Apple TV Offers Yet Another Way to Watch TV on Your TV

Posted on October 29, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Music + Videos with 30 Comments

Apple TV Offers Yet Another Way to Watch TV on Your TV

I spend a lot of time trying to figure out which streaming devices make the most sense. The new Apple TV, alas, continues to disappoint.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Exactly a year ago, when Apple first launched the latest Apple TV, I openly wondered—and hoped—that its new (for Apple) apps- and app store-based approach would lead to an easy decision, with Google’s, Microsoft’s and Amazon’s media services being made available on the device.

That never happened. Worse, Apple launched a new streaming device without 4K capabilities just as all of its competitors embraced 4K. And the new Apple TV’s new remote is an abomination, and device so terrible that it makes me wish I could use the previous version instead. And that remote was terrible.

Long story short, the only reason I ever use the Apple TV is to access content I’ve purchased from Apple. Which, by the way, is the only reason I ever used the previous generation product. That is, Apple improved nothing.

At this past week’s event, Apple CEO Tim Cook again pulled out the line that “the future of the TV is apps,” as if every one of his competitors hadn’t realized that before Apple. It’s tired because devices like the Roku family of products and the Amazon Fire TV offer far better and more voluminous app stores than Apple’s device, and that’s as true now as it was a year ago. And some of them even support 4K video, if you’ll excuse me harping on that inconvenient truth.

So it was with great amusement that I watched as Mr. Cook and Apple unveiled a new TV app for the Apple TV. You might surmise from the name of this app that it would actually let you watch, you know, TV. That it might even offer TV recording capabilities, or integrate with your home TV provider, or something, again, related to TV.

But that is not what the TV app does. Instead, the TV app works just like Front Row for the Mac worked a decade ago. That is, it’s a front-end for other apps that you have installed on the device, a way to access various video services in a single place. And avoid the “whack a mole” issue that is inherent to any app-based mobile platform.

It is, in other words, a sham.

As Apple describes it, the TV app is “a unified experience for discovering and accessing TV shows and movies from multiple apps,” “one place to access TV shows and movies, as well as a place to discover new content to watch.”

It is not TV. It’s not even live TV, as Apple claims, though of course some apps today offer live experiences for news or sports. So there’s nothing new here beyond the attempt to do what Microsoft tried with Windows phone: Convince content partners to let users ignore their brands so they can access multiple services from a single hub.

That didn’t work out so well for Microsoft, for retroactively obvious reasons. And surprise, surprise, it’s not working out so well for Apple either: The most important and popular services, like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, have rejected the TV app and will not be included.

I know Apple has or did have big plans for TV, that former CEO Steve Jobs claimed to his biographer that Apple had “finally cracked it”. But as this Apple TV and Apple’s failure to sign on content creators, first for a subscription service, and now for a much tamer app, have demonstrated, Apple hasn’t cracked a thing. It has in fact simply failed.

So the quest continues. Someday, maybe, we’ll have that one perfect streamer. But today, we still need to maintain multiple devices if we wish to access all of the available media services.

Oh well.


Tagged with , ,

Premium Comments (12) Comments (18)
Elevate the Conversation!

Join Thurrott Premium to enjoy our Premium comments.

Premium member comments on news posts will feature an elevated status that increases their visibility. This tab would allow you to participate in Premium comments with other premium members. Register to join the other Premium members in elevating the conversation!

Register or Subscribe
Sort by Votes | Date
  1. 2 | Reply
    burog25c Alpha Member #2145 - 2 months ago

    Funny fact? My TV already streams the services i use most. Why do I need Apple?

    1. 0 | Reply
      evox81 Alpha Member #1939 - 2 months ago
      In reply to burog25c:

      This is a valid point, and one that is "good enough" for most people. Although I've found dedicated devices frequently do this a bit more elegantly than a Smart TV does. In our household we, more often than not, turn on the Xbox One despite Netflix being available directly on the TV. The Netflix app built in to the TV is just too clunky.

    2. 0 | Reply
      Narg Alpha Member #420 - 2 months ago
      In reply to evox81:

      Newer TVs have much better apps and much better experiences.  Heck, the newest Samsungs include processors as good as any top of the line Android phone these days, and they are not lacking in any way on apps and power.

    3. 0 | Reply
      burog25c Alpha Member #2145 - 2 months ago
      In reply to evox81:

      I get that.  Honestly, the ONLY thing my TV needs is for me to be able to use my keyboard for typing. It would make the hunt and peck with the remote be sooooo much easier. But, the Netflix app (and the VUDU/Amazon/YouTube/others) are actually pretty damn good for a cheapo Chinese 4K UHD/HDR smart tv. I don't regret a single $.


  2. 0 | Reply
    gvan - 2 months ago

    Apple has a huge advantage in video over competitors like, Amazon, Netflix and Hulu! With ITunes I can download videos to my Windows laptop and watch them off line without an internet connection. That’s the number one use case for me!

    Does Microsoft’s video service support downloading and off line viewing? Amazon recently dropped their off-line capability (Unboxed). Booooo.

    I recently purchased a cheap 11 inch Dell Laptop that happens to have a nice IPS LCD screen and put a big SSD into it. It makes for a great travel and entertainment PC. It only works because of ITunes!

    1. Paul Thurrott
      0 | Reply
      Paul Thurrott Alpha Member #1 - 2 months ago
      In reply to gvan:

      But Apple doesn't compete directly with those services. Amazon, Google and Microsoft all offer that capability too, and Amazon uses an old-school Win32 app just like Apple. With Microsoft, you get a more modern and efficient (battery life/performance) experience than with iTunes. Which I think we can all agree, is terrible.


    2. 0 | Reply
      gvan - 2 months ago
      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      Paul, thank you for the reply. Amazon has shut down its off line downloading and viewing product (unboxed). It was a very quiet shutdown. Here is a link.

      I’m really upset with Amazon over this as I have lots of content stuck there that I can’t watch on the road anymore! Amazon still supports off line playback on IPhone but not Windows. That’s dumb as a rock. Booooo Amazon. ITunes is slow and clunky but it does work, which is more than I can say for Amazon Unboxed. There is no technical reason why Netflix or Hulu can’t do off line playback.

      I'm anti-Google (they are the new evil empire). So, Google is not an option for me. For the record, I’m a Microsoft/IPhone fan boy. HeHeHe… That leaves me with only 2 video options. Apple and whatever Microsoft offers. I’m going to buy an XBox One S and a 4k HDR TV with my tax return so I will take a serious second look at Microsoft’s video service. Hopefully they will have lots of good 4K HDR content!

    3. 0 | Reply
      VonBrick Alpha Member #1377 - 2 months ago
      In reply to gvan:

      I've decided that not having control of what happens down the road to any media I purchase in the "cloud" is a dealbreaker.  I now use Plex religiously and load everything I have (movies, music, etc.) there.  We can download optimized versions to our mobile devices or reach the server remotely in a pinch.  Your mileage may vary but we love our Plex server.

    4. 0 | Reply
      Demileto Alpha Member #2054 - 2 months ago
      In reply to gvan:

      "Does Microsoft’s video service support downloading and off line viewing?"

      Yes, it does. I watched 'TMNT: Out of the Shadows' yesterday that way.

  3. 0 | Reply
    melinau Alpha Member #388 - 2 months ago

    The big problem with much of the "TV" market is wheeler-dealering  between Content Providers & Delivers and the likes of Amazon\Netflix which are both.  These guys obviously want you to do as much business via their App\Service as possible, but as a customer I simply want access, irrespective of the provider.  

    Apple's advertised (if not delivered) solution of a single point of access is attractive, and ultimately something that really delivers it is bound to appear.   Although I buy from a single supplier, I don't care whose Generators or bits of wire are used to provide electricity.    Similarly I'm not interested in who made or delivered my Entertainment\News or Sports content.    Like the Utilities learned to do, these Tech companies need to grow up a bit and stop trying to "own" their customers inside walled gardens.
    Maybe I'm unique, but I don't think so.

  4. 0 | Reply
    glenn8878 Alpha Member #2387 - 2 months ago

    A TV streamer is a tuner with adequate storage, and a media guide. Who hasn't figured this out?

  5. 0 | Reply
    nightmare99 Alpha Member #1133 - 2 months ago

    This app doesn't have Netflix or Amazon video support either does it so I would consider it kind of useless.