Lower Pricing Won't Save Apple TV

Apple quietly knocked $100 off its 160GB Apple TV set-top box — down to $229 — and killed off its smaller, cheaper version. That’s a good idea, because they were too expensive.

But price cuts alone not going to make the gadget a mainstream hit. Instead, Apple needs to make major changes to the Apple TV’s software and platform.

That could include some or all of these options:

  • Opening Apple TV up to all Web video content, whether Apple controls it or not. (Rival Roku is heading in this direction with its $99 box.)
  • Making iTunes a better video service; perhaps offering more subscription options than simply¬† whole seasons of individual shows.
  • Adding a Blu-ray player to Apple TV so it could replace an existing port on peoples’ TVs, not take up a new one.
  • Establishing an App Store for Apple TV, so that companies could offer video services, games, other apps, hardware accessories, etc., the way they do on the iPhone.

These ideas aren’t new — we’ve discussed many in detail here and here.

But Apple hasn’t made any substantive changes to the platform in more than a year and a half. Eventually, it will have to do something. Even at $229, the Apple TV remains an expensive device with a very limited feature set. That’s why it’s been unpopular with consumers and why Apple has to excuse it as a “hobby” on earnings calls.

The good news is that Apple can take its time to get it right. This is a small, niche industry for now, and the existing competition — Roku boxes, Xboxes, etc. — don’t have an insurmountable lead.

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