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  • What's the difference between Apple TV, Apple TV app, and Apple TV+?

    A good article, but the fact this has to exist means I have thoughts.

    I’ve used the Apple TV since its inception (had a white MacBook sitting in another room with EyeTV hooked up DVR’ing shows from a cable box and then OTA, which then served those shows up to the Apple TV by way of Home Sharing) and have hung on with every change... and this has been the most confused it’s ever been. Is it hardware? Is it an app? Is it a service? The best parallel the original Apple TV had was the iPod—an Apple-styled media player that should have been the best option on the market. And, for a while, I think the Apple TV was the best option.

    Once Roku stopped being just a basic Netflix device and had a store, once Google started pushing on Android TV (regardless of their failures there), once Amazon played its hand with the Fire TV, and once it was clear Apple wasn’t going to convince the content creators to accept it as an OTT provider, Apple should have taken decisive action instead of limping along (the fact that Apple still has no first-party or officially blessed third-party OTA tuner astounds me—it’s a no-brainer and the fact Amazon beat them to it with the Recast is just stunning). That being said, I think the entire landscape is an absolute mess and that it’s still anyone’s game.

    If Apple can get off its rear and create an Apple TV equivalent to the Fire TV Cube (one with far-field mics, Siri built-in, and an IR blaster), that would make the case for a refresh on the hardware. If not... then there’s close to no reason for a new box (yes, a more powerful processor for Apple Arcade is “nice,” but useless until there is a packed-in game controller and there are full-fledged user profiles in tvOS—having the Apple TV box tied to a single Game Center ID is asinine). If they can’t make a box that is a useful piece of hardware (not just a player) and integrates into a smart home and its entertainment center, then they should stop making the thing.

    Just as the Music app was the equivalent to the iPod, I think the TV app is the same to the Apple TV (which makes me ask if the future Of the tvOS interface is tied to the current TV app interface on the Apple TV box). I think there needs to be a visionary working hard on making sure the app works seamlessly across every platform and is presenting Apple’s best work, but many of their non-macOS, non-iOS app work feels half-hearted. Personally, I think the need for the app on other platforms mostly disappeared once MoviesAnywhere arose, but I still think Apple can use the app as a marketing tool to pull users over to the Apple TV hardware (hopefully better and more functional than it currently is).

    The Channels are the first really good thing I’ve seen in a long time and I really want to see them push that aggressively. We subscribe to BritBox and it’s seamless—let’s see more of that! I’d really love to see more of the free providers (Tubi, Crackle, Filmrise, etc.) take advantage of it, too—it’s more likely to get their ads in front of faces that way. An OTA (Tablo, HomeRun, ChannelMaster... whatever) “channel” would be great, too. And a guide—something that integrates channels and apps with live feeds (Pluto, ESPN, the news apps, the OTA apps, etc.) so we can see what’s on right now—would be great (even though it’s playing catch-up).

    And then there’s Apple TV+. I’m subscribed to it (I bought a Mac mini and got the free year), but I have yet to really be impressed by anything. I wanted to like For All Mankind and Raven’s Quest, but the former just fell flat with me (there’s a lot of retro-futurism they could be exploring there and they just aren’t) and the latter feels like it’s trying way too hard to be a semi-serious successor to The IT Crowd vis-a-vis The Office (and it misses the mark on both). I watched Beastie Boys Story and... nothing was new (nor did I think it was all that compelling once the discussion made it past Paul’s Boutique... which was 30 years ago). The Snoopy stuff has been fun to watch with my kids, but is that worth the potential monthly cost? What value does Apple TV+ bring at that price when Hulu is the same price? What does it actually do to serve Apple TV users?

    Like a lot at Apple right now, the Apple TV offerings are a mess, but I think it’s the biggest mess. Apple needs to determine what its core businesses are, and I don’t think content creation is one. If they take inspiration from Jobs’s pro/consumer hardware quadrants (Power Mac, PowerBook for pros and iMac, iBook for consumers), I think Apple can begin to refocus (only, as opposed to just hardware, it should be pro hardware, consumer hardware, services, and first-party apps).

    For the Apple TV ecosystem, I think refocusing means taking a serious look at the home hardware (the Apple TV and the HomePod) and Apple TV+.

    In terms of the hardware, They need to ask if Siri is going to be a true competitor to Alexa, or is it going to be an also-ran like Cortana? If Siri is going to be more, then it’s well past time Siri be its own service and it be placed in everything (and licensed) just like Alexa (and, despite loving my HomePods, I’m pretty sure that ship has sailed due to Apple dragging its feet for five years). Personally, I would love a Fire TV Cube-like Apple TV with full voice controls and IR blasting, or an Apple-designed sound bar with HomePod-like capabilities and the same IR blasting, but I don’t see it coming (who knows what WWDC might bring?).

    In terms of Apple TV+, they need to ask if content creation is actually a “service” or if it’s just a vanity project. Right now, it’s a vanity project. If they beef it up (buy Philo or Sling and maybe Filmrise or Crackle and get some big exclusives to beef-up the content offerings and integrate them *tightly* with the Apple TV app), then it might make it a proper OTT service. If they can’t do that, then it’s still just a vanity project, and spinning-out the content creation makes the most sense to me—it just isn’t needed, it’s muddling the message, and it’s distracting the company from from the core businesses.

    Sorry for the wall of text. This is one of those things I’ve chewed on for a while and I keep being disappointed by Apple (but the others, too).
  • Apple TV with A12X ready to go at any time, claims leaker

    mbdrake76 said:
    It's pity they're not putting storage capacities in the terabytes on these things to allow you to download all your iTunes movie purchases - because if you don't download them, and the content provider pulls it from the iTunes store - you're screwed.  Just had a title removed from my library that I bought in 2015 for this reason.  As I have 1.75Tb worth of movies and that Apple storage is incredibly expensive, keeping them in the "cloud" seems the only reasonable way of doing it.  But no. 

    And you don't get any recompense or any notification whatsoever from Apple prior to the title being withdrawn.  It makes buying movies from them a massive risk (even worse with other digital stores such as Amazon or Google Play as you don't get to download them as a file as you do with iTunes - assuming one has a computer, of course).  Subscriptions to Apple TV+, Netflix, Amazon, Disney, etc. are fine - you know what you're getting and you're willing to accept that you'd lose access to them if you stopped subscribing or if their licensing no longer permits them to stream the title. 

    So for me, the Apple TV has lost its appeal somewhat.
    I'd love to see Apple create a headless home media server, but I doubt that will ever be in the cards. The Apple TV is a streaming box first and, with iOS/iPadOS/tvOS's support of Xbox One and PS4 controllers, an Apple Arcade device second (which is why it has 128 GB of space). You have many options for local storage, though—throw Plex on a NAS device and install those apps, set up a DLNA server, or (for a first-party solution) use an older Mac with an attached multi-TB drive and set up Media Sharing across your network. Personally, I buy discs of the things I want to always have on-hand and use the digital copy merely for convenience. I might spend $4.99 on a sale for something my family or I enjoy and can't stream and don't see a reason to have in our disc library, but I don't bother downloading and archiving the copy any longer. That works for me—your mileage may vary.
  • Apple TV with A12X ready to go at any time, claims leaker

    eightzero said:
    Query: if you bought HD movies on iTunes before they offered 4k, you get the free upgrade to the 4k version of those?
    Depends on the studio. Many of them agreed to upgrade to 4K through Apple, but Disney (as a huge example) did not.
  • Higher capacity Apple TV with tvOS 'Kids Mode' may be on the way

    About time. I've been poking them about how families are handled for years now. To be fair, it's not just Apple—no streaming device has a good profile system (my Xbox One, at least, allows me to set up the kids' accounts, PIN-protect mine, and allow exceptions as I see fit), and Apple started getting there with the user profiles last year, but they only got about 25% of the way. I'd like to see profiles with PINs (not just for parents, but for kids, too, so their siblings don't go and screw with their queues), and I want those profiles to properly follow from tvOS to iPadOS to macOS. Right now, with the lack of ways to connect to services on macOS, you can't start something from, say, Disney+ on your TV and then move seamlessly to your Mac. I think the key to a truly good Apple TV box is having a service that replicates the experience exactly across every device that user logs into (and allows a parent to grant exceptions to specific content).
  • More email apps caught 'processing' and selling user data [u]

    Anything that has my mail filtering through its servers has caused me to read up on it closely. I have options—Mail (of course), Outlook (I'm an Office 365 user), and I could POP/IMAP into a service like Gmail—but I wanted a client that would let me use a lot of accounts and allow me to sign and encrypt my email. I researched the options and, looking for something that connects directly and doesn't play these semantic games, and I ended up settling on Canary. It's not free, it doesn't do any of these smart filtering sort of things, and it has its quirks (they're actively addressing the bugs, though, which is nice), but after Airmail really pulled a bait-and-switch last year, Canary is definitely well worth the look.

    Now, if the app is free and gives you features you can't find elsewhere and you don't mind that your data is aggregated, then maybe something like Edison is okay for you. If that creeps you out, or if you deal with any sort of private records (FERPA or HIPAA, for instance), then you definitely should not use anything like this. I suggest looking around to see what works for you (and what doesn't), make sure it definitely does what it's saying it does, and be aware of the data exposed to it.