Apple TV vs Roku – UX + UI For Senior Citizens

Apple TV streaming device.

I have a Roku and I love it. But for my father, the only web-enabled device he needed was the the Apple TV.

Here’s why.

Several years ago, my dad (a senior citizen) wanted a computer. I knew I should get him a Mac, but he became convinced that he needed a PC. A trusted family member  (an IT professional) stressed that a Windows PC was the best option. Plus, it was cheaper than the iMac I was hawking. So we bought an IBM-brand PC (before it became Lenovo), loaded it with RAM, and connected him to the Internet.

For about a year, it was a great little machine. And then it started being a PC. It got fussy and occasionally crashed. It would do odd, PC-type things. I’d come over every couple of weeks to fix it up with new patches, defrag, and perform other minor maintenance. It was a lousy user experience (UX) and user interface (UI).

After a few years of frustrations, my dad broke down and bought a new computer. This time, a shiny new iMac. Two years later, I’ve only had to go to his house to download a few patches and install some games. That’s it. No crashing, no quirky personality traits. Just a computer that he uses to connect to the Internet and play his games. Nice UX and UI.

Apple TV vs. Roku
Flash forward to now. I’ve had my Roku for a month or more. My father is impressed and wants one. I show him how easy it is to use. He nods and says, “I heard that Apple makes one.”

I tell him that in my online research, Roku is getting better reviews. It is more flexible and open and may eventually be one of the online leaders.

And although the Roku has a USB port for pictures and videos, he wants something easier. The Apple TV does something that the others currently do not, which is connect with his iMac.

Yes there’s WiFi and of course he can use NetFlix on both of them, but my father wanted something much more utilitarian. He wants to show photos from his iMac on his television. He wants it to be easy and instant. No USB keys, no file transfers, and no wires. And if you’re already a Mac user, you want Apple’s ease-of-use. It’s all about UX.

Roku views pictures, but only if you tap into streaming Facebook. That Roku Facebook channel is fine for the pictures that you’ve uploaded, but we have too many family photos to upload for that to be practical.

Tapping directly into iPhoto is something that only Apple TV can do right out of the box. There’s no need to run cables or copy files to a USB. Apple’s closed ecosystem makes a lot of sense, particularly when the user is a senior citizen who just wants to use his stuff. Apple’s walled-garden approach offers a level of comfort, consistency, and compatibility that you cannot always achieve buying components.

For me, the flexibility and scalability of the Roku is perfect. It’s exactly what I need, since my primary interest is NetFlix and web-video streaming. I am a digital power user who blogs, tweets, uses TV apps, and reads ebooks.

For my father, the Apple TV is ideal because it becomes part of a series of networked devices that work well for people who want it to work with the minimum of technical experience.

If you’re in the market, I hope this little story-based scenario was helpful to you. Good luck and drop me a line if you have any specific questions about what you should buy.

M2M – The Future of Appliance Connectivity

AT&T Embedded Systems Are Coming

Right now, as of today, things like Internet-enabled refrigerators seem a little silly. Same thing for a ‘Net-connected dryer. Or any other machine that we typically thing of as, well, analog.

But in the periphery of the technology world are people who are developing machine to machine (M2M) hardware and applications. AT&T is one of the companies hoping to be the wireless connection between these devices. So, yeah, your lawnmower and your WiFi card will be tied together.

Looking forward, one day we may look back and wonder how we did without these interconnected M2M-based hardware appliances. It’s sort of the way we are all now deeply connected with our smartphones. (Seriously, if you left the house right now without your phone, you’d be feeling pretty anxious.)

At one time (deep in our past), we used to leave the house without our own personal phone universe. Look back in very, very, very old picture books and magazines, and you will see evidence of public telephones. People put dimes into these phones to use them for a few minutes. The “network” was something completely different back then.

In the near future and in the present, there are pill bottles that are Internet connected. There are Net connections in cars that allow you to Twitter while you drive. Read the CullmannDesign Blog for other ways that embedded systems are integrating into our lives.

As a technology marketer, I immediately dream about the ways that I can share brand messages on these new channels. It’s all about the content message. The channel is just a way of getting in front of people in unique and relevant ways. M2M will be another way that people get information that matters to them. Good marketers will figure out ways to send the right message to the right person, hopefully at the right time.

Last year, we saw the first skirmishes in the battle for the sofa. Now the M2M technology wars are just starting to get interesting and my garage-door opener has a Facebook page. How ya “like” that?

May the best Internet-connected blender win!

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