Killer

Yesterday my friend Peter asked me if the new Apple TV has a killer app or feature that makes it so much better than the previous one. The answer is no.

I compared it to an imaginary conversation about a 2010 BMW M3 and a 2015 model of the same car in which someone asks what the killer feature of the 2015 one is compared to the older one. Same thing: there isn’t one; it’s just refined and better in every way.1 And no one minds, because it’s a fairly mature product. Year one of the BMW M3 is practically ancient history. Well, same thing for most Apple products. Big change in existing product lines is rare.

The tech press and even the general media love to hang onto this idea of a killer app or a killer feature, but very few products actually have one. When was the last time a Mac came out with a killer feature? The retina screen would probably qualify. Apple moving Macs to Intel CPUs in 2005 (I think?) would qualify from Apple’s point of view, because it got people who would never have considered a Mac before to start buying them. The rationale was “Hey, I can run Windows on this if I need to!” even though in reality, almost no one did, and even fewer people do now. It was a non-issue, but Windows-capable Macs created the right incentive for people who believed it was important.

It’s been awhile, in other words.

Same with iPhones. Touch ID and 3d Touch are nice, but the real difference between, say, an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 6s is the screen real estate and the blazing performance of the newer iPhone. Refinement. Evolution. No real killer feature that you couldn’t live without, and no revolution. You can argue about Apple Pay and Siri and other features, but in terms of real world use, they’re refinements. Most people wouldn’t, and didn’t, ditch a previous year’s iPhone for any of these features.

I know full well that upgrading from my current iPhone 5s to the 6s Plus that I plan to buy won’t change my life so dramatically that I won’t remember what it was like before Apple saved me from my terrible existence. But it’s going to be a whole lot nicer to use for many different reasons.

That’s how I think of the Apple TV now. A whole lot nicer for many reasons, not revolutionary, and not as great as I thought it was going to be when I ordered it. But we really do like it.


  1. Not that I’d compare the previous Apple TV to any year of M3. I’m really glad to have moved on from it.