Mark Gurman at Bloomberg reported that Apple has hired Timothy Twerdahl, head of Amazon’s Fire TV unit as a vice president in charge of Apple TV product marketing, and he replaces Pete Distad, who remains at Apple, but will be focused on cutting deals with Eddy Cue. This reorganization seems a little weird, because “marketing” seems like an odd moniker to attach to the former head of Amazon’s Fire TV unit. I’m assuming, like many others have, that this has to do with the way the marketing department, under Phil Schiller, is deeply involved in overseeing products. Twerdahl reports to Greg Joswiak, who handles the iPhone.
I’m quite happy with this, for a number of reasons.
- My complaints about the Apple TV seem to all trace back to questionable management decisions, like shelving development while wheels were spinning over content deals that never came.
- A patchwork of software features that all relied on an alignment of deals between various parties, instead of software features that worked for the vast majority of users.
- A massive shrug, otherwise known as, “The future of TV is apps.”
- No incremental progress on hardware. There was a gap of over three years between the 3rd generation and 4th generation Apple TV, and then no revision of the 4th generation for over a year and counting.
- A premium price tag that wasn’t justified when comparing the device to other set top boxes. (I have often pointed to Amazon’s Fire TV products as more competitive than Apple’s if you’re not invested in iTunes purchases.)
I’m assuming the reason this is happening now, and not some time last year, is because someone wanted to wait and see how well the Apple TV would sell during the holiday quarter.
The last hardware update for the set-top device was released in 2015, but sales decreased year-over-year from the 2015 holiday quarter to the 2016 holiday quarter, Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri said last week in an interview. Amazon doesn’t disclose Fire TV sales, but last May called it the top-selling streaming media device in the U.S.
Unsurprisingly, a device that didn’t wow people in 2015, and received incremental updates to restore feature parity with the 3rd generation Apple TV, was not compelling in 2016. Look at the “report card” that Jason Snell conducted at Six Colors. The only major feature that materialized for all users around the globe was Dark Mode. TV the app is still exclusive to the U.S., Single Sign-On is unavailable for almost everyone, and Siri search services still only work for a fraction of countries.
It’s somewhat frustrating.
When the data caps were lifted last month, I wondered if that signaled a new model was on the horizon that refreshed internal hardware and offered specs competitive with the price of the device, but now I’m uncertain about it. Surely, Twerdahl would want to weigh in on anything that will wind up shipping under his watch.
I know that many Apple fans are skeptical of the Fire TV, and all Amazon products, but it really is a good media platform for your TV. So good, in fact, that Amazon is partnering with a TV manufacturer to integrate their software stack into the panel. It’s not perfect stuff, but it’s too often overlooked by Apple-faithful, or derided with, “Oh, I used an old Fire TV Stick one time”. I’m glad Apple recognized this and hired someone away from Amazon.