I’m often asked by friends if they should buy an Apple TV. They usually head to the Apple Store to buy a new iPad or iPhone, and while there, they come across Apple’s little set-top box. For just $99, it seems like a bargain. And so, they ask me if they should plunk down the cash to buy one.
The first question I ask when I field the question is, “do you own an Xbox 360?”
Time and again, if they say yes, I tell them to skip the Apple TV. If they tell me that they don’t have an Xbox, I’ll tell them that they should buy one if they want to be entertained. Only if they tell me that they have no interest in gaming or don’t want to spend the extra cash to buy the Xbox will I tell them to get their hands on the Apple TV.
Now, I’m sure that there are many Apple fans out there that are appalled by that advice. Those folks use their Apple TVs each and every day, and they’re generally quite pleased with the experience.
However, the more objective among us might quickly determine that when it comes to a full-fledged entertainment experience for the living room, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to choose an Apple TV over a game console, like the Xbox 360.
Let’s face it: the Apple TV is hobbled in many ways. You can’t store content on the device, and the iTunes content library is limited. Plus, I just don’t see what’s so unique about it. The device features Netflix streaming, which is great, but I can find that elsewhere. And although its $99 price tag is great and all, I can get a Blu-ray player, complete with Netflix integration, for about the same price.
The Xbox 360, on the other hand, delivers a far more well-rounded experience. It has Netflix, Hulu Plus, and all the other desirable streaming options consumers expect to find, but it also lets me stream my content to it. Even better, I can play games or pop in a DVD if I so desire.
We also can’t forget about Microsoft’s desire to make the Xbox 360 a more television-focused hub in the living room. Currently, dozens of television content providers have signed up with Microsoft to offer content, and over the next several months, I think we’ll quickly find just how desirable that offering is.
I’m a firm believer in owning the best gadgetry in any market. And although the Apple TV is a solid set-top box that probably bests those from Roku and Boxee, among others, it’s no match for today’s game consoles.
At the end of the day, living room entertainment is about finding products that solve the many needs customers have. The only issue is, the Apple TV doesn’t do that – yet, anyway. The Xbox 360, on the other hand, does.