Happy Birthday, Apple TV!

Xavier Verhoeven
21 March, 2010
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The Apple TV turns three years old today.

When I was three I was walking, talking and generally being a nuisance for my parents. Unfortunately, the Apple TV has barely progressed past crawling.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Apple TV. It does what it does well, it’s simple to use, and its interface looks stunning on my TV. It’s just that what it does is pretty limited, unless you’re happy with the selection of movies and TV shows available through iTunes.

I shouldn’t be too harsh though. It’s mostly not Apple’s fault. They’ve made significant improvements to the software over the three years, and killed off the inadequate 40GB model (though probably only because drives that small were no longer available). And the content on iTunes is clearly governed by the media companies that don’t yet understand how best to market in the digital age.

But I think the biggest reason the Apple TV is the same beast as it was three years ago is that Apple didn’t need to improve it. There really hasn’t been a decent competitor.

Well, there have been hundreds of media players or media capable hard drives, but none have brought the simplicity of the Apple TV and its iTunes integration. And none have had as beautiful an interface. They just haven’t been in the same league.

That might all be about to change.

The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal both recently reported that Google is developing a potential competitor to the Apple TV.

Apparently the online giant is teaming up with Intel and Sony to develop the platform and hardware, with Logitech rumoured to be working on the remote.

‘Google TV’ will combine the company’s Android mobile OS and applications with television devices made for the platform, including set-top boxes, the papers say. Reports suggest the technology will run on Intel’s Atom chips, and Google will build a new version of its Chrome browser for the project.

The companies working on the project “envision technology that will make it easy for TV users to navigate Web applications, like the Twitter social network and the Picasa photo site, as it is to change the channel”, The New York Times says.

So you could soon be logging in to twitter, checking your emails, and Googling your name to your heart’s content on your TV.

Google and Sony have both refused to comment, and given both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal articles, the rumour has a touch more credibility than many that circle the web nowadays.

The reports focus predominantly on the platform’s internet applications, but it would be odd to assume that Google won’t want media on the device – after all, they do own YouTube. And if the platform is as open as Android currently is on phones, there will be no limit to the content it might feature.

Which brings us back to the Apple TV.

New hardware from the likes of Google and Sony that can do what the Apple TV can currently only dream of, with an interface to match, will be the death-knell for Apple’s ‘hobby’ device.

I just hope that Apple take heed of the warning that Google is again encroaching on their territory and give the Apple TV a much needed update for its third birthday.

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