The set-top box market picked up in the past year. A slew of companies joined the fray, like Boxee, while others, including Roku, Apple, and Western Digital, improved their line of products to better appeal to consumers.
Aside from the Apple TV, perhaps the most notable addition to the set-top box market last year was Google TV. The platform was made available on the Logitech Revue and some Sony HDTVs, and was expected to captivate audiences.
But it didn’t. And all the while, the Apple TV performed quite well.
Apple’s set-top box features a small footprint and allows consumers to stream movies and television shows from iTunes. It also includes Netflix streaming, among other features. Unlike its predecessor, Apple isn’t treating its latest set-top box like a “hobby.” That renewed focus helped Apple sell over 1 million Apple TV units since the device’s launch, making it one of the more popular set-top boxes on store shelves.
As an Apple TV owner, I have no issue seeing the device perform well at retail (it is a useful product, after all), but I am concerned that the market will focus more on delivering an experience similar to that set-top box’s, rather than what Google TV offers, given recent sales.
See, the Apple TV is too simple. It doesn’t interface with my DVR, it doesn’t have an App Store-like marketplace, and it delivers a movie-viewing experience that’s far too similar to the sub-par offering on my DVR.
But Google TV is different. Even with its faults, Google TV has more promise than any other service on the market. It will soon allow users to access apps; it has a full-fledged Web browser; and with some help from content providers, it should soon deliver far more content than any other platform in the space.
As far as I’m concerned, Google TV is the only service available now that makes sense in such a forward-thinking marketplace.
The Apple TV is a fine product, but it’s too, well, today. And I’m not looking for a product that’s suitable for today. I want a product that can look ahead and bring the future to me sooner rather than later. And at least right now, that’s Google TV.
So, going forward I don’t want to see vendors get wrapped up in the Apple TV’s success and follow its lead. Not only would it hold the streaming space back, but it would also annoy a lot of consumers who are looking for far more functionality.