Apple TV 3: Is it us? Or Them?

Apple continues to post updates to Apple TV that disappoint a segment of the customer base and TV industry experts. This time around, the update 3.0 merely adds a new top level shell for navigating and some minor enhancements such as iTunes LP and Internet radio stations. The big question is: should we really feel disappointed?

Let's face it. Netflix is the arch enemy of Apple TV. Recently, Netflix tightened the noose around the Apple TV by one more notch with the announcement of support for the Sony Playstation 3. Hulu has its own problems and need for control, and except for hacked Apple TVs and Hulu in a browser, we aren't going to see Hulu on the Apple TV. Or Netflix. Ever. Live with it.

Apple TV 3

Apple TV 3: New, top level, navigation shell and modest feature gains

I more or less agree with Dan Frommer. He isn't bashful about blasting the Apple TV for not expanding its scope. The conventional wisdom is that a version 3.0 upgrade ought to offer us something much more exciting. But is technical excitement what it's all about?

Indeed, I keep asking myself, why is Apple taking such baby steps with the Apple TV? The answer has to be the disconnect between the technical level of Internet tech writers and experts -- and the average customer. People buy the Apple TV for a specific reason: a focused device with a simple remote. One pays for content to avoid commercials. That's a vision to be sure, and Apple is a company that continually tests its vision again the Sturm and Drang of the rest of the industry.

Consider also, Apple TV has a catalog of 8,000 Hollywood films of which 2,000 are in HD, 50,000 TV episodes, and 10,000 music videos. And access to YouTube. So one has to soberly ask: what kind of mental excess and frenzy leads one to believe that this isn't enough?

In the end, Apple TV is not something for everyone, especially the technically savvy. It has to be augmented. For example, there are some really nice Blu-ray players out there, like the LG BD 390, that offer Netflix streaming in HD -- albeit with stereo sound right now. Netflix says they're working on Dolby 5.1 for the future. And this player only runs about $270 at Amazon. I'm eyeing one myself for Christmas.

So I think the bottom line is this. For all the tech savvy hobbyists and tinkerers, go ahead and connect your Mac mini with DisplayPort/DVI/HDMI to a Plasma display or hack your Apple TV to run Boxee. For the rest of the Apple TV customers, they just want to be left alone, happy to watch TV and movies without commercials. They wonder why we whine so much, and we wonder why they aren't outraged by Apple's baby steps. The debate is not going to end soon. We'll learn to live with ambiguity and moderation in all things.

Meanwhile, Apple turns everything it does into mountains of cash.