My Wish List For The Apple TV

There’s a lot of speculation on the net right now about what the near future holds for the Apple TV. This has largely been brought on by recent changes to the lineup, namely the demise of the low-end model and the price reduction on the remaining one. That, coupled with the long time since the last real update have brought the analysts out of the woodwork.

I’ve had an Apple TV since the second rev, when they lowered the price and bumped the hard drive capacity to 160 GB. I’m lucky enough to also have a TiVo, so I’ve never been one who really clamored for the Apple TV to become a full-fledged DVR. I think that if Apple decided to jump into this market, they could probably do a good job, but it’s been pretty clear that they want no part of it, and it’s probably better that way.

I tend to think of the Apple TV as simply a conduit to get my iTunes-purchased video onto my HDTV and music piped through my speakers. I’ll occasionally rent a movie or buy a missed TV show on the device, and for these things it works well. The killer app that made me buy it really was its small form factor. I like that it’s very easy to put a bunch of content on the Apple TV, and move it to the trailer at the start of a trip. Then I have that content combined with my normal music library in the trailer. It’s really a pretty good device for this kind of travel.

Here are a few things that I’d like to see improved:

  1. I’d love for the Apple TV to have a folder that I could through video into and have it sync to the Apple TV. For this to really work, it has to be able to play it. That’s a long way of saying that I want the Apple TV to gracefully handle pretty much any type of video I throw at it. Think of the VLC player and you’ve got the right idea.
  2. I’d like to see the restrictions on movie rentals relaxed. I’m happy enough to pay for rentals, but having to finish a movie within 24 hours of starting it is a pain-in-the-ass. I paid for it already—let me watch it on my own timeline.
  3. I understand that the movie industry controls when something can be rented or purchased. Let me be clear: I’ll never pay to “own” a movie on the Apple TV. If I want to own a movie, I’ll get the DVD or Blu-ray. If we must have this division, let me hide the new-for-purchase-only track altogether.
  4. The HD tax seems kind of steep for TV episodes. I don’t mind paying the $1 tax for the better quality in a movie, but $1 extra for a TV episode makes me wince.
  5. Let me set a preference that I always want HD, and make it the default unless I explicitly say I want SD, or HD isn’t available.
  6. I frequently find myself hunting for stuff in the menus, which is pretty un-Apple-like. For instance, I might finish watching an episode of a TV show, and want to immediately get the next one. That requires a surprising amount of menu-hunting.
  7. In-show navigation could use some work. Fast-forward and rewind need those touches that TiVo has that take your reaction time into account. Also from the TiVo: I’d love to have a skip back a couple of seconds button.

I don’t have a huge list, obviously. It does what I want for the most part, but it really hasn’t revolutionized my life either. I’d love to see Apple really decide this segment is important to them and have them surprise me like they did with the iPod. I’d really love for them to make it possible for me to kill my cable subscription, but I know that’s asking a lot. But the iPhone was asking a lot too, wasn’t it?