I wrote an article a few months back about my experience of using the Roku when compared to the Apple TV. After a few months, I have dropped down to two Apple TVs and 4 Roku 3s. I've absolutely fallen in love with the Roku. For anyone that claimed I was an Apple fanboy, there is your proof. The purpose of this article is about what does the Apple TV need to do going forward to innovate.
The remote needs to be RF (or WiFi) based and it needs to be bigger. It's the same basic remote that shipped with Front Row. Our usage has certainly changed since then. I know iOS devices have Remote.app, but that isn't a full time solution for most people. The remote is also too small. It needs to be thicker and add a few buttons. The Roku remote feels nice in the hand and is RF driven.
Does the Roku have a ton of apps? Yes. Are most of them good? Not a chance. In fact, it feels a bit like the cell phone app store in the pre-iPhone world. A lot of them a require monthly charges and are pretty terrible (imagine a $2/mo screen saver app). There are some nuggets, though. Obviously there are Amazon and Panorda apps, but I recently found two new ones that opened up my eyes to the future:
Angry Birds Toons and and QVC. My son saw me browsing apps and asked to watch Angry Birds (he's never played the game). We watched a few of the episodes and then he asked if their was an iPad game for Angry Birds (not joking). Angry Birds is turning itself into a nice brand for kids and this Roku app is anther extension of that. Is it just designed to sell games and merchandise? Yes, but so are most Disney movies. The QVC app is simply a live stream of its channel. QVC has no preference on how you view their channel. They just want you to buy the products they are selling. My wife used to enjoy leaving it on as background noise when we had cable, so it was great to see that QVC has moved into the "over the top" model.
Apple needs to have an SDK for Apple TV. Imagine the iPhone App Store if it worked like the Apple TV. You'd wake up with new apps installed on your phone that you didn't ask for nor care about. It seems like Apple is wanting to build a consistent experience with its apps. Now don't get me wrong, I get that. It makes it easy to find your way around the apps because all the menus are similar. The downside of this model is that it sets the bar where no developer can innovate.
The Apple TV is a fantastic device, but outside of a few app additions (that most people probably don't use), it's largely the same device that launched many years ago. Perhaps it's time for a "bet the company" type moment through an acquisition like Aereo or Dish. This could be the first step into a real living room play.