I just saw this article on AppleInsider which stated (not surprisingly) that first year Apple TV sales are coming in far below expectations. While I am definitely an Apple fan, I don’t currently own an Apple TV. I also don’t own a HDTV, but, if I did, the key to me purchasing the device would be video rentals.
Right now, as it currently stands, Apple TV is not a good value proposition for me. First off, I’ve only purchased one video from the iTunes store, and that was because something got screwed up on the DVR and my wife wound up missing an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I already pay enough for my satellite TV, and am not about to drop it in favor of purchasing individual shows via iTunes. On top of that, the only physical video media I’ve purchased have been kids DVDs. I have, however, rented a few movies. More often than not, this has been associated with some plane travel where I’d really just like to put it on my iPhone. I’ve never done the NetFlix thing, but I think something without a due date but with restrictions on number of times it can be viewed would work best. Trying to find 2+ hours to watch a movie with three young kids running around the house is all but impossible.
The second feature that I’d like to see would be a device that would only be a streaming video recipient that could hook up to the TV. How I really want my video to work is to have one central server that has all of my video and can then stream it to any TV in the house. I’d rather not have to have computers hooked up to each one, however. Take Apple TV, strip out the hard drive, leaving just the HDMI out and the wireless connectivity, and now it’s at least getting tempting. You could either use it in conjunction with Apple TV (if you need external storage of your video) or simply with iTunes on a Mac/PC in your house. It would be the video equivalent to AirPort Express where it connected to your stereo system.
In reality, the best scenarion would if Apple would release a real Apple TV as a competetively priced 42″ or 46″ 1080p LCD TV to the higher end competition that contained a hard drive and wireless capabilities. While I doubt they’d do it, Apple could OEM it to other manufacturers, since the integration with the display should be pretty standard at this point and not get in the way of the user experience. Add in DVR capabilities, the ability to sync recorded programs on the DVR with iTunes so I can move them to my iPod/iPhone or watch them on another computer or TV, and the ability to auto-tune my satellite receiver, and I’d be all over it. Who knows, maybe Steve will announce something close at the next MacWorld.