Remember back in September of 2006 when I said that Apple’s new iDongle (i.e. AppleTV) would fail because, among other things, it didn’t have a DVR?
Well it looks like that might be changing shortly. AppleInsider has published a report saying that in a series of Apple patent fillings published this week that Apple has quietly been working on their own DVR technology. The patent filing details with diagrams how their new DVR might work.
In my opinion AppleTV has a long way to go to catch up with Microsoft and their Media Center / Media Center Extender strategy. But adding a DVR to AppleTV would definitely represent a positive step forward for their product.
Even with a DVR built into AppleTV though, Apple would still have lots of work to do. While some people (myself included) are very happy with OTA HDTV broadcasts (read: free HDTV where you can skip commercials), many people these days still want a device that can record HDTV from cable or satellite. While CableCARD Media Center PCs are still relatively new for Microsoft and their hardware partners, they have at least navigated the early maze with CableLabs to build these sorts of devices. I’m not sure that Apple has really done much here or that these patents really show any considerable effort towards anything other than a straight OTA DVR.
Apple has an amazing brand name. Building the right set top box could be done and using their name in the marketing with the right product would give them a lot of momentum. But today’s AppleTV, the iDongle, is not the right product. And at this point they still have a lot of catching up to do.
Because of this, their AppleTV strategy thus far has largely failed. Just like Thomas Hawk said it would back in 2006. Why would I buy an AppleTV which has no DVR, no DVD player, and no kick ass gaming platform when I could just buy an XBox 360 for the same price that does have a DVR (through Media Center), that does have a DVD player, that can do pretty much anything AppleTV can do, plus comes with a kick ass gaming platform?