Yesterday I bought a Roku. Being an Apple guy it’s not something I had really considered. But recently I’ve been playing with some stock trading and such. 99% of my investing is a handful of index funds, but I do have a teeny bit that I set aside to “play” with. One of the companies that popped up on my radar a number of times was Roku. They’re up over 30% in the last month. That they’re doing so well piqued my interest in their products, so I decided to take a look and picked up a Streaming Stick. At $45 it’s very nearly an impulse purchase. I especially liked that Roku can be powered by the USB port on my TV. Getting to the power outlets behind the entertainment center is a bit of a nightmare. In fact if I’d not been able to power it with the TV’s USB port I don’t think I would have bothered. Too much of a hassle.
So anyway I plug the thing in and go through a few steps to get it set up with an account and maybe 15 minutes later I’m watching Netflix. Easy. You might say “it just works”. I haven’t even really had a chance to explore all the things it can do, but this morning I’m sitting here thinking about it and wondering why anyone but a hard core Apple fan would bother with an Apple TV at three times the price. And I say this as someone that makes tvOS apps. If you’re not locked into the Apple ecosystem what is the advantage? Somebody help me out because I’m not really seeing any. It reminds me too of the HomePod, but maybe the HomePod isn’t meant to compete in the sort of personal assistant category that Echo and Google Home occupy? Sure I guess if your only concern is audio quality maybe it’s the right choice but if you want it easily integrate with other services, do things for you, and otherwise “just work” Amazon and Google’s offerings seem a much better value.
I also don’t understand why you’d intentionally lock yourself into the Apple ecosystem when there are alternatives that work just as well with the freedom to use just about anywhere? Apple Music is one that comes to mind. What advantage does it have over Spotify? I swear I would not be shocked if my next toaster has the ability to connect to Spotify. I tried Apple Music for a bit but nothing jumped out at me as obviously superior. In addition I’ve often felt that a company focused exclusively on a particular market to innovate and quickly move to take advantage of or drive certain trends.
Case in point, the Mac. Does it feel like Apple is really focused on making great computers anymore or are they an afterthought? When was the Mac Pro last updated? Then we have the latest Mac Book Pro which reduced your connectivity and charging options to a single USB-C port. I say single since one is used for charging. But hey, in exchange you get to take your chances at having your keyboard fail somewhere down the road. I suppose we should be happy they left us headphone jack. Is all of this because their resources are spread so thing designing phones and watches, and TV thingies? Really, as I look down at my iPhone SE, maybe not even the phone category is completely immune from a lack of focus. Hopefully it doesn’t take as long as the Mac Pro to get an updated version.
Willingly locking yourself into Apple’s walled garden might not make me so uneasy if they still felt like they were the company making products that “just work”. I’m cautiously optimistic that the new iOS and macOS releases are an attempt to try and shore up some of the decline in quality it feels like we’ve been seeing over the last few years. At least on the software side. Right now I think the Apple brand still has that reputation but there’s been this steady drip drip of issues that are eroding that confidence. At least for me personally. They used to be the company that would surprise and delight but lately the surprises have been short on delight. Being an Apple guy this all bums me out and I hope things get better.