Until Apple TV is just like cable, it's not going to cut any cords on its own

best apple tv accessories
best apple tv accessories (Image credit: iMore)

Apple TV was an interesting product at launch. It was certainly wasn't a game machine. J. Allard, the architect of Xbox once told me Xbox was Microsoft's answer to PlayStation, which was Sony's effort to be the computer of the living room. It scared Bill Gates at the time. In reality, neither PlayStation nor Xbox took over the living room. They were game consoles, bought by gamers. Apple TV was bought by iPod owners. No one owned the living room.

Apple TV was the first product announced by the late Steve Jobs well in advance of its ship date. In theory it would revolutionize TV. In practice, it turned your TV into an iPod for your living room. It had a hard drive and you could sync your content to it. In theory. In most cases, due to home network speeds or lack thereof, it could take days before everything was in order. It wasn't the future of TV. It did give a glimpse of that future when the battle for a new optical disk format raged on.

The current Apple TV is a great product, but I strongly think it doesn't deliver the vision I suspect Apple wanted to ship. The latest model does, however, take Apple's tech one step further with support for 4K and HDR. (By the way, those are terms that are not nearly consumer-friendly enough.)

All that high-quality video is great, but until the content kings get fully onboard, Apple TV will be device number two (at best) on our televisions. And even with improved apps and better games, Apple TV is not a game console replacement either. I'd argue the future of TV isn't apps. It's TV. Many of the apps and games in the current App Store aren't cutting edge and certainly won't appeal to gamers. The content offerings match what's well established elsewhere. There's nothing unique.

Google has it, Sony has it, Sling offers it. It's that "skinny" bundle that could take on the cable folks. There's the rub. I suspect the folks that own all that network content want nothing to do with Apple. I strongly suspect their motivation is easy. They simply look at what Apple did to the music industry, and don't want that to happen to them. Reports of Sr. Apple executives behavior in some of those discussions didn't help.

Sure, I can get PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV on an Apple TV, but those don't drive sales.

I humbly think Apple needs to figure out how to make the future of TV a reality. The current services work, but they are the equivalent of MP3 players before iPod. There's a lot of room for improvement in terms of user experience, DVR performance, and a better experience for content delivery. Content creation deals aren't the answer. Look at Planet of the Apps to see what I mean.

Third-party content bundles meet my needs. Their feature set works. Content is there, except the experience is horrible. I can only dream of what I'd like to see Apple deliver in a whole TV experience. I'm hoping Apple can eventually assuage the fears of the cable folks and get the content deals it needs. Until then, it's unlikely Apple will take the deals currently offered. Cable folks won't deal with Apple the way the music folks did. Here's hoping, eventually, the cable folks can come to terms with Apple and finally get the Apple TV I want and the rest of us deserve.

Michael Gartenberg

I’ve covered the personal technology beat for more than two decades at places like Gartner, Jupiter Research and Altimeter Group. I’ve also had the fun of contributing my $.02 on the topic at Computerworld, Engadget, Macworld, SlashGear and now iMore. Most recently I spent a few years at Apple as Sr. Director of Worldwide Product Marketing. On Twitter I’m an unverified @gartenberg. I still own some Apple stock.