Although Apple TV has been the ugly stepchild in the Apple family for years, I confess that I have been a quiet fan. Now that rumours are swirling about an imminent 're-invention' of Apple's television strategy, I thought I might revisit the platform and fantasize about what it could become.
My Apple TV is good at just a few things: nearly instant access to US TV shows and mainstream films; a reasonable YouTube search engine; a way to watch home videos without crowding around the Mac. It does not displace the cable box, PVR or Blu-Ray player, nor -- so far -- the Netflix subscription.
Like most Apple products, it's not remotely essential but oh-so-very-nice-to-have...(iPad anyone?)
Everyone loves to hate Apple TV and what it represents: another closed platform chained to iTunes; an expensive hostage to the Apple's contracts with major content owners; another unnecessary node in your home music-and-photo network. People want it to be a TiVO with Genius; a TV gateway to the open Internet; a home media server; a Sky+ killer; a consolidator of boxes and remotes... and on and on.
Forget all that:
My fantasy is a lot simpler, and fits rather better with your long-standing product/service strategy: consolidate the Apple TV's role as the on-demand hub for paid(and free) quality content.
I don't care whether the acquired team from Lala comes up with a newfangled video streaming service, so long as I can decide what to watch and start it within a few minutes. Simplify the link to iTunes, so I don't have to think about keeping my Mac and the Apple TV in sync. And for crying out loud, do more content deals -- give me foreign films, documentaries, art-house releases! What's more, if you can provide a choice of language dubs on films I would actually consider ditching the DVD player.
I don't think you should move Apple TV to the iOS platform and clutter it with app icons (though you probably will) -- I have enough of those around the house and I don't need more interactivity on my primary "lean-back" platform. All the OS needs is some basic social features: tagging, sharing and rating; so that I can manage my film pipeline better.
I don't want to browse the ugly UGC Web from my TV, so I'm happy with limited 'openness': YouTube, BBC iPlayer and other dedicated channel apps like NPR, ABC, Al-Jazeera will do. For those who want thehun.com [NSfW!], there's always a Boxee hack. Please spare me Twitter and Facebook on the big screen.... aargh!
Hulu and Netflix streaming services would be nice, but I'll totally understand if that's smooching the competition a bit too much.
I've spent money and effort to HD-enable the various boxes and connections around my TV, so please find a way to output 1080p video and Dolby Surround Sound, at least to my AV receiver. For bonus points, let me use the iPod or iPad as the primary remote.
That's all I need. Keep your tuner, your PVR, your browser. Stick to instant delivery of top-quality content.
All the best,