The business both Steve Jobs and current CEO of Apple Tim Cook refer to as a "hobby"
is the dominant player in the nascent-but-growing "Streaming IP Device" market, according to a new report
. Apple TV's 56 percent share -- a figure that represents the more than 13 million units sold through Q1 2013 -- is greater than all other competitors in the space combined. While brands like Roku, WD TV, Boxee and Google TV may get more headlines, all but Roku and TiVo have negligible market share in a field that is growing rapidly -- as more consumers become "cable cutters" and use alternatives such as Netflix and mobile apps for a relatively ad-free entertainment experience.
Roku, which has seen some success
in the retail space with its streaming set-top box, took second place in the survey with 21.5 percent of the market (believed to represent about five million units sold). Netflix, by far the most popular streaming service
in the streaming IP industry, doesn't make its own hardware and consequently isn't considered in the survey, though its impact is felt in the fact that most set-top boxes offer it as a prominent selling point.
The report on the state of the IP streaming device market -- which measured the percentages by unit shipment rather than sales, though Apple's numbers actually represent sales to end-users -- was done by trend analysis and marketing agency Frost & Sullivan
, which cited Apple's AirPlay
as the key selling point for Apple TV over its competitors. Though several companies offer a similar method of wirelessly streaming media from NAS devices or computers through the set-top box to an HDTV -- even supporting a greater array of formats than Apple TV -- AirPlay is the only one that is implemented throughout the eco-system of both Apple devices and third-party equipment such as receivers
at the hardware level, integrating content from Macs and iOS devices seamlessly and with an implementation that users find friendly and easy to use.
The company said that "it is AirPlaying -- not OTT (over the air) streaming -- that is the primary reason for purchase of Apple TV devices," and added that the technology was "strategically crafted to simplify the process of transferring laptop and tablet displays to a TV screen." Apple's advantage in the tablet market
and that fact that its tablet apps are written specifically for the iPad also gives Apple a leg up -- setting up an app such as HBO Go
to stream to an Apple TV involves no setup at all compared to other systems.
Apple has recently been seen to be negotiating with cable companies and content providers
to bring even more content to the Apple TV. Some reports suggest that Apple wants the device to effectively replace the tuner found in most TVs and simply mix live TV with offerings like Netflix so that users never have to leave the Apple TV environment.
The firm said that TiVo took third place in the survey with 6.5 percent of the market and a "strong installed base," with the entire rest of the field -- including brands like D-Link owned Boxee, the Liberty Horizon, Western Digital's WD TV, Netgear's Neo TV and others from Sony, Vizio and RCA -- having a combined 15.9 percent share. "Google," said Frost & Sullivan, "is conspicuous by its absence
in this segment."
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt had once told reporters that by the end of summer 2012, "the majority of the televisions
you see in stores will have Google TV embedded." In fact, the survey notes that "devices based on the Google TV platform have seen very little commercial success so far" and estimates that it has a base of less than one million total installed devices -- the majority of that being the discontinued Logitech Revue