First, a bit of an excursion regarding the Apple TV’s remote — Jason Snell:
Look, I know the Apple TV Remote doesn’t have a lot going for it. It’s impossible to orient properly by touch, and a stray finger swipe can end up losing your place in whatever movie or TV show you’re watching. There are so many reasons to dislike it. And yet… I also kind of like the Apple TV Remote, if only because it enables rapid scrubbing through content (click the touchpad, then swipe left or right to move the cursor) in an efficient way that I haven’t seen from any other remote I’ve used. I like it. It’s not enough to make me recommend an Apple TV to anyone, but it’s enough for me to keep using my existing Apple TV and keep using the Apple TV remote rather than just switching full-time to my Logitech Harmony universal remote. And while I don’t really use Siri on Apple TV, I have friends who swear by it, especially its clever feature to jump back in time and turn on captioning to clarify a line of dialogue.
The remote deserves some criticism, but it receives far more than it should. Every TV and set-top-box remote is basically garbage and it seems like everyone forgets that when discussing the Apple TV remote.
I’ve been a fan of the Siri Remote since day one. The ability to control HomeKit devices with my voice, being able to quickly swipe through lists, and essentially acting as a universal remote is just so nice. We don’t use any other remotes in our house. The Apple TV remote turns our TV on and off, controls the volume of our receiver, and interacts with the only non-game console connected to our television.
I would argue that it’s actually the best TV remote I’ve ever used.
But back to Snell:
Which brings us back to the original question: Why does this product still exist, and is there anywhere for it to go next? Gruber and Thompson suggest that perhaps the way forward is to lean into an identity as a low-end gaming console. Maybe amp up the processor power, bundle a controller, and try to use Apple Arcade to emphasize that this is a box that is for more than watching video.
Apple should, absolutely, continue building the Apple TV. Because people who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.
Apple can’t control what other set-top-box and TV manufacturers do. If they were to develop a new video codec, a new technology for streaming video that requires a dedicated hardware chip, the ability to hand-off video from iPhones like you can with audio to a HomePod — what are the chances that these other companies would support it? How long would they support it for? What if their implementation didn’t work well?
If Apple wants to be in the living room, they need to make their own box to ensure a rock solid, predictable experience. I’m actually surprised that companies like Netflix and Hulu aren’t building their own boxes too.