A million units sold: That's the mark that both Apple and Roku are expecting to hit by the end of the year. The two companies are trumpeting their success as Google TV stumbles out of the gate.
In a press release issued Tuesday morning, Apple said it will sell its 1 millionth Apple TV sometime this week, only about three months after the new, pared-down model began shipping to stores.
Roku also plans on hitting the million milestone before the year is out, according to Business Insider, although the company took considerably longer than Apple to do it — about two years.
That said, Roku's achievement is nothing to be sniffed at, considering that the relatively tiny company doesn't have anything approaching Apple's resources, marketing might, or overall awareness with the public. (Also interesting: Roku's CEO told Business Insider that Roku sales doubled after the new Apple TV came on the scene — meaning Apple may actually have expanded the streaming set-top box market rather than merely dominating it.)
The word comes barely a day after news leaked out that Google, which just entered the TV set-top box market itself, is struggling with its just-launched Google TV platform.
While Google partners like Sony insist that Google TV sales are more or less on target, the New York Times reported late Sunday that the search behemoth had scotched the plans of at least three TV manufacturers that were hoping to roll out their own Google TV products at the Consumer Electronics Show next month. Google reportedly needs to "refine the software."
Apple TV, once (and infamously) described as a mere hobby by Steve Jobs, took off in recent months after a new, slimmed-down model went on sale in late September. It jettisoned the older model's hard drive in favor of all streaming, all the time. It also lets you rent 99-cent TV episodes from ABC and Fox. And users can stream videos from Netflix, as well as saved videos on their iPhones and iPads.
The most important new feature of the revamped Apple TV, though, isn't really a feature at all, but the price tag: $99, versus north of $200 for earlier Apple TV models. That makes the compact TV set-top box cheaper than most of Apple's iPods.
Sharing the same approximate price point are the various Roku streaming set-top boxes, which start at $59 for the Roku HD. The priciest Roku — the 1080p-capable, 802.11n-supporting XDS — costs just $99.
Roku's devices boast about 80 channels of streaming content, including Netflix, Amazon on Demand, MLB.TV and Blip.TV. Other downloadable apps let you stream music from Pandora or view photo albums from your Facebook friends.
While the bargain-priced Apple TV and Roku devices are fairly limited in their capabilities (you can't watch purchased videos on the new Apple TV without help from an iPhone, iPad, or iTunes on a desktop, for example, and Roku can't stream media from your home wireless network), the Google TV platform is considerably more ambitious.
Google TV users can search for shows using Google-powered search and watch live TV in one window while browsing the Web in another. Google also plans to let users install and run Android apps on their Intel Atom-powered Google TV devices, with an app store slated to launch early next year.
But for now, the cheapest Google TV device — the Logitech Revue (check out my hands-on impressions) — costs a hefty $300, three times as much as the Apple TV and five times as much as the Roku HD. Another promising new set-top box, from Boxee, costs $200.
Based on the success of Apple TV and Roku, it looks like $99 is somewhat closer to the sweet spot.
Note: Post updated to clarify the limitations of the new Apple TV.
— Ben Patterson is a technology writer for Yahoo! News.
- Apple TV
- late September
- Steve Jobs
- hard drive
- the sweet