The news that Apple has hired the head of Amazon’s Fire TV to salvage its own connected TV gadget is a startling acknowledgment of just how disappointing Apple TV has been.
As reported by Bloomberg, Apple brought on Amazon’s Timothy D. Twerdahl to be its vice president in charge of Apple TV product marketing. The move is a tacit nod to Amazon, which, despite some stumbles with its Fire phone, has also developed a growing reputation for its hardware prowess, thanks to hits like Fire TV, the Kindle, and lately, the Echo.
This may be about as close as we ever get to Apple admitting that its attempt to reboot Apple TV in October 2015 has fallen flat. Just last week during its earnings call with analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook was putting some hefty spin on the gadget’s prospects.
“The way that we participate in the changes that are going on in the media industry that I fully expect to accelerate from the cable bundle beginning to break down is, one, we started the new Apple TV a year ago, and we’re pleased with how that platform has come along,” Cook said. “We have more things planned for it but it’s come a long way in a year, and it gives us a clear platform to build off of.”
Maybe. Just just a few days before that call, a report from eMarketer told a very different story about Apple TV.
eMarketer said Apple TV “is at the bottom of the U.S. connected TV market, behind Google Chromecast and Roku, with its share shrinking.” As a result, eMarketer reports that Apple is used by just 11.9 percent of connected TV consumers. That’s down from 12.5 percent in September.
It also continues a steady drop from 12.6 percent in 2015 and 13.5 percent in 2014, according to eMarketer.
That underwhelming assessment comes over a year after Apple relaunched Apple TV with great expectations. But the pricey new Apple TV hardware and its dedicated remote have drawn mixed reviews, particularly from the gaming community. And even as Apple continues to add more apps, it still lacks a dedicated subscription service that Apple has reportedly been trying to pull together for several years now.
Former Apple TV head Pete Distad will move over to work on content deals. And, of course, Apple is reportedly developing original content (following in the footsteps of Netflix and Amazon).
Still, I’m surprised by Apple’s tepid showing, because I was tremendously excited about the prospects of the new Apple TV. I have owned the previous generation Apple TV for several years, and it’s a great complement to my home, which is filled with other Apple gadgets. For all the hype back in 2015 about the Apple Watch, I was sure that Apple TV would be the real game changer. Opening the TV up to Apple’s app developers would surely create a sea change in my relationship with a device that occupies a central position in our home, right?
And the sluggish growth of Apple TV is all the more surprising because of one of the last, cryptic quotes we have from Steve Jobs, via his authorized biography.
“I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,” Jobs said. “It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud…It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”
If that’s true, he apparently forget to tell anyone at Apple. Now we’ll see if someone from Amazon can help Apple finally seize the moment and revolutionize our TVs.