This isn’t going to be another post comparing the merit of the Wii to the AppleTV. But it is important to state for the record why a team of Mac fans chose Nintendo’s hardware over Apple’s. Consider it a wish list for Mr. Jobs:
standards compliant browser - our biggest unmet need? support for Flash 9, but that’s really Adobe’s ball and we can rectify that when we spec our own hardware/software stack
support for third party developers - Alan Quatermain is a genius angel for making it possible to build applications in anticipation of some unspoken future when Apple lets third party developers at their box or at least promises not to firmware “upgrade” them off. Nintendo actually customized the Opera browser to allow functions that are particular to the Wii experience (like the Wiimote) which is a great help for developers.
The Wimote - if you haven’t used it, you may not know what I mean, but I think the biggest interface advance last year was not the iPhone’s touch screen, it’s the Wiimote IR sensor. Did you know it can point at stuff and drag it around from like 10 feet away. Seriously, you’ve got to come over to our office and try it.
number of devices connected to TVs - total Apple TV sales are measured in thousands, Wii sales are measured in millions (and Apple TV had a year head start).
Perhaps the biggest gap for Apple TV for our purposes is a cultural one: the overwhelming download mentality of the product design. iTunes and the iTunes Music Store were breakthroughs for the digital music transition: a) preserved the transaction business model b) downloads allow for easiest repeat usage. Problem is in video a) repeat views are the exception b) the business model is media based. Hence the initial linking of AppleTV to iTunes on a desktop, and the persistence iTunes download distribution even though Take 2 is freed from the desktop proxy is a square peg/round hole.
But it wasn’t until we became a Wii developers that we realized the unique advantage of the device. Even if the Apple TV fills all the gaps above and forgoes the download mentality, it will still lack the Wii’s spirit of approachability. The Wii is the most social hardware device I have ever used. Obviously, devices like the mobile phone are more pervasively revolutionary for social interaction so that’s not what I mean. The Wii is social in the same way IRC was: it empowers/emboldens shy people to participate in social activities. It breaks down real barriers to interaction and assumptions of power (but that’s a topic worthy of discussion all its own). Suffice an example: my 5 year old niece can legitimately beat her dad at Wii bowling, and he still finds enjoyment in the subtleties of the control set. The Wii’s inherent accessibility means it is a platform to reach people who otherwise wouldn’t care to participate/consume the still rarefied world of Internet TV.
This is all to say that we believe the potential disruptor here isn’t (primarily) our (or any) application, it’s the Wii itself. One thing worth noting: we are by far not the first to try Internet TV on the Wii. Sofa Tube gets credit for planting the idea initially in my head back in 2006. A year later, but perhaps more famously, Stumble Upon took a few weeks to make a Wii custom interface for Stumble Video. What we realized is in our few weeks of working on it is that if you play to the Wii’s strengths your application becomes implicitly friendlier. If ffwd takes credit for anything, it is in setting the upper most bar for a video user experience on the Wii. And what we accomplished truly shocked us.
We think “The Wii is a social entertainment device” is an important realization to share, so for the first time we are actively encouraging the spread of a meme. We’ve got one 2000 Wii points card (that’s approximately 2 classic games) for up to 5 bloggers who trackback this story from a blog with a page rank of at least 5 (as proofed at PRChecker). If we don’t get enough over 5s we’ll go to the 4s and then the 3s (yay! everyone can play). If this is an effective incentive we may go buy more cards to give a way. First come first served and keep in mind we’ll eventually need your contact info to send you the card.
This entry was posted by Patrick on Wednesday, February 20th, 2008 at 6:43 pm and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.