Which, for the first time, is a winning strategy to get Apple on the big family room screen. Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the new Apple TV at the company’s press conference Wednesday, along with a new iPod Touch and a music-centered social network called Ping.
But the star of the show was Apple TV – a product that has so far been a glaring failure for a company that does so much right. Jobs even introduced the segment by saying Apple TV has been a “hobby” for Apple, and that the company has learned a lot about what consumers want.
So the new Apple TV costs $99 – nearly $200 less than the old Apple TV – and the box is the size of two iPhones side-by-side, about one-fourth the size of the previous version. In one shot, that makes Apple TV a no-brainer purchase for many consumers. The price is about the same as dinner for two and wine at a P.F. Chang’s, and the box won’t have to find a chunk of space amid all the DVRs, DVD players and video game consoles piled by the TV.
Big win for Netflix
The content has one killer app that matters: Netflix (NFLX) streaming. Yeah, Apple will sell streaming movies for $4.99, but you’d be a dope for paying that much. For $8.99 a month, you can watch unlimited streaming movies on Netflix (and still get DVDs by mail). If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can start watching a movie at home, and if you have to go to the kids’ swim meet, pick up where you left off and watch the rest from the bleachers.
Apple TV will also rent streaming TV shows from Fox and ABC for 99 cents. "We think the rest of the studios will see the light and get on board with us," Jobs said. That’s half the price of buying and downloading a show through iTunes or Amazon, and it brings the price down to an impulse buy. Instead of replacing cable and your DVR, just know that if you plunk down in front of the TV and are curious about “Cougar Town,” for a buck you can take that chance.
Ping is no match for Facebook
The rest of Jobs’ press conference was pretty underwhelming. Hard to imagine that Ping is going to set the world on fire. It acts sort of like Last.fm, allowing users to follow the listening habits of other users, and looks a little like Facebook. But it’s built into iTunes. Ping seems to be the one thing Apple got out of its purchase of Lala.com last year.
Otherwise, the new iPod Touch is basically an iPhone 4 without the phone – better screen, front-facing camera. A new Nano is half the size of its predecessor. The new Shuffle isn’t that much different from the old Shuffle.
Apple got those products right from the beginning. It’s interesting that Apple learned from its failures with Apple TV, and the company finally should win a place in the living room.