Apple says the Apple TV App Store has about 6,000 apps. As it should, that number pales compared to the Mac App Store and especially the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad (now around 2-million apps), but it’s growing fast, heavily populated with games, yes, but with plenty of video sources, including TV channels and networks. Still, if the future of TV is apps then Apple seems to be on the right track.
Here’s the problem I have with that pronouncement. It’s still in the future.
Most of the TV show ‘channel apps’ I can download to my 4th gen Apple TV also require a subscription to a cable TV service that has the same channels already, so what’s the point? True, some of those apps have on-demand options so you can view older TV shows, but my DVR does that already (the downside with a DVR is obvious; management and storage space).
Steve Jobs famously said Apple TV was a ‘hobby.’ Indeed. To anyone else– Roku, for example– it would be a big, multi-billion dollar business. But to Apple, Apple TV is a hobby. It was a hobby when Steve Jobs called it a hobby, and it remains a hobby today.
Even with more than 1,300 video channels, 650,000 movies and TV shows, and 6,000 apps, Apple TV is not yet mature enough to replace the cable TV connection. You know, cut the cord, ditch the cable TV box.
Fundamentally, and technologically, there is nothing about cable TV that could not be stuffed into Apple TV. But that’s the problem. Once Apple TV does everything cable TV already does– and I’m not saying that will ever happen– there are questions that need answers. What will Apple TV cost? Will there be channel apps to replace everything the cable TV has already? What about local TV channels? Who handles service? Will cable TV companies even allow Apple TV to stream over their pipes?
Here’s what I want from whatever source provides me with television and movies, be it the local cable TV company, a nearby phone company trying to get back some customers, Apple TV, or whatever Google decides to do with Chromecast (also a hobby).
Video on demand. TV. Movies. Local TV. All of it. Always on demand.
That means Apple TV should position itself as the delivery service for everything that was every on video. The iTunes Music Store has about 30-million song titles. That is to say, about every song you can thing of or can’t find elsewhere. Apple TV needs an app for every network, an app for every movie ever made, an app for local TV stations, so I can watch any video I want any time I want and wherever I want; Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV.
Until that scenario is filled, Apple TV will remain Apple’s hobby.