The race to conquer America's "digital living room" has attracted the country's biggest tech companies, such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon. But if the lukewarm reception to Apple TV reveals anything, it's that Silicon Valley is still a long way from taking over your TV set. For proof, look no further than Steve Jobs, who raised serious doubts about expanding into television just two months ago in an interview with All Things Digital:
The problem with innovation in the TV industry is the go-to-market strategy… Ask TiVo, ask Roku, ask us. … ask Google in a few months. It’s not a problem of technology, it’s not a problem of vision, it’s a problem of go to market strategy. [TV] is very tower of Babel-ish, it’s Balkanized.
Jobs's commitment to Internet TV has always been somewhat of a mystery. But the new update of Apple TV suggests renewed enthusiasm. However, if Apple TV doesn't have what it takes to be a mainstream success (which is what most observers are saying), do any of the tech giants stand a chance? Here's what's standing in their way:
- All the TV Networks Must Get On Board, writes Eliot Van Buskirk at Wired: “The biggest promise of devices such as Apple TV, from the consumer’s point of view, is that they might — at long last — allow them to 'cut the cord,' replacing their cable or satellite connections with an internet-connected set-top box, the same way many have replaced their landlines with cellphones. But with only two networks — ABC and Fox — included in Apple’s new television rental program, the only way a television viewer with normal viewing habits would be able to cut the cord using the new Apple TV would be to wait a day and download unsupported new shows from BitTorrent (more on that below), while relying on Netflix for older shows."
- Here's Why the Tech Giants Fail, writes Larry Dignan at ZDNet. He takes each tech company on individually. "Apple TV was a flop and probably will be again... Apple TV probably needs to be a real TV not a little box with an HDMI port... Google has the same problem as Apple: Content companies are wary of the search giant, but will deal with the company just so Jobs doesn’t control their fate... Amazon can rent you movies and sell you content in your living room, but the e-commerce company is largely a wild-card." The one company with a close shot at conquering the "digital living room" is Netflix, argues Dignan:
The real deal is that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and his company have navigated the digital entertainment landscape better than anyone. Netflix’s ability to navigate the turbulent entertainment business is absolutely brilliant...
You pick a screen or consumer electronics device and you’re likely to find Netflix. And it’s all you can eat for a subscription. The real genius with Netflix: The company isn’t a huge threat to cable or any of the incumbents. If anything Netflix is more HBO killer than Comcast killer.
- Clearly the Networks Have Dug In Their Heels, writes Andrew Wallenstein at the Hollywood Reporter: "Although Apple is touting the inclusion of Disney and News Corp., the holdouts are hoping their absence from iTunes rentals will weaken it. Already they're taking pride in having successfully prevented some of Apple's previous efforts, including a 99-cent download (as opposed to rental streaming) and a bundled monthly offering." Eliot Van Buskirk adds: "The fact that one of only two launch partners Apple could secure is ABC — owned by Disney, of which Jobs is the largest shareholder — is not exactly a hopeful sign that the networks will be climbing aboard anytime soon."