If Apple is going to play the our-stuff-only-works-with-our-stuff game, they surely can’t expect you to rebuy all their products each time they try to entice you with a new one.
3. Rental Time
So if you rent a movie, you have 30 days to start watching it. That seems fair. But once you start, you are required to finish the movie within 24 hours, a limitation which makes it nearly impossible to start a movie one evening and finish it the next evening. Of course, a workaround has been discovered but expect Apple to plug it shortly.
4. Rental Price
Blockbuster called: they want their pricing structure back. $3.99 per movie and $4.99 per HD movie seems fairly steep, especially considering that it doesn’t take much for Netflix to be a way better deal. If you watch more than two movies per month, why would you want to pay per movie?
5. No HD on PC
So the next generation of movie watching is to be in high definition (HD), and Apple seems to realize that. But HD movie rentals via Apple TV cannot be viewed or transferred on anything but your TV. Remember that nowadays most everyone’s computer has a screen that can take advantage of HD content (the same can’t be said for TVs yet).
This one is obvious and no different than what Apple has done in the past: Anything you purchase or rent can only be used with Apple software/hardware. But there is hope, after all. If iTunes can sell restriction-free music that can be played on something other than an iPod… who knows, maybe someday other media will follow suit. But I’m not holding my breath.
From the press release: “With iTunes Movie Rentals and Apple TV, users can just click a button on their remote to effortlessly rent movies from a catalog of over 1,000 titles by the end of February, including over 100 titles in stunning high definition video…” For anyone interested in watching more than summer blockbusters, here’s hoping these numbers rise quickly.
8. New Releases
First-run titles will be available via iTunes but 30 days after the DVD release. The irony here is that watching movies “instantly” rather than waiting for a movie in the mail (or running to Blockbuster) is supposed to be an advantage of Apple TV. I could be wrong, but I’m guessing the crowd that likes “instant” movies is probably the same crowd unlikely to wait first for 30 days. And remember that Netflix has instant content (like the hit show Heroes) that you can watch within 24 hours of it airing on TV.
9. Separate Box
Apple TV is, of course, a separate box you have to purchase for $229 (even after the price drop from $299, I still think it’s pricey, especially now that you can get HD DVD players for around $129). And Apple has no plans to incorporate CableCARDs, a DVD player, or pretty much any third-party equipment you might use. So it’s not as if buying Apple TV will allow you to consolidate your home theater equipment. The opposite is true.
10. No HD Purchases
That’s right, folks, HD content can only be rented at the $4.99 per movie fee.