March 6, 2013
I have a confession to make. And no, the secret isn’t that I went out and purchased a Samsung phone. However, it does have to do with split loyalties. For some time now, I have enjoyed watching television using a Roku device as my second-generation Apple TV has sat nearby collecting dust. The reason? Despite its many improvements, the Apple TV still doesn’t hold a candle to the industry-leading Roku device. And with the launch this week of the Roku 3, I’m pretty sure that my love for it will continue for many years to come. It wasn’t always this way. I was one of the first to buy the overpriced first-generation Apple TV in 2007. Same goes for the next model, which I proudly purchased in 2010. Then a trip to Best Buy in 2011 changed things. I had received a $20 gift card and was looking for a way to spend it. I had grown tired of buying DVDs, so that didn’t do. A new iPhone case was also unnecessary, since I had many of those just lying around the house. Then I saw it, the Roku 2 XD. I had, of course, heard a lot about Roku before making my purchase. However, up until that point, I reasoned that since I already had the Apple TV, a Roku was unnecessary. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Roku, in my opinion, is what the Apple TV should be, but really isn’t. To date, it offers access to nearly 700 channels ranging from the traditional (Hulu Plus, Vudu, Netflix), to the truly unique (Indieflix, House of Horrors, Funimation). What Roku doesn’t offer, of course, is the ability for me to access my iTunes content. While this was once a deal breaker, it isn’t any longer. It used to be that when I wanted to rent a movie, I did so using Apple TV. Same goes for movie or TV show purchases. However, as streaming video has caught on, the need to download and actually store content on my iMac, has subsided. Instead, I now make video purchases through services like Vudu or Amazon, and let them do the storing. This brings us to the Roku 3 and what it should mean for Apple. Besides performance improvements and a better user interface, the next-generation Roku includes a new controller. This features a headphone jack and volume buttons on the side. The price? Just $99, which is the price Apple charges for the Apple TV. I want the Apple TV to succeed. In fact, if Apple were to offer even half of the content that Roku does, I’d consider switching back. The same goes for the long-rumored iTV, which would no doubt include an Apple TV interface were it to launch. However, for any future Apple television to succeed with the masses, they will need to think beyond their own ecosystem. And yes, beyond simply providing Apple TV apps, which have long been rumored. The key is content, and lots of it. Looking at what Roku has done would be a great place to start.