tl;dr: The new AppleTV is a huge disappointment. Welcome to AppleTV 2007.
SmugMug is full of Apple fanboys. (And our customer list suggests Apple is full of SmugMug fanboys) We watch live blogs or streams of every product announcement as a company, debating and discussing as it unfolds. Everyone was especially hyped up about this one because of the iTV rumors. When Steve put up this slide (courtesy of gdgt’s excellent live blog), there was actual cheering at SmugMug HQ:
Steve’s absolutely right. We really want all of those things. Apple described the problem perfectly. Woo! Credit cards were literally out and people were ready to buy. But after the product was demo’d, the cheers had turned to jeers. There was an elephant in the room that squashed almost all of these lofty goals:
There were no Apps.
Why does the lack of Apps matter? Because we’re left with only ABC & Fox for TV shows. Where’s everyone else? I thought we wanted ‘professional content’ but we get two networks? Customers are dying for some disruption to the cable business, and instead we get a tiny fraction of cable’s content?
Then we’re left with Flickr for photos. Flickr, really? When Facebook has 5-6X the photo sharing usage of all other photo sharing sites combined? And heaven forbid you want to watch your HD videos or photos from SmugMug – we’re only the 4th largest photo sharing site in the world, clearly not big enough if Facebook isn’t.
WHAT APPLETV SHOULD HAVE BEEN
If only there were a way to seriously monetize the platform *and* open it up to all services at the same time. Oh, wait, that’s how Apple completely disrupted the mobile business. It’s called the App Store. Imagine that the AppleTV ran iOS and had it’s own App Store. Let’s see what would happen:
- Every network could distribute their own content in whichever way they wished. HBO could limit it to their subscribers, and ABC could stream to everyone. Some would charge, some would show ads, and everyone would get all the content they wanted. Hulu, Netflix, and everyone else living in perfect harmony. Let the best content & pricepoint win.
- We’d get sports. Every geek blogger misses this, and it’s one of the biggest strangleholds that cable and satellite providers have over their customers. You can already watch live, streaming golf on your iPhone in amazing quality. Now imagine NFL Sunday Ticket on your AppleTV.
- You could watch your Facebook slideshows and SmugMug videos alongside your Flickr stream. Imagine that!
- The AppleTV might become the best selling video game console, just like iPhone and iPod have done for mobile gaming. Plants vs Zombies and Angry Birds on my TV with a click? Yes please.
- Apple makes crazy amounts of money. Way more than they do now with their 4 year old hobby.
Apple has a go-to-market strategy. Something like 250,000 strategies, actually. They’re called Apps.
WORLDS BEST TV USER INTERFACE
The new AppleTV runs on the same chip that’s in the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. This should be a no-brainer. What’s the hold up? What’s that you say? The UI? Come on. It’s easy. And it could be the best UI to control a TV ever.
Just require the use of an iPod, iPhone, or iPad to control it. Put the whole UI on the iOS device in your hand, with full multi-touch. Pinching, rotating, zooming, panning – the whole nine yards. No more remotes, no more infrared, no more mess or fuss. I’m not talking about looking at the TV while your fingers are using an iPod. I’m talking about a fully realized UI on the iPod itself – you’re looking and interacting with it on the iPod.
There are 120M devices capable of this awesome UI out there already. So the $99 price point is still doable. Don’t have an iPod/iPad/iPhone? The bundle is just $299 for both.
That’s what the AppleTV should have been. That would have had lines around the block at launch. This new one?
It’s like an AppleTV from 2007.
Seems to be quite a bit of noise online about how you can’t upload HD video from your awesome new iPhone 4 over the air. Even Steve Jobs has weighed in.
I have good news – you can do it today. Easily. Just install SmugShot, sign up for a free trial of SmugMug (you’ll get a nice discount if you signup through SmugShot), and upload HD video to your heart’s content. You’ll need a Power or Pro account, but can use either free for 14 days.
One caveat: Apple doesn’t let us get access to the high res videos from your Library. So you’ll need to film your HD movies using SmugShot. We’re hoping this gets fixed – all versions of iOS prior to 4 didn’t let you get access to high-res photos via your Library either, but they fixed that in iOS 4. I’m assuming they’ll do the same for video at some point (and Steve seems to imply it, too). This is fixed in the latest version, and was our fault, not Apple’s!
(For existing SmugMug family members, yes, this means Power Users can now upload 1080p HD video to their accounts. As always, we’re listening.)
Man, to say I’m excited about this would be a major understatement. We’re huge Apple fanboys over here, so when we got accepted to the first wave of SDK developers at Apple, we were stoked. Shizam went to town almost immediately and after a few months of hard work, SmugShot was born. (And as I’m writing this, we’re #1 in “What’s Hot” on both iTunes and the iPhone interface!)
So what is it? Well, we knew early on we wanted something very simple and elegant that did only one thing – but did it extremely well. We didn’t want a kitchen-sink photo-sharing / -browsing / -taking application. We already have a fantastic iPhone application on Safari, so the obvious thing to tackle first was actually taking the photos on your iPhone and getting them up to SmugMug.
SmugShot makes it incredibly simple to simply whip your phone out at a moment’s notice and take as many snapshots as you’d like. The photos will be automagically geotagged with your location, should you wish it, and you can quickly and easily enter a caption and some keywords – or not. Your call. We’ll queue them up and send them along to the SmugMug gallery of your choice – over EDGE, WiFi, or 3G.
And that’s basically it. Simple, elegant, clean – just the way we like it. If you’re new to SmugMug, you can create a free trial account right from SmugShot. You can set up a default Caption and some default Keywords to make entering them a breeze. And you can even upload photos that are already in your Photo Library, rather than from your camera (and you iPod Touch users can do this, too). One big Apple bug with that, though – the SDK only give us access to 640×480 versions of photos in your Library. I’m hoping they’ll fix that soon.
The really wild thing is how much I actually use the app. I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to things like cameras and lenses, and lets face it – the iPhone’s lens can’t compare to some fabulous Canon glass. But as the app has spread throughout the office, everyone’s learned the same lesson I have: There’s an awful lot of value in convenience.
SmugShot is so shockingly convenient and easy to use, it trumps the limited image quality for almost all of my normal everyday shots.