Not to be outdone by its rivals in the consumer-electronics segment, Apple reported Dec. 21 that it expects sales of its Apple TV to exceed 1 million units this week. It took the company a little more than two-and-a-half months to reach that milestone.
Apple could have timed the announcement to dig at arch-rival Google, whose Google TV is encountering delays. According to a Dec. 20 article in The New York Times, Google partners Toshiba, Sharp and LG have postponed their rollout of new Google TV sets and companion boxes, originally scheduled for January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, at Google's request.
Google TV offers users the ability to both surf the Web and tune into traditional TV broadcasts via the same living-room setup. Sony televisions with Google TV retail for between $600 and $1,400, while an offering from Logitech costs $300. Despite that significant price, however, early critics complained that Google TV had kinks in its user interface. Adding a bit of insult to injury, the major television networks blocked Google TV from accessing their Websites, denying users the ability to stream popular shows over the Web.
Apple has also wrestled with the networks over porting network content onto Apple TV. At the device's September unveiling, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that only Fox and ABC had signed up to offer content, although he voiced the hope that others would follow suit.
"It's never been a huge hit," he said, describing Apple TV. "Neither has any competitive product."
The current Apple TV, which launched at the beginning of October, fits into the palm of a hand and includes an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) connector, Ethernet and WiFi. Apple offers streaming rentals, including 99-cent TV shows and $4.99 HD movies the same day the latter appear on DVD. Although Apple COO Tim Cook once famously referred to Apple TV as the company's "hobby," Apple nonetheless seems determined to aggressively push this newest version-if only to blunt, perhaps, Google's own intentions in that market segment.
Jobs used that September presentation to draw contrasts between Apple TV and other companies' attempts to sync multimedia content between a home's multiple screens. "They don't want a computer on their TV," he said, referring to consumers. "This is a hard one for people in the computer industry to understand." Features such as syncing between a television and secondary devices such as a smartphone or laptop, he continued, were "too complicated" for most users.
Taking his criticisms one step further, Jobs swiped at YouTube and its millions of homemade clips. "They want Hollywood movies and TV shows whenever they want them," he said. "They don't want amateur hour." Presumably, that was also a dig against Google, which owns YouTube.
Apple will likely use that 1-million-sales figure to tout how it's winning the war for the digital living room. But as Google's Consumer Electronics Show-related drama has shown, the market segment is still very much in its early growth period.