It’s been six months since the new Apple TV launched, and the results have been…underwhelming. Over at TidBITS, Josh Centers takes a deep dive on some of the reasons why:
I’m afraid the fourth-generation Apple TV has entered the dreaded “chicken or egg” zone, something I’ve seen countless times with living room devices, mainly video game consoles. Software moves hardware, and if the apps aren’t there, people won’t buy the boxes. And if hardware sales are slow, developers won’t build software for the platform. It’s a vicious cycle, but I think Apple is better equipped to break free of it than most.
After a stint with the Fire TV, I’ve mostly switched back to the Apple TV, but there really isn’t a huge reason to recommend one platform over the other right now. For example, as much as I like the idea of Siri, having switched to a Harmony universal remote control means I have to dig up the Apple TV remote to use it. Which is often not worth the time.
Part of the stagnation of the platform, and something Josh doesn’t really go into in his otherwise excellent write-up, is that many of the content providers are now pushing their apps as a “platform.” Look at the Hulu or Netflix apps on the Fire TV and Apple TV and you’ll find that they’re actually pretty similar. That’s often more jarring on the Apple TV, where there seems to be a more “unified” design style, than on the Fire TV, which still feels like a hodgepodge of apps. (Akin to an iOS vs. Android experience.)
I’d argue that Hulu and Netflix’s apps are kind of crappy—interface and navigation wise, at least—on all of the platforms. But for those companies, it’s probably more efficient to have one standard codebase that they can deploy to multiple devices, so there’s little incentive for them to spend time tuning apps to work better with the Apple TV.
There’s still a lot of potential on the fourth-generation Apple TV, and fingers crossed that Apple isn’t content to let it sit and fester at WWDC this year.