Just plus it up

Jason Snell at Six Colors has an interesting question, and while I think he already answered it in a podcast, I have thoughts.

First, the key ingredients for the next AppleTV should be:

  • The new M1 chip
  • An Airport Extreme
  • Two game controllers
  • A reasonable price tag

Now if you take the last two at their most recent prices,$199, $140 (2@$70 for controllers), you have a nice $339 with profits built in, and lots of parts you don’t need. So take those out, and then remix the rest into a new device that looks like the last Airport Extreme but has an M1 and price it at $500. Yes, that’s more than it costs now, but hang with me, this will all make good sense, I promise.

A Good Game Console.

We all know that the AppleTV can function as a game console, and honestly, Apple Arcade is pretty fun. I’m not a gamer, but I went and bought a controller to play on the off chance that I might – and it’s now a fave of mine1. Imagine how much more intense and satisfying the games could be if they were played on a device powered by the M12. But those M1 chips blow the A8 out of the water worse than they do the Intel chips they are replacing in the Macs. They scream. Yet the M1 is the first generation and while yes, it’s awesome, but we all know that the M2 is going to come out this year and power past it.

The pattern that Apple has taken with new products since 2007 is to start with a tock. It’s then onto a tick that has an outside look and new innards, but the innards will change again in a year, while the outsides will not. With the M1 Macs, they started with a tock – same outsides and not every Mac was swapped over. In 2021 I’m betting we see the entire Mac line-up go to the M2, in a couple of variants. Slower for the MacBook Air. Midrange bump for the 13″ MacBook Pro and the Mac mini. Insanely faster for the 16″ MacBook Pro, and straight to plaid for the iMac.

Which leaves them with a still stunningly fast M1 not doing much and ready to be something else. With a market that’s been growing for years, but needs a leader and some marked disruption to improve it.

The M1 has the graphics to drive a 4K screen easily, and it can run Metal really well, and it’s got a massive amount of people building games already for it, so make it easier and more accessible for your customers to play those games. Include the controllers, too, because, damn, the current remote is a dumpster fire in your hand.

Good game consoles, with controllers, cost in the 300-600 range, when all is said and done with them.

A Privacy-First Router.

Let’s be honest, we need a router that actually works, that meshes well3 and actually can be programmed by humans with just their phones. I know that Apple announced partnerships with Eero and Linksys and while Eero makes great routers, they are owned by Amazon and that’s not great, and Linksys’ routers have been meh at best.

Once any router is actually set up they tend to work fine, but the setup is awful and fails often, and I’ve seen them randomly lose their settings because-it’s-Tuesday-and-why-bother-keeping-those-around seems to be how they are programmed. But even once they are set up I don’t know if they are selling my browsing history to some company. Google’s WiFi system and Nest Home systems definitely give them data I don’t really want to be sent anywhere, and while I know that my ISP really does know all my darkest secrets (who uses a VPN at home?) there doesn’t need to be another company with that info just because I go out there4.

My current router is from 2013 and while it’s still chugging along it is going to die—especially after the use we’ve put it through during the pandemic. They usually only last 3-5 years anyway, and while mine was very pricey when I bought it, it’s definitely not WiFi6 ready, and honestly I think it might be missing one of the 80211.whatevers, too. Again, it’s still serviceable, but not what I want to buy to replace it when it dies, and the newer version of it starts at $389, so it’s not exactly cheap either.

I know it’s hard for Apple to justify getting back into the game, but the pandemic changed a lot. We were ok with routers that worked ok, but that’s not true anymore. My company‘s majority of customer service calls turn out to be router failures, and it’s ugly. I recommend a few because they are good (Eero, Audience) and some that are serviceable and will get you through (Linksys, but I’m not linking to them) but none that are great.

We need great routers. Just like we need great monitors. Apple has made both in the past, and it’d be really nice for them to do so again.

A good home router can be cheap, $40 or $80, but won’t cover a house and won’t deal with high-end use all the time. Several Zooms and a bit of Netflix and your going to burn that thing out. So get a reasonable mesh system and again, you’re looking at $200-$400 when all is said and done.

An HomeKit Hub

HomeKit still needs a hub. I think it’s the one thing that my AppleTV actually excels at, and it’s getting better all the time. New lights and switches integrate faster and respond nearly instantly, and Siri has managed to improve its understanding of what the labels and groups and scenes mean, and sets them when asked almost 90% of the time.

Adding new devices and rooms and setting them up with scenes and automations is now relatively easy, and it’s all handled in app, but managed in my AppleTV. I honestly keep forgetting that the AppleTV is the hub because it doesn’t talk to me, my HomePods do, but still, it could have that functionality, and all it really needs are the mic arrays to make it work out of the box. After all, it’s going to be connected to the TV and can speak through it.

Right now, the only HomeKit hubs are the AppleTV and iPad, and the iPad requires you to leave it there to be the hub. And on. Which means plugged in, because otherwise you’ll be on Day 3 and your lights won’t dim because you forgot about it and iPad died. And if it’s plugged in the time the battery will be impacted and it’s a mess. And you’re still talking $140 to $400 for this.

A 3-in-1 Disruptor

The thing that Apple has always exceeded at is owning the whole thing, and the internet service in your house is absolutely part of that whole thing. I want my entertainment and my automated smart home things to be connected and working all the time. We should be able to connect it all and the thing that controls it be from a company that fights for our privacy and shows its work. It needs to just work.

And it could be priced at $400 and it would sell. Just make it.

And let us be entertained and play.

  1. . I suck at video games tho, so I’m very happy to just be amusing me with my lack of skills
  2. Good news, you don’t have to wonder as you can play them on the M1 Macs now, and I think you can use the controllers, too, but I haven’t tried them.
  3. Imagine little Apple Airstrips that create the mesh.
  4. That might seem like an argument to just use the router provided by your ISP, but I can guarantee you that you don’t want to do that. Especially with Spectrum and Comcast/Xfinity now hijacking your service to offer free wifi all over to customers waltzing past your place, without fixing their terrible service to your home. But I digress.