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What the AppleTV should have been

September 1, 2010 48 comments

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:

What people want from AppleTV

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.

APPS MATTER

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.

I demand video to be awesome.

April 25, 2008 66 comments

 

Sam “Shizam” Nichols, creator of the video player, donning his SmugMug Hero persona. See it in HD.

The state of video codecs online has been a mess and there’s been no clear choice, making it very difficult to do awesome video sharing. Luckily, all of that changed when Adobe finally added H.264 support to Flash.

Thanks to Adobe, we finally have a video codec that we can get behind and that’ll be great for our customers. And so back in December, we released a major new update to our video offering that’s 100% based on H.264. And it supports resolutions all the way up to 1280x720p. That’s right – SmugMug has truly awesome hi-def video sharing.

Today, I’m thrilled to announce that our Flash player is out (we used QuickTime for a few months while we polished up our player), so it’s easier than ever to embed on your blogs and share with your friends:

Here’s all the gory details:

  • Upload almost any video format you like. We’ll do our best to convert to H.264 in an extremely high quality way. (Thanks EC2!)
  • We’ll generate multiple sizes for you, so you’ll have a version that’s perfect for sharing on the web (YouTube size), perfect for using on your iPod/iPhone (DVD size), and even your Hi-Def TV in your living room.
  • We’ll automagically display just the right sized video for whichever browser and monitor you happen to be using. Ditto for your friends. Example from my friends in Dallas hard at work on Duke Nukem.
  • You can embed the videos in your blog, website, or wherever else you like online. And you can do so at DVD quality resolution – 640×480 – more than 4X the pixels and quality of YouTube.
  • You (and your friends and family, if you let them) can easily download all the different sized versions of your videos so you can do whatever else you’d like with them, like add them to YouTube or burn to a DVD.
  • H.264 means it’ll play on a huge, wide variety of computers and devices, not just SmugMug. iPods, AppleTV, Playstation 3, and the list goes on…
  • Speaking of Apple devices, we provide a complete podcast RSS feed for your account that you and your friends can subscribe to with a single click in iTunes. All your iPods, iPhones, and AppleTVs will then magically stay up-to-date. All your online videos in your pocket, and your living room, all the time. Neat, eh?
  • I’m thrilled we’re making good use of the OpenShareIcon project, too. Rather than use some trademark-encumbered, company-owned, non-open ShareIcon, we’ve chosen to use the real deal. Viva open web standards!
  • One gotcha: Flash takes 200% more CPU to play video on the Mac than QuickTime does, so in-gallery, Mac users will still see QuickTime. We can’t wait until that’s not true – but that’s up to Adobe, not us. 😦

So there you have it. I’ll probably post again soon with lots more detail about how great the integration is with Apple devices: iPod, iPhone, iTunes, and AppleTV. We love us some Apple over here at SmugMug. 🙂

Oh, and you can count on our video player to continue to rapidly evolve. This is definitely just a 1.0 product – it may have some warts and it’ll get even better over time.

So go wild – share your crystal clear video with the world!

Oh, and demand your video to be awesome (sorry about the quality – that’s the best I could find from Verizon. SmugMug *did not* make it all blocky and ugly):

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