September 15, 2007

Adding Movie Rentals to iTunes Would Save the Apple TV

Sometimes, being an early adopter really bites. After years of drooling anticipation from fans, myself included, Apple delivered on their set top box strategy, with the debut of the Apple TV, acting as the conduit between video on my iTunes and my wide-screen TV. While I recognized the first box would have issues, I had to get one. I also trusted that the box's feature set could be updated on the fly, putting my faith in Apple to deliver additional functionality as the box gained in maturity.

And in the six months or so that I've had my Apple TV, the only real news is that I gained the ability to browse YouTube in June. I still don't have Apple's blessing to play .avi files from other sources on my widescreen TV. I still don't have anything like games on the Apple TV, and worst of all, iTunes still hasn't debuted movie rentals - what I believe to be the missing link between potential product obsolescence and product success.

Today, my Apple TV largely plays my music on the TV's speakers, acting as an overpowered stereo, with some cool graphics. But the price barrier to download films - at $10 for anything from the iTunes store, is a fallacy in the face of Netflix pricing, and the ability to set up my TiVo to proactively find films for free.

With this background, we now see Forbes lustily calling the Apple TV "The iFlop", saying while the iPhone has soared in the global consciousness, the Apple TV has been dissed as a hobby and hidden in the backs of stores. Apple won't even discuss the product's sales success, or lack thereof, as an individual line.

I have faith Apple can get their act together on the Apple TV, but very little faith in the media owners of today (i.e. the movie studios) to do what's best for consumers instead of what's best for their own pockets. If they do not deliver reasonable download terms for movie rentals via iTunes, it could both spell the death of Apple TV and even worse, send us to BitTorrent and other less-desired means to get our digital entertainment fix.

Let's get this done, Apple. I've been begging since April for you to crush Netflix, have seen rumors you'll pull this off at least since July and I have no interest in seeing Forbes' dire prediction come true.