New Apple TV Epitomizes the Decline of Apple's Genius Design Theory

Apple TV got a makeover this week, too, but, unlike with the iPad, the revamped specs don't have reviewers delighted. 

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Apple TV got a makeover this week, too, but, unlike with the iPad, the revamped specs don't have reviewers delighted. Apple went with the same approach for both releases: Same gadgets, better insides. With the iPad, the better display, faster chip and LTE capabilities left reviewers giddy. But, Apple TV, with its new processor and interface left reviewers saying things like "This year's Apple TV is a strange little device," in the words of The Verge's Joshua Topolsky. That's because Apple TV doesn't just need a spec upgrade, it needs a design overhaul. Something we don't expect a post-Steve Jobs Apple to deliver.

Since Steve Jobs death, Apple, a place all about innovation, has only released products with zero design innovations. Reviewers (and consumers) forgive the beloved company for the iPhone 4S and new iPad because these products almost reach perfection, the specs are the limits. Apple TV, on the other hand, hasn't seen the sales or ravings that its fellow iBrethren have. Apple has sold 2.8 million TV units last fiscal year, compared to somewhere around 35 million iPads. And, Topolsky's not the only reviewer going "meh" for the updated TV. "The new-model of Apple TV looks and acts exactly like the previous model," says MacWorld's Jason Snell and "So no, Apple didn’t give a huge incentive for current Apple TV owners to upgrade to the newer box," from TechCrunch's MG Siegler. Our general reviewer sentiment says the TV is "great," but nothing like the acclaim for the new iPad.

Apple often releases updated versions of old products, with revamped specs, as many commenters pointed out, when we made the case that Apple had lost its famed design flare. But, those are on products that have already revolutionized their categories, like the iPod, for example. Apple TV, though, still hasn't done much of anything revolutionary. "The new Apple TV feels more like a refresh rather than a leap ahead," notes Topolsky. The iPad, of course, was also just a refresh. But, the difference is the little TV box needs a leap ahead.

That leap ahead, specifically, is something that lets users cut the cord, or forget they ever wanted to. Apple still hasn't fixed that problem, explains Topolsky. "Then I reviewed the 2010 Apple TV, my biggest concerns were all about the content: the available content on a device like the Boxee Box or the Roku positively dwarfed the Apple TV," he says. "That's still true." A Steve Jobs-led Apple might've had the creativity and clout to pull off that kind of product creation. He did it with iTunes, after-all. But sans-Steve Jobs? This new TV doesn't do it.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.