NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The earliest computers, like the Apple (AAPL - Get Report) II, were all about empowerment. It was just the user and the computer, and the goal was to do something that couldn't be done before.
That may have meant using a VisiCalc spreadsheet for a small business, developing a rudimentary game or creating a database of music. Even writing a personal checkbook program in BASIC.
Customers loved the idea of a handsome piece of hardware that could provide these wonderful new things. Who wouldn't?
As time went on, the modern computer (then tablet) connected to the Internet, allowing companies to assess how we use our computing devices and analyze our buying habits. Various tech companies today work hard to place hardware in our hands that allows them to analyze our preferences and habits so that we buy more from them. What appears to be a service is cloaked in self-serving agendas to seduce the customer into spending more.
Is this a bad thing? After all, profits are always good.
Amazon.com (AMZN) has countless items for sale, not least of which is entertainment. By building the Fire TV, Amazon is able to get better and better at providing that which customers have been agitated into wanting. Industry-watcher David Pierce has explained the Fire TV logic beautifully: "Amazon doesn't have to guess what people want, it just has to wait for others to get it wrong."
In contrast, Apple builds hardware that can be appreciated for its own sake with the added benefit of a delightful user experience that, often, leads to creativity. Apple's Jonathan Ive's goal is to make a product that pleases us and thereby triggers the imagination. The device is the experience, and the experience invites freedom of expression and choice.
Looking at the new Amazon Fire TV (and even the Apple TV), I see a black box. Plain in the extreme. The message here is that the hardware means nothing. What one can use it for to satisfy tastes and interests is paramount. The box, if it could be reduced to a grain of rice, would be just fine.