Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The ONE Mistake Apple Made with the Video iPod and AppleTV

First, for the engineers: there is nothing wrong with the video iPod from a design premise at all. In fact, it is the most fabulously designed application specific gadget I have ever owned. I can’t really think of anything about it that doesn’t work exactly as it should. To me, this product is the gold standard for good design.

The mistake is one of marketing and I believe they will fix this over time, both with the iPod and with Apple TV.

Here’s how it goes:

Them: “Hey Robert, what have you been up to?”

Me: “I’ve been binging on 24 Season 5 on my iPod.”

Them: “Really? What the hell is wrong with you, why don’t you watch it on your big screen? You have a 60” TV and your watching 24 on a 2” screen?”

(hands video iPod playing 24 and earbuds over)

Them: “Ohhh. I could see where you could get really addicted to this!”

Me: “Exactly.”

Here’s the mistake Apple made, and they will fix it with the iPod and AppleTV, they didn’t sell the devices with video already loaded on it. And really, because of the file sizes of things on itunes, even WITH broadband that process is still more cumbersome than it ought to be. So there are barriers in place to make it hard to make people realize they could get addicted to watching video on the ipod itself. Too cumbersome.

Too cumbersome for me to have done it for myself in fact. The only reason I got around to doing it at all was I had a friend who had a particular issues with Monday nights being bad for her. Considering what I knew about what she loved and what calmed her down, I gave her a video iPod crammed with every episode of Family Guy, Heroes and a season of Boston Legal. My motivation was to help my friend and had I not had that motivation, I would have never known how addictive watching video on the iPod is. Doing all that was very cumbersome, but once it was done…WOW. When I finally got to the point where the device was actually a mini “on demand” product I thought, “You know, I really need one of these for ME!”

In the process of trying to be nice to a friend, I found something *I* really loved. I’ll take that kind of Karma. But what I’m saying is for all my motivations with gadgetry, had it not been for my friend I would have been fine with streaming video to my PSP and notebook over wifi for my portable entertainment. But “Seidman on Demand” with over 200 hours of continuous video programming on a device that fits in my pocket is…better.

Most people will never know because it’s too much of a pain in the ass. Plus, you know what? The world is still a stupid place – I can buy the physical media (the DVDs for 24 season 5) for less money than I can buy the digital version on iTunes. Further, the digital version on itunes has no directors commentary, no subtitles, none of that. Just “the show”. The # of instances where the digital media that is inferior (because it doesn’t come with as much) costs more money. That too is a barrier.

But Apple CAN make addicts out of their video iPod users just by packaging up some video. They can go old school for cheap and pay hardly anything to license the content. I’m thinking “Johnny Quest”, “The Jetsons” and the “Flintstones” (animated video works tremendously on the iPod). With all the baby boomer money out there, the can probably get “The Jeffersons” on the cheap and slap a season of George and Weezy on there as well. The point is, there needs to be at least a little bit of content on there to get people acclimated to the notion that “wow, watching video on the iPod is cool!”.

When they start shipping Apple TV with the 160GB hard drives, they have to start thinking about selling with content. I agree the present market (despite all the blogger enthusiasm) for the AppleTV is small, but they can revolutionize the way content is sold.

AppleTV with bigger hard drive: $399

AppleTV w/every episode of the Simpsons $599.

I don’t know if that works for the Simpsons, but if it doesn’t work right now, it will work someday when they’re trying to squeeze every last dollar of value out of the brand. What I do know is when they market the product (both the iPod and AppleTV) this way they will change the way people think about things.

The market of people who want an AppleTV may be small, but the market of people who’d like every episode of the Simpson’s for an extra $200 is big enough to increase product interest substantially and of course once it’s on your AppleTV, it will seamlessly transfer to your iPod.

Watching video on the iPod is addictive, but right now Apple makes it too hard for you to find that out. It’s a mistake, but one Apple can and will correct. It’s only a question of when.

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